I bet some of you are expecting me to talk about the Akidah, Genesis 22 (the Binding of Isaac) because that is the traditional reading for Rosh HaShanah. Other traditions are the eating of sweets, such as apples with honey and carrot tzimmes. We stay away from nuts because the value of the letters used for the Hebrew word for nuts, אגוז (egotz) adds up to the same number that you get from the Hebrew word for sin (חטה), so we don’t want to begin the new year with any association, even a numerological one, to sin.
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As for me, we had neighbors over for a Labor Day celebration, which was also a Rosh HaShannah celebration, so we did the traditional Labor Day barbecue of burgers and hot dogs (Hebrew National, of course), and for dessert, I made a Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting. כל טעים מאוד!! (everything was very tasty). The reason for the carrot cake was to incorporate carrots into the menu; actually, I really wanted to try that recipe and this was the perfect opportunity because there is a tradition that comes from Ashkenazi Jews. They dubbed carrots “mehren” which sounds much like “merin”, the word for prosperity. So having a carrot dish of some sort at Rosh HaShannah symbolizes prosperity for the coming year.
So, having shared a little of my personal life with you, let’s get to the spiritual stuff.
Because this is the beginning of the Jewish civil new year (the spiritual one begins on the first of Aviv), and the last thing we want to start this new year with is sin, I thought we’d go against the grain and talk a little about sin.
Here’s the low-down on sin: there is only one sin. There are many different kinds of sin, but when it comes down to it there is only one sin, and that is the sin we commit against God.
King David knew this. After he committed a few really bad sins, some of which were on the Top Ten List, when he was forced to be faced with these sins by Nathan the prophet, he confessed and asked God for forgiveness.
Now, in case you haven’t counted them, let’s see what old Davie did (2 Samuel 11):
- He coveted his neighbors wife, Bat-Sheba;
- He committed adultery with her;
- He lied about it (by not telling Uriyah, who was her husband and a trusted friend);
- He tried to cover it up by getting Uriyah drunk, hoping he would sleep with his wife;
- When that failed, he committed murder by having Joab place Uriyah where he was sure to be killed;
- He implicated Joab to commit murder, forcing him to also have the man’s blood on his hands.
And after doing all these sins, not to mention being the reason for the death of all those other men who didn’t have to die in order to make sure Uriyah was killed, after all this when David confessed his sin to God in Psalm 51:4, what did he say to God? He said:
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil from your perspective; so that you are right in accusing me
and justified in passing sentence.
Whoa! Wait a minute here…what about Bat Sheba, Uriyah, Joab, and the men that died with Uriyah. Didn’t he sin against them too?
Of course, he did, but sin is first and foremost against God. When we do what God says we should not do or do not do what God says we should (that’s the one most Christians are guilty of), that is a sin against God.
If anyone else is involved, well, it’s certainly a sin against them, too, but in reality? – they’re not the ones we need to be forgiven by. They can’t condemn us to hell, but God can, so when you sin, you sin against God, and your first and most important confession and apology must be to God.
You also should apologize to the ones that you sinned against, ask their forgiveness, but that forgiveness is only between you and them. Whether or not they choose to forgive you, that is between them and God.
It is ALWAYS first between us and God, then between us and them. And, for the record, we are not told we must be forgiven by other people, but we are told that we must forgive other people.
And bringing this back to Rosh HaShannah, for a moment, one of the traditional actions we take is called tashlik. This is when we go to a stream or river, some moving water, and throw bread or rocks into it, asking that our sins be taken as far away from us as these items are, to sink and never return. This is also accompanied by going to anyone we think we may have sinned against or upset in any way, and ask for their forgiveness. Sort of like starting the new year with a clean slate. You may recognize this from Matthew 5:23-24; after all, where do you think Yeshua got this from?
The Bible defines all the different types of sin that exist, but no matter which one of the many types of sin you commit, it is always just the one sin: the sin against God. Confess it, repent of it, and then ask forgiveness through Yeshua the Messiah.
That covers you with God, then go and do the same with any and all the people that are affected by this sin.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and לשנה טובה!! (For a good year!)