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Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30

Our current Torah portion is primarily focused on the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. But we also learn that Moses has finished writing the Torah and places it in the charge of the kohanim, the priests. He then charges them to read it in its entirety at a specific time each year, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths” (Deuteronomy 31:10). At first, this may seem to be a simple statement: In the year of the Shemitah (the seventh year of rest), you are to read the Torah during Sukkot (Feast of Booths/Tabernacles). However, there is more implied in this statement in regard to the time when this occurs.

What is the connection between Sukkot, the end of the year, and the reading of the Torah? First, let’s see if there is a connection between Sukkot and the end of the year. Many in the Hebrew Roots movement flatly reject the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah—or Yom Teruah as it is known in the Scriptures—as a biblical new year. Because Exodus 12:2 says that the Hebrew month of Nisan is the beginning of the year, at first it seems they are correct. Why would we say that Rosh Hashanah (the first of the Hebrew month of Tishrei in the fall) is the new year when the Bible says that it is the first of Nisan (in the spring)? The answer is that Scripture itself recognizes at least two biblical new years.

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