Trumpets & Atonement: Leviticus 23:23-32

Seven months later, there is another big festival, beginning with a day of complete rest, and a day off work when the trumpet flows. This is Rosh Hashanah – the Festival of the New Year - though the name comes from Ezekiel 40, and you might not notice it here.

Likely observance of Rosh Hashanah developed through exile in Babylon, towards its current relationship to Sukkot, in the season of High Holidays in our fall. The tradition grew over subsequent centuries to what is now a great affirmation of another year for God’s people.

Ten days later is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which was described alone in chapter 16, and now is placed in the annual cycle. Here, in the context of the annual cycle of festivals, it serves as a day to reorient and reconcile at the beginning of a new year.

The observance is emphasized in v32 as a Sabbath of complete rest, which should be begun as a fast and rest event in the evening of the day before, the ninth day of the seventh month, lest you slip into the day unprepared or unawares. This is stricter than the regular prohibition of work at our occupations, and extends to our domestic ‘busyness’.

This enumeration again omits the haggadah or narrative stories relating to the two festivals, which are either written elsewhere, or committed to tradition. Local, regional, and ethnic variations of these festivals are inevitable, given this skeletal outline.

For us Glib Liberals, trying to read this as our story, the piety of Day of Atonement perhaps fits better in Holy Week, when we stop on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, in the shadows of sin.

Leviticus 23:23-32

23 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

24 Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts.

25 You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall present the LORD’s offering by fire.

26 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

27 Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the LORD’s offering by fire;

28 and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God.

29 For anyone who does not practise self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people.

30 And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people.

31 You shall do no work: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your settlements.

32 It shall be to you a sabbath of complete rest, and you shall deny yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath.