II Kings 4 describes a troubled woman who discovers her son has died. She rushes to leave her home and seeks help from the prophet Elisha. Her husband did not know his son died. He asks her in verse 23, “Why do you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath?” The chapter does not explain the husband’s words. They contain a digest of some Jewish practices.

In Exodus 33, Moses requests God to reveal what He is. God replies that humans cannot understand anything about Him other than what they can learn by studying what He created or formed. Later, in Deuteronomy 32:1, Moses repeats this insight when he calls heaven and earth as two witnesses to testify metaphorically to the existence of God, His laws, and that people will benefit by performing these laws.

Judaism does not require Jews to believe anything or have faith. It requires Jews to act, to do what God wants them to do. The Hebrew word emunah, translated in Modern Hebrew as belief and faith, refers to actions in the Bible. When I was a youngster, my Dad, the brilliant Rabbi Dr. Nathan Drazin, took me to a lecture by the famed Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972). Rabbi Heschel explained that the biblical emunah does not mean “faith” but being “faithful” in actions. I was so impressed that I requested Dad to take me to the podium to meet the rabbi. When he did, I asked the rabbi to sell me his book and autograph it. He did. Although more than 70 years have passed since I met him, I never forgot his insight.

Moses taught this lesson to the Israelites during the last days of his life. He uses many words, each of which emphasizes action. He repeats his message many times because of its importance. For example, when he recites the Decalogue announced at Mount Sinai, he changes Exodus 20’s “Remember the Sabbath Day,” which focuses on thinking, to “Observe the Sabbath Day,” which requires an act.

Moses taught what my Dad did when I left home at age 21 to serve in the US Army. Dad advised me, “Israel, be sure to observe Shabbat. More than you keeping Shabbat, Shabbat will keep you.” Thinking is undoubtedly important. But acts produce results.

The seventh day Sabbath is so significant that Jews repeat the number seven in about a hundred different Jewish observances to remind us of Shabbat’s impact on observers.

In biblical times, the ancient practice concerning the new moon was to refrain from work and bring special sacrifices, as indicated in Numbers 28:1-15 and elsewhere. In I Samuel 20:5, the new moon also became a time when people gathered for a festive meal. Later, in the time of Elisha, people also visited wise men to learn from them,

One of the many ways that Jews used seven was the seventh new moon. This is similar to how Jewish ancestors marked the seventh week as the holiday Shavuot, the seventh year was Shemita, the seventh Shemita was the jubilee year, etc. The seventh new moon was called “The Day of the Blowing of a Trumpet” in Numbers 29:1 and “The Day of Recalling Events by the Blowing of a Trumpet” in Leviticus 23:23-25.

I am writing this on September 11, 2023, the day Americans recall the tragedies of 9/11 when over 3,000 Americans were murdered by terrorists. Bugles are blown with taps in many localities to remember, just as trumpets on “The Day of Recalling Events by the Blowing of a Trumpet.”

The husband of the distraught woman whose son died, who knew nothing of the death, could not understand why his wife wanted to rush to the prophet. While the ancient practice was to visit wise men on the Shabbat and holidays to learn from them, the day she was rushing was neither.

When the Romans destroyed Israel and its temple in 70 CE, Judaism changed in many ways. Leaders of the Pharisees began to be called rabbis. Earlier great sages such as Hillel and Shammai did not have this title. Clerics who claim Jesus was a rabbi are wrong. The title did not exist when he is said to have lived from about 4 BCE to about 25 CE.[1] Since Sacrifices that could only be offered in the temple ceased, some holidays, such as Passover on 14 Nisan, which depended only on sacrifices, stopped. Its name was given to The Festival of Matzot, which started on 15 Nisan.

So, too, “The Day of Recalling Events by the Blowing of a Trumpet,” when sacrifices were brought, was replaced by Rosh Hashanah, a non-biblical holiday. The blowing of a shofar continued, as did the idea of remembrance. But now, the recollections focus on past behaviors and how to improve them.[2]

[1] The man who developed the calendar erred in assigning year I to Jesus birth, He forgot that the New Testament tells the tale of Herod seeking to kill him. Herod died in 4 BCE.

[2] The new moon holiday is still practiced by many Jews in many ways including special prayers instead of sacrifices which are recited on these occasions.