Being consistent with the Biblical command, we recognize the first of Abib as the beginning of the New Year within our congregation. According to Exodus 12:1-2:
“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month (Abib) shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.'”
The following paragraphs will explore the historical development of the New Year and its contemporary significance. Specifically, the following items will be discussed:
- Review of the major developments that led to the designation of the first of Abib as the New Year, and
- Discussion of the distinction between this New Year and Rosh Hashanah
Over 3000 years ago, Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into Egypt by his brothers. While in Egypt, Joseph, due to an ill-fated incident, was put in prison. Despite this setback, “the LORD was with Joseph.” Through his ability to interpret dreams and God’s help, Joseph was released from prison and appointed as a high official in Pharaoh’s administration. Eventually, Joseph’s family, including his father and brothers, came to join him in Egypt.
Over the passage of time, the small group of Israelites who joined Joseph in Egypt had grown to a very sizeable population. Then, a new king reigned over Egypt who did not have any favor for the Israelites. Out of disdain and fear, he ordered that the Children of Israel be held in captivity. According to many accounts, their servitude lasted for over 400 years. While under the lengthy rule of the Egyptians, the ancient Israelites were totally controlled without any religious freedom, economic clout, and political power.
A New Beginning: A New Year
At the zenith of their suffering, the Children of Israel cried unto the God of their fathers for mercy. Hearing their groaning and remembering His covenant, the God of Abraham afflicted a series of plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians and delivered His people from their oppressors. As they departed Egypt, they embarked on a new beginning as a new nation in the month Abib. According to Deuteronomy 16:1, it says, “Observe the month Abib… for in the month Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt.” Also see Exodus 13:4; 23:15; 34:18.
Rosh Hashanah or Abib 1?
Within many judaic circles today, Rosh Hashanah is considered the New Year. Rosh Hashanah, observed on the first day of Ethanim (the seventh month), is Hebrew for “head of the year.” Rosh Hashanah‘s designation as a new year, however, is post-biblical. In other words, nowhere in the Bible is it designated as the New Year. The Torah designates the first day of Ethanim as “a memorial of blowing of trumpets….” See Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6.
Since there is no Biblical authority to observe Rosh Hashanah as the New Year, we do not commemorate it as such. The change of emphasis from Abib to Ethanim as the New Year occurred after the Bible was written. We do, however, recognize the first of Ethanim (Rosh Hashanah) by its Biblical designation as a memorial, a sabbath, and a holy convocation. Thus, on this day we attend worship services, refrain from working, and give praises to God. It also is a day that begins the Ten Days of Awe.
Because we practice Biblical Judaism, we adhere to the command specified in the Torah as our New Year: “This month (Abib) shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” On the eve of the New Year, we convene in the Tabernacle for services to offer praises to God for his bountiful blessings over the past year. It is also a time to fellowship with our brothers and sisters, and to make a new start for the new year.
Basic Lessons for Young People. Department of Religious Education, Church of God and Saints of Christ. Belleville, Virginia. 1983. p. 74.
Sabbath School Annual. Department of Religious Education, Church of God and Saints of Christ. Belleville, Virginia. 1991. pp. 86-88.