For most Jewish people, the first day of Tishri on the Biblical calendar is “The Jewish New Year.” We celebrate Rosh Hashanah or the “Head of the Year,” and the numeric designation changes, just as it did a few months ago from 5781 to 5782. Yet, this is the “first day of the seventh month,” according to Leviticus 23:24, and it is called the “Feast of Trumpets” or Yom Teruah. Nowhere in the passage is this time called the “new year.” Rosh Hashanah, as a name for this date, is not in the Bible. So then, what is the biblical new year? What is the meaning, and how did we come to the term, Rosh Hashanah, instead?
Most Jews and Christians, when asked “what is the first command- ment?” will answer with something similar to this: “I am AdonAi your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3). However, this is not the first commandment. That is found in Genesis 2:17 with the command to not eat of a certain tree. Along the way, there were many commandments, long before Exodus 20. Here’s where some confusion lies. The first commandment given to the Israelites through Moses is found in Exodus 12:1-2, and reads, “Now AdonAi spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, ‘This month will mark the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you.’” (TLV) This command was given just before the instructions for the first Passover which would happen on the 14th of that month. Using this calculation, Nisan, the month in which Passover occurs, is the first month, as it is called in scripture, and Tishri (the month of Rosh Hashanah), becomes the “seventh month.” When the feasts are listed in Leviticus 23, Passover is the first one in the new year.