Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.

Everybody uses a calendar. Some hang it on the wall with large pictures of puppies, or landscapes, or old cars. Others use Google Calendar on the Web or carry their schedules with them on their smartphones. Some do all of these. But everybody uses a calendar.

Without this simple tool, our lives would be chaotic. That’s because a calendar organizes our days for religious, business, or personal purposes. In fact, most of us operate with multiple calendar systems at the same time. For most, a calendar year begins in January, but we also march to a fiscal year, a school year, and occasionally, a leap year. Multiple calendars have been a way of life for millennia.

Originally, the Hebrews celebrated their New Year in the month of Abib (March-April), according to the time of the Exodus and Passover (Exodus 12:1-2; 23:15).

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Today, however, the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana is celebrated in the fall—in the month of Tishri—and is connected to the Feast of Trumpets. The feasts in the spring as well as in the fall have always pointed the Jews to the inseparable connection between the land and its produce. 

The agricultural calendar of Israel shows itself clearly in an epigraph discovered in 1908 at Tel Gezer. Called the “Gezer Calendar,” this limestone tablet represents our earliest example of Hebrew script, dating to the time of King Solomon in the 10th-century BC.

Some have suggested the inscription represents a schoolchild’s exercise or mnemonic device designed to assist in remembering the months of the year. Today the Gezer Calendar is housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. A enlarged replica stands at Tel Gezer.

Gezer calendar (BiblePlaces.com)

W. F. Albright translated the Gezer Calendar as follows:

“His two months are olive harvest,
His two months are planting grain,
His two months are late planting;
His month is hoeing up flax,
His month is harvest of barley,
His month is harvest and feasting;
His two months are vine-tending,
His month is summer fruit.”

The Gezer Calendar clearly delineates twelve months and matches the agricultural progression that occurs in the land of Israel beginning in Tishri, or September.

Priests would blow trumpets to announce the Sabbath and the start of festival days. The Feast of Trumpets especially relates to this act: “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord’” (Leviticus 23:24–25; see also Numbers 29:1–6).

Today, the blowing of the shofar during Elul—the month prior to Rosh Hashana—traditionally calls the people to self-examination in preparation for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.

Tashlih (Wikicommons)

On Rosh Hashana, participants add a prayer service to the regular services, read poems, eat symbolic foods, and exchange traditional greetings. On the first day of Rosh Hashana, many Jews engage in a ritual called tashlih (“casting off”). Participants pray near natural flowing water and symbolically “cast off” their sins in the water.

The calendars on our walls and on our smart phones do more than keep us at the right places at the right times. They also help to keep us in the right frame of mind.

As holidays and holy days come around each year, they remind us of the essential themes of life we would otherwise neglect in our busy schedules—themes like family, faith, and the forgiveness God offers. One of the greatest reminders from Rosh Hashana each year is that it is never too late to start over.

Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.



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