MeAm Loez on

Rosh Hashanah


BaMidbar 29:1-6 The first day of the seventh month shall be a sacred holiday to you when you may not do any mundane work.  It shall be a day of sounding the [ram's] horn.  An appeasing fragrance to G-d, you must present a burnt offering consisting of one young bull, one ram, and seven yearling sheep [all] without blemish.  Their grain offering of wheat meal mixed with oil shall be 3/10 [efah] for the bull, 2/10 for the ram, and 1/10 for each of the seven sheep.  [There shall also be] one goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you.   [All this] is in addition to the new moon offering, the regular daily offering, and their required meal offerings and libations, [which are] an appeasing fragrance, a fire offering to G-d.

The Torah here tells us that an additional offering is to be presented on the New Year - Rosh Hashanah - which falls on the first day of the seventh month [reckoning from Nissan as the first month].  This day is also called Yom Teruah ("Day of the Sounding"), since it is a special mitzvah to blow the horn (Shofar).

The text specifies that this additional offering includes one young bull, one ram, and seven yearling sheep without blemish, plus one goat as a sin offering.

Since this day is also the first day of the month, the New Year offering is an addition to the New Moon offering.  If it happens to fall on a Shabbat, three additional offerings are presented - first the Shabbat offering, then the New Moon offering, followed by the Rosh Hashanah offering.

Now Rosh Hashanah is the day of G-d's judgment for the coming year, and the Shofar is sounded in order to move man's hearts to repentance, so that G-d will save us from the afflictions that the constellations portend for the year, and inscribe us in the Book of Life and Plenty.  The purpose of the additional offering is to help achieve this purpose by drawing upon the merit of the Patriarchs.  Thus, the bull recollects and brings to bear the merit of our forefather Avraham; the ram recalls the virtues of Yitzchak, and the seven sheep plus the goat, serve to recall the merit of Yaakov and his sons.

Moreover, since astrological determinations apply both to Yisrael and to the nations - the bull corresponding to the celestial sphere that encompasses the earth, the ram corresponding to the eighth sphere of the 12 configurations of the Zodiac, and the seven sheep corresponding to the seven of the planets - by slaughtering them on the altar, we make it known that G-d in His great mercy nullifies all these determinations.  They are subject to His will alone, and by providing that they have no influence upon the Yisraelim, G-d safeguards them against any of the afflictions which the constellations protend.

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