Tishrei is the seventh month of the biblical calendar year when counting the months from Nisan. The name "Tishrei" is the Babylonian name of the month. In the Bible, it is simply referred to as "the seventh month," as in Leviticus 23:24, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month..."
Yet, in Judaism, Tishrei is also considered the beginning of a new civil year. How can the seventh month of the calendar be a new year? Well, in actuality, the biblical calendar has multiple "new years" in regards to different events. The numbering of the months proceeds from Nisan, in commemoration of the Exodus (Exodus 12:2). Elsewhere in the Torah, Hashem commands that the Sabbatical and Jubilee years be counted from the seventh month (Leviticus 25:8-10). Thus, from ancient times, the months have been counted from Nisan, but the years have been calculated from Tishrei. Thus, it is often explained that Nisan is the beginning of the liturgical calendar and Tishrei is the beginning of civil calendar.
Tishrei is full of festivals and fasts, mitzvot and meaning, solemnity and celebration. After the long, hot days of summer, the atmosphere in the Land of Israel cools. The summer's harvest is nearly complete, and the sense of anticipation builds as the days come ever closer to the month of Tishrei.
Then, when it comes, it's like an explosion—literally! We experience the resounding blast of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, Tishrei 1. The shofar functions as a type of divine summons, calling God's people to stand before him in awe and reverence. It for this reason these days are frequently referred to as the High Holy Days. We approach God as Avinu Malkeinu, our Father our King, seated on a throne of judgment. As lowly servants, we tremble as we draw near to his presence, yet we are compelled to draw near nonetheless. We know that our own righteousness is not sufficient to stand before him. Yet, "if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Yeshua the Messiah, the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Though we have no worthy deeds to justify ourselves, we find that his throne is a throne of grace and lovingkindness. "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
For ten awe-inspiring days, we continue to stand before the throne until we finally come to the most solemn day of the biblical calendar, Yom Kippur, Tishrei 10. On this day we earnestly strive to connect with the heavenly realm. With fasting, garments of white, and many praises and supplications, we seek to emulate the angels who surround God's throne. As we peer into the heavenly abode, we once again catch a glimpse of our High Priest, Yeshua the Messiah, who "entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12).
It is not long after we break our fast that our attention immediately turns to the approaching feast—the Feast if you will, the Feast of Tabernacles, Tishrei 15. Emerging from the purification of Yom Kippur, we eagerly build our temporary dwellings, where for eight days we will dine with guests, sing joyful songs, study Torah, and perhaps even catch a nap. Through this, we taste the spiritual bliss of the World to Come. Taking the lulav and etrog,1 we wave them in every direction: east, south, west, north, up, and down proclaiming, "Hoshana! Please, save us now!" (Psalm 118:25) to the Master of heaven and earth. Though the taste of the Feast is sweet, we desire more than a taste. We ultimately desire to eat of the Banquet itself. If we anticipate the Feast of Tabernacles with joy and longing, how much more so do we anticipate when "the LORD will be king over all the earth." That day when, "the LORD will be one and his name one" (Zechariah 14:9).
Thus during Tishrei, we begin the year reminded of the end. And yet, it is not the end, but a wonderful and glorious renewal. We embark on a new year refreshed, renewed, and reminded of our purpose as disciples of Yeshua the Messiah.
L'Shanah Tovah, Tzom Kal, v'Chag Sameach - To a good year, an easy fast, and a joyous feast from all of us at First Fruits of Zion!
1. The four species mentioned in Leviticus 23:40-41