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The Jewish New Year, the Shemitah, and the Day of the Lord

“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.”  (Exodus 12:2)

Today is the first day of the Jewish year 5775.  It is a very special year for several reasons.

shofar-blower-Yom Kippur

The shofar, which is a call to repentance, is sounded on Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year’s) and throughout the Days of Awe, which culminate on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

It is the first day of the first Shemitah (Sabbath) year on the Biblical calendar to be celebrated in a meaningful way since the Romans razed Jerusalem in AD 70.

What is the Shemitah and why is it significant?

The Shemitah is an ancient Biblical mandate given by God to the people of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.  It is a God-ordained year of rest for the land that is to be observed every seven years.  During this Sabbath rest for the land, it is not to be sown, cultivated or harvested.

Speak to the Israelites and say to them:  ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD.  For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines.  The land is to have a year of rest.’ (Leviticus 25:1–5)


During the Sabbitical year, or Shemitah, the land lies fallow.  All agricultural activity, including plowing, planting, pruning and harvesting, ceases.  Any fruit that grows naturally, without human effort, is deemed hefker (ownerless) and may be picked by anyone.  According to Deuteronomy 15:1–11, during the Shmittah, all debts, except those of foreigners, were to be forgiven.

The Bible makes it clear that failure to celebrate the Shemitah is a sin that brings judgment upon the land and the people.

God said, “I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.”  (Leviticus 26:33)

In the past, when Israel did not give the Land its required year of rest every seven years, God exiled the people so that the Land could have its rest for the exact period of all those years it missed.  The destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of Israel to Babylon happened in the year of Shemitah in 586 BC.

God intended the Shemitah to be a blessing for His people, but when Israel turns away from God and from observing His commandments, it manifests as a judgment for those driving God out of their lives, according to Messianic rabbi and author of The Mystery of the Shemitah, Jonathan Cahn.

On the final day of the Shemitah year, on Elul 29, all accounts were to be wiped clean, but when people are in rebellion to God, it can wipe away entire cities.


The shofar (ram’s horn), which is the object resting on a tallit (prayer shawl), is blown throughout the Hebrew month of Elul in preparation for the High Holy Days, which begin this Wednesday night with Rosh HaShanah (New Year), also called Yom Teruah (The Day of Blowing the Shofar).

End-Time Signs

“The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”  (Joel 2:31)

If the fact that the Shemitah is being meaningfully celebrated for the first time in about 2,000 years does not grab your attention, this certainly will: two of the four Blood Moons from the current tetrad of lunar eclipses occur in the year 5775.  The second Blood Moon coincides with Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) in 2014 and the third with Pesach (Passover) in 2015.

What’s more, there will be a full solar eclipse in 5775 between these two full lunar eclipses, halfway between the four Blood Moons.

The fourth and final Blood Moon of this significant tetrad will occur just after this special Jewish year in 5776.  In other words, 5775 begins and ends with a full lunar eclipse.

That final Blood Moon will be a Supermoon, a full moon that appears to be bigger and brighter than usual because the moon will be at its closest approach to earth.  But it will not shine at its normal brilliance, because this moon will turn blood red as it darkens in the eclipse.


A total lunar eclipse will occur between the two Blood Moons of 2014 and the two of 2015.  Although a Blood Moon Tetrad falling on the Jewish holidays is something of a statistical improbability, eight fall between AD 1 and AD 2100.  After this eighth tetrad is complete, another will not happen for 500 or 600 years.

This rare confluence of events has the attention of many students of Bible prophecy, and it certainly seems that God is trying to get our attention in this Jewish year.  The question, of course, is why?

In answering that question, we might remember that a new cycle of seven years begins after the Shemitah year.

The number seven (sheva) is prominent in Scriptures (consider the seven-day week, the Sabbath rest on the seventh day, seven patriarchs, seven-branched menorah, etc.), and many Believers calculate, using verses from the Book of Revelation, that the Last Days will close with a final, momentous seven-year period.


The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), the flag of Israel and the Menorah.

The Mystery of the Shemitah

Bestselling author of The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn, makes a startling claim in his new book called The Mystery of the Shemitah, stating that Rosh Hashanah this year begins a cycle that will affect the entire world.

Cahn concludes that all the turmoil in the world today—the wars, the threat of terrorism, the political upheavals and economic instability, as well as the ever more frequent natural disasters and plagues are signs from God that all of mankind needs to repent—and quickly!

It is worthwhile to understand how the Shemitah could relate to past world history, current global events, and even the future, especially as it relates to Bible prophecy.

The Hebrew word shemitah can mean release, but it can also mean shaking, fall or collapse.

Rabbi Cahn, in his research, has discovered that every major financial collapse or stock market crash in America occurred during a Shemitah year.

According to his calculations, each of the five major financial collapses that occurred in the last 40 years happened in the year of Shemitah: 973, 1980, 1987, 2000–1, 2007–8.

The Great Depression of 1929 also began in a Shemitah year as did the major crash of 1937–8. 

mother-children-Dorothea Lange-Great Depression-poverty

An impoverished American family lives in a shanty during the Great Depression.  (Photo: Dorothy Lange)

What does the future hold and how does this relate to beginning another year of Shemitah?

Many interpreters of Bible prophecy are warning of the imminent coming of events so cataclysmic that they will shake the entire world.

Those who are in a personal, covenantal relationship with Adonai through Yeshua, have nothing to fear; but for those who do not yet know the Lord, the coming days will be a terrible time of God’s judgment.

The Word of God warns that a financial collapse is God’s judgment: “Wail, you who live in the market district; all your merchants will be wiped out, all who trade with silver will be destroyed.”  (Zephaniah 1:11)

May we be about our Father’s business in this hour, storing up treasures in Heaven where it cannot be destroyed.

Jonathan Cahn-Shemitah-Economic Collapses-Sid Roth-It's Supernatural

Messianic rabbi and bestselling author Jonathan Cahn (left) explains the connection between the Shemitah year and the last five economic collapses to Sid Roth.  (YouTube capture)

The Grand Shemitah—Year of Jubilee

Following every seventh Shemitah year, there comes a special year called the Year of Jubilee (Yovel), during which slaves were set free and land was returned to its original owner.

A shofar would be sounded on the tenth day of the seventh month—on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  Every servant or slave would have the right to return to his own property or land.

‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years.  Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.  Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.  (Leviticus 25:8–10)

Although this is the first year that Israel is observing the Shemitah in a meaningful way, with official programs in place to help Israelis properly keep it, modern Israel has observed the Shemitah in some way since 1951 (5712 on the Hebrew calendar), only three years after becoming a nation again.

Still, Israel does not designate nor observe the year of Jubilee, since many rabbis say that all twelve tribes must be living in their allotted lands in order for the Jubilee year to be observed.


Children pick fruit at a farm in Israel’s Negev Desert.

The New Year and the Day of the Lord

Rosh Hashanah, which means head of the year, occurs in Tishrei, the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.

You might wonder why it’s considered the Jewish New Year when the Bible tells us that the actual New Year begins in the spring (Aviv), in the month of Nissan, the month of Passover:

“And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of Adonai.”  (Numbers 28:16; see also Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1)


It is traditional on Rosh HaShanah for families and friends to gather for extended meals that include special foods, such as apples dipped in honey.  Honey is a symbol of the wish for a sweet new year.  On the second night of Rosh HaShanah, to symbolize the newness of the year, it is common to eat a fruit that is newly in season, such as the pomegranate.

Judaism actually celebrates four new years:

The first Jewish new year falls on Nisan 1, a new year for kings and festivals.  It can be considered a season of redemption, since on Nissan 1 the Jewish People were redeemed out of Egypt.

The second new year, the New Year for the tithing of animals for the Temple sacrifices, which falls on Elul 1, is no longer observed; however, it does mark the beginning of preparations for Rosh HaShanah.

The third new year is Rosh HaShanah on Tishrei 1.  It is considered the civil new year, and it is the new year for the seasons, for years of release, for jubilees, for the planting of trees and herbs, and also the time for figuring the tithe (ma’aser).  It is believed that at this time, a person’s behavior is judged in the Heavenly courts.

Tu B’Shvat (New Year for Trees) on Shevat 15 is the start of the new year from the perspective of tithing the fruit of trees.

Mussaf-Shofar-Rosh HaShanah-Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh

The shofar is sounded just before, during and after the Mussaf prayer on Rosh HaShanah.  Mussaf is an additional service recited on Shabbat, Jewish holidays, the weekdays of Jewish holidays, and Rosh Chodesh (the first day of every Jewish month).

In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Zikaron Teruah.  It is a difficult phrase to translate literally, but Yom Zikaron means remembrance day and teruah is a Hebrew word for shout, blast, battle cry or alarm.

It is marked by hearing repeated blasts of the shofar.

This is to act as an alarm call to God’s people, as the ancient Hebrew prophet Joel proclaimed, 

“Blow the shofar in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy hill.  Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming.  It is close at hand.”  (Joel 2:1)

According to the ancient Hebrew prophets, the Day of the Lord will be a day of darkness, distress and wrath—a day of the shofar and teruah (blasting)!

The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly.  The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.  That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness—a day of trumpet [shofar] and alarm [teruah] against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.  (Zephaniah 1:14–16)


An Orthodox Jewish man at the Western (Wailing) Wall prays for forgiveness in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

It may very well be that we are rapidly heading toward a coming judgment upon the world; but for those of us who know the Lord, it is not a time for dread or fear.

It is a time for repentance; a time to cry out for the mercy of Adonai to bring in a great harvest of souls in the midst of the coming crisis and chaos.

Yeshua warned us that there will come a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken; but thanks be to God we stand on the solid rock of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.’  This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  (Hebrews 12:26–28)

As we hear the sound of the blast of the shofar on this Yom Zikaron Teruah and throughout the Days of Awe, which culminate with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) may we remember with great anticipation that Yeshua is coming soon:

For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a teruah, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar call of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18)


“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  (Matthew 24:36)

The confluence of the Shemitah of 5775 with the Blood Moon Tetrad of 2014 and 2015 seems to be indicating that significant, troubled times lay ahead, and that Yeshua’s return is drawing near.

None of us knows the exact day or hour of His coming, yet we are not called to fear and tremble, but to confidence.

We can encourage one another with the knowledge that those who follow Yeshua, who are children of the Light and not darkness, are not appointed to wrath but to salvation in Yeshua HaMashiach.

“But since we belong to the day, let us stay sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Yeshua HaMashiach.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:8–9)