The Gospel narratives begin with John's call to repentance, the baptism of Jesus and his subsequent 40 day trial and temptation in the wilderness. Those 40 days of fasting and prayer culminate in a showdown with the adversary, a contest of will in which the Messiah emerges victorious and the Adversary is thwarted.
Those stories seem to correspond to the Jewish traditions which surround the Season of Repentance. September 4th coincides with the New Moon of the 6th month on this year's Biblical Calendar. This important date is the first day of a 40 day spiritual preparation called the Season of Repentance. The Season of Repentance culminates on the Day of Atonement, a fast day traditionally regarded as the Day of Judgment.
In the liturgical and legendary traditions of the High Holidays of which end on the Day of Atonement, the Adversary stands to accuse and confound Israel. He accuses them in judgment and seeks to display their sins before God and there-by achieve a guilty verdict. That is his job as prosecutor.
On the Day of Atonement, all Israel is enjoined to fast and pray. By the conclusion of the Day, Israel is vindicated before God on the basis of his mercy and his provision of atonement. The fast is broken after the day is completed with a festive meal. Thus the Adversary is defeated. In the same way, we read in the Gospel's Yeshua withstood the Adversary's temptations in fasting and in prayer and defeated him, and at the conclusion of the testing, he broke his fast. Angels served him.
The Day of Atonement is the last day of 40 days of repentance. The 40 days culminating in the Day of Atonement are called the Season of Teshuvah. So too, in the same way, we read in the Gospel's that Yeshua was in the wilderness 40 days prior to his confrontation with the adversary. The 40 day period began with his immersion by John. John's baptism of Israel is called, "A baptism of repentance."
In the Synagogue, the shofar is blown after the morning prayers throughout these 40 days to remind the congregation to repent. It is a time of serious introspection and soul searching as each individual prepares to come before God on the Day of Atonement.
When the Gospels relate John's call to repentance, the baptism of Jesus and a 40 day period of fasting and testing, those events and themes seem to allude to the Season of Repentance. Therefore, the New Moon of the 6th month is an appropriate and perhaps accurate time to remember the Master's baptism.
As his disciples, it is our duty and privilege to follow in the Master's footsteps. Don't let the Sixth Month slip by. Let's take time to read the gospel accounts of the baptism of Yeshua and his time in the wilderness. Let's pray for the endowment of the Holy Spirit to search us and reveal to us those areas of our lives where we must turn around. Let's let the Spirit lead us each into perfect repentance.
We can use the ensuing 40 days to turn back to him. There are areas of our lives where we have grown lax and undisciplined. There are relationships we have damaged. There are people we have hurt. There are sins we have stumbled into and old habits we have returned to. We must seize on these 40 days to recover that ground and renew our devotion. Let's tune our ears to the voice of John as he calls to us, "Repent, turn around, quit sinning and start doing good because the kingdom of heaven is now!" Let's tune our ears to the sound of the shofar as it awakens our souls and reminds us to repent. Let's enter the cleansing mikvah-water of repentance and follow our Master into the wilderness. Let's follow his example in resisting temptation and the Devil.
Time is short. Forty days go past quickly. We have apologies to make. We have mitzvahs to do. We have repairs to effect. We have things to change and priorities to rearrange. Let's not wait until the High Holidays are already here. This is our opportunity to prepare the way of the LORD in our hearts and to make straight paths for the King.