“Blow the shofar on the new moon, when [the moon is] concealed, for our festival day; for it is a law for Israel, a ruling of the God of Yaakov.” (Tehillim 81:4)
Chazal comment on this pasuk, “Which is the festival on which the moon is concealed? This is Rosh Hashanah.” Chazal saw in this pasuk the central core of the festival of Rosh Hashanah, to which the Torah refers simply as “Yom Teruah.” This pasuk expresses more than anything else the fact that the festival occurs on Rosh Chodesh, on the first of the month, when the moon becomes concealed from our view and then begins its renewal. At this time, we sound the shofar as sanctify ourselves for the new year.
The Almighty implanted within the world a most significant and critical law, both in the natural world and in the human being, and that is the law of renewal. The entire system of time operates on the principle of “chidush,” renewal. Each day, the world is renewed with the rise of the sun. And the sun itself gradually rises in the sky until it reaches it’s peak at midday, at which point it begins to decline until sunset. This marks the end of the day, the closing of the cycle, but this cycle begins again the following day, with sunrise, continuing this way from the time of creation until today. The moon, too, like the sun, runs along a cycle of time, only this cycle spans a longer duration – a full thirty days. These two luminaries, the pillars of time, create in the world various cycles that are completed every day, every month, every season, and every year. As soon as a cycle is completed, an additional cycle immediately begins, in identical fashion to the one preceding it.
This phenomenon in nature has a direct parallel among people, as well. The power of renewal is implanted within the human being. This power drives a person and is a crucial component of his personality. “They are renewed every morning – how great is Your grace!” (Eicha 3:23). The entire system of teshuva is actually based upon this power. Were it not for the power of renewal, a person could not be expected to repent from sin. Teshuva is grounded in the internal process of opening a new page, setting the timer back to zero, and beginning a new march forward along a different path, a more correct path.
This concept is expressed in this pasuk: “Blow the shofar on the new moon, when [the moon is] concealed, for our festival day.” On Rosh Hashanah, the human being’s power of renewal blends with the renewal of nature. It is not for naught that Rosh Hashanah occurs on Rosh Chodesh, the time when the moon is concealed – symbolizing the forgetfulness that conceals the past – and is then reborn and begins to renew itself – symbolizing the human being’s power of renewal. We have here a situation of a new beginning; the old moon is concealed and disappears, and immediately thereafter the new moon appears. The Hebrew word for month is “chodesh,” from the word for renewal, because the moon constantly renews itself. Similarly, one who undergoes the process of teshuva has been concealed and now begins his renewal.
“For it is a law for Israel, a ruling of the God of Yaakov.” Renewal is the unique quality of Am Yisrael, by which we distinguish ourselves from all other peoples. Am Yisrael is compared to the moon, and we therefore run our calendar according to the lunar cycle. Just as the moon grows and shrinks but always renews itself, the same is true of Yisrael – even when their light diminishes, they will always experience renewal. This quality of renewal given to Am Yisrael is our source of strength in the world and is what grants us our eternity. “This month [‘ha’chodesh’] is for you” – this renewal is your source of strength and glory forever (taken from “Sefer Ha’toda’a).
May it be His will that we will know how to find within ourselves this power of renewal, on both the individual and national levels, and that we all achieve through this power complete teshuva and our speedy redemption.