Feast of Trumpets
If you are unaware of the Feast of Trumpets, let me assure you it is not part of a Broadway musical or even a music department event. So-called because of the shouting and blasting that described this event, it is actually one of the holiest of holidays on the Jewish calendar. It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days and important because most of mankind celebrates something quite similar.
Rosh Hashanah will start tonight at sundown and it is the Feast of Trumpets. It is also the beginning of the Jewish New Year and known as Yamim Nora’im or Day of Awe. In the cultures of the First Families of the Northern Hemisphere, also known as Native Americans although they were native to the land around the Caucasus Mountains dividing Europe and Asia, not the Americas, similar celebrations occurred. They also celebrated with noise and revelry as well as feasts. The perspective of the two holidays is what makes them different and interesting.
Native American cultures celebrated the end of the agricultural cycle, the harvest. When this celebration included new settlers to North America it became known as Thanksgiving. It was also a time for putting the fields to rest so that new crops could be harvested in the coming year. Some seeds were planted, others gathered and saved for later planting. Included in this putting to sleep the earth was the remembrance of those who had been placed in an eternal sleep. This is called The Day of the Dead and it corresponded with the European Roman Catholic holy day of All Saints or All Hallows Day. Native Day of the Dead celebrations became commercialized as Halloween, the name taken from All Hallow’s Eve.
The Jewish perspective of the agricultural cycle was to celebrate its beginning and it was combined with remembrances of the Jewish creation tale of Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the beginning of a new cycle and the creation of these two whom the Jewish culture believes began all mankind with their presence. Because the economic world in ancient times centered on agriculture, this was also the beginning of the economic fiscal year.
Also celebrating this weekend is Muharram, the Islamic New Year. Muslims observe this second holiest of holy days with fasting and prayer for ten days. For many the tenth day, Ashura, is said to symbolize when Noah left the ark which had saved his family and two of each species of animals. It also commemorates the deliverance of Moses from the Egyptians. For Shi’a Muslims, it is also in honor of the martyrdom of a grandson of Muhammed, killed in 680 ACE. Sunni Muslims view Ashura as a day to give thanks.
For many the New Year will begin January 1, 2017 but for others it begins in the next twenty-four hours. Muharram begins on October 3rd but tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. With the blowing of the ram’s horn of Shofar, the observance will begin for the Jewish culture. Throughout the two-day observance of Rosh Hashanah, the horn will be heard a total of one hundred times. Special foods are also eaten. Apples dipped in honey symbolize the hope for a “sweet” harvest in the coming year. Round bread is eaten, the shape symbolizing the full cycle of the coming year. Nuts are also eaten towards the end of the two days with their own special blessing.
Whether you are Islamic or Jewish or something else, today is important in your life. These forty-eight hours or two hundred and forty should count for something. Perhaps you are Christian. In that case, for many the New Year will begin November 27, the first day of Advent and the first day of the liturgical calendar. Advent is seldom heralded by the sounding of a horn but maybe we should.
I like the idea of a Feast of the Trumpet. The trumpet is played to awaken the troops, “Reveille” sounding loud and clear to sleepy ears. A trumpet is also played at funerals with “Taps” played as loved ones are remembered. Life is about cycles and the greatest one of all is the cycle of our own living. We each experience birth, the harvest from plans carried out, and the passing of the former in death as we welcome the new once again.
We make the ordinary something more when we encourage and support the playing of all talents. We each share similarities. However, our differences make us strong. The blowing of the shofar would be meaningless if no one heard it or, upon hearing, did not celebrate. Whether we meditate and fast for ten days or two, we need to stop occasionally and give thanks. More importantly, we need to realize that the cycle of life needs us to both plant and harvest, prepare and live.
We best blow the horn of life when we live respectfully and with compassion and generosity to all. The earth and the elements provide us with necessary food to eat. We need the soil, the sun, and the rain to grow our food and reap out harvest which not only gives immediate food but also the seeds for food for the coming year. It does not happen without effort, though. We are the cultivators of tomorrow. We must plant the seeds of peace, hope, and prosperity for all. Happy New Year and may we all work together to indeed have a good year.