Thursday, September 17, 2020

The early Rosh HaShanah

PROF. KAREL VAN DER TOORN: Rosh Hashanah with the Early Israelites (
The New Year was celebrated on the festival of ingathering of grapes, accompanied by a sacrificial meal and wine. YHWH was declared to be Israel’s king and judge, and his presence, as it was manifest in the ark, was paraded before the Israelites by the king.
Rosh HaShanah begins at sundown tomorrow evening. This essay is the best overview discussion of its historical and cultic background that I have ever seen.

I have posted here and here (cf. here) some speculations about the relationship of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to the original autumnal New Year celebration. Professor van der Toorn does not discuss that question, but much of what he says here could be used to support my ideas. That's not to say that he would agree with me. I don't know his view.

For past posts on Rosh HaShanah, see here and links. For past posts on the Gezer calendar, see here and links. For God's ritual enthronement and the New Year, see here. For lots of past posts on the fascinating Demotic-Aramaic-Canaanite Papyrus Amherst 63 (many involving the work of Professor van der Toorn) see here and links.

Also, Haaretz has reprinted Elon Gilad's article on Rosh HaShanah from a few years ago: The History of Rosh Hashanah Which Wasn't Always the 'New Year.' Much of today's traditions originated with Babylonian worship, and you have to read this to believe how a calf's head morphed into gefilte fish. I noted its original publication here. It's a good overview of the biblical and Talmudic evidence for Rosh HaShanah, with some attention to subsequent developments.

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