4.05 UNDERSTANDING TESHUVA AND SLICHOS: THE POWER OF ROSH HASHANNAH
It was taught In the name of R. Eliezer: The world was created on the twenty-fifth of Elul. The view of Rav agrees with the teaching of R. Eliezer. For we have learned In the Shofar Blessing composed by Rav: ‘This day, on which was the beginning of Your work, Is a memorial of the first day, for it Is a statute for Israel, a decree of the G-d of Jacob. On this day sentence Is pronounced upon countries. . . which of them is destined to the sword and which to peace. which to famine and which to plenty. Each separate creature Is remembered then, and recorded for life or for death. (Vayikra Raba 29.1)
CONFUSION AS TO THE MEANING OF ROSH HASHANAH
Many of us approach Rosh HaShanah with subconscious negativity, “Oh no, now I am approaching Rosh HaShanah. Now I am getting judged by the King. If I don’t serve Him, I will be punished.” Because of our Western, Non-Jewish orientation, the issues connected with Rosh HaShanah often put into our minds a lot of negative associations. But if we examine these concepts from a Torah Perspective, we see that Judaism’s concepts are not negative, but beautiful and insightful.
In order to understand what Rosh HaShanah is all about, we have to ask some basic questions. The first question to ask is why did G-d create the world? Since we know that Rosh HaShanah symbolizes the creation of the world and more specifically, the creation of man, this is an important question to ask on this day.
The answer is, of course, that G-d created us in order that He could give us pleasure.
Our Sages, of blessed memory, have taught us that man was created for the sole purpose of rejoicing In G-d and deriving pleasure from the splendor of His Presence; for this Is true joy and the greatest pleasure that can be found. (The Mesillas Yesharim, Perek Aleph)
The purpose of all that was created was therefore to bring Into existence a creature who could derive pleasure from G-d’s own good, in a way that would be possible for It. (Derech HaShem 1.2.1)
G-d created the world in order to give to us. G-d wants us to have every good in the world. But there is a catch. The greatest form of creation is to make someone independent. Independence implies choice. So G-d created us with freewill, the ability to choose reality or deny it. If we choose good, then we merit the pleasure we receive. That is the greatest good possible to give. (For further information about this complex subject please read Derech HaShem, The Way of G-d, Chapter 2)
Therefore, G-d can’t directly give to us, unless we do the things that involve choosing properly. Now comes the dilemma: G-d created the world with the sole purpose to give but He cannot give unless we merit it.
THE MEANING OF ROSH HASHANAH
The day of Rosh HaShanah is the birthday of mankind. On the sixth day of Creation, the first day of Tishrei, man was created. Every year the process repeats itself; G-d has to decide to recreate mankind. Every year, G-d allows us to earn our lives back. Therefore, every year we must re-earn the right to exist.
On the day of Rosh HaShanah, G-d wants to recreate the world, and he wants to create us anew. This is because He loves us. To do so, He needs us to choose reality. He needs us to choose life.
This is the meaning behind the concept, “The Day of Judgement: G-d judges us this day as to whether we are choosing reality. If we choose reality, G-d grants us a year of reality. If we choose to be asleep, G-d grants us a year of death; a year of being asleep to the meaning of life and truth. But the main point is not that G-d is doing this because He wants to punish us, but rather because He loves us. He wants us to succeed. But we must choose on our own.
Rosh HaShanah is the birthday of freewill. It is the birthday of ultimate choice. Do you decide to be recreated as a soul or do you decide to be as if you are dead, roaming the world asleep all year long?
So when the day of Rosh HaShanah comes, it is as if G-d is saying, “Hello, I created the world and I want to give you every pleasure possible. Please do the things that allow Me to give to you.’ All G-d wants to do is to give, and it pains Him not being able to give to us in the way that He wants to.
THE GREATEST FORM OF CHOICE IS TO INTERNALIZE WHO G-D IS
The day of Rosh HaShanah is the day of realizing who G-d is. G-d is the King. G-d is all powerful. G-d is the Creator. G-d is the Ultimate. Internalizing these concepts is the greatest form of choosing, because it is the ultimate form of understanding truth.
But for many of us, when we hear these concepts we have a bad taste in our mouth. We think of the twentieth century concept of a king. We think of a king as a despot, a greedy and power-hungry individual who wants to subjugate the masses for his devious aims.
The Jewish concept of a king is that he is a servant of the people (See Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 2.6). He is someone who loves and cares about his people. His only concern is that the people live in happiness and harmony. The only reason he make decrees and laws is for the good of the people, not for himself.
This is the purpose of Rosh HaShanah. The purpose of Rosh HaShanah is to crown G-d King. We choose Him as the ruler and director of our lives. We are not doing this for Him but rather for us; now He can give to us and He can shower us with His goodness and love so that the purpose of Creation will be fulfilled.
PUTTING ROSH HASHANAH IN A NEW LIGHT
These concepts put Rosh HaShanah in an entirely new light. Realize we are subjecting ourselves to a loving and beneficent King who make decrees for the benefit of His people.
The main reason to choose G-d on Rosh HaShanah is not for Him. It is for us. It is so we can benefit from the pleasure of His goodness. It is so we can experience the great things that His world has to offer. We must choose G-d so we can allow Him to give to us. Without Him, our ability to succeed in life is impossible.
Rosh HaShanah is the day where G-d desires to give. G-d is begging us to shape up so He can give us life. We have to make ourselves worthy of receiving Hashem’s abundant blessings.
HOW TO USE THE DAY OF ROSH HASHANAH
The object of Rosh HaShana is not to pray for a good year. Its sole purpose is to make G-d ruler over us. We have to ask G-d to rule over the world. In order for Hashem to rule over the world, however He must have subjects and that is what the day of Rosh HaShanah is all about.
This explains why on Rosh HaShanah, there are no confessions in the machzor, for unlike Yom Kippur, teshuva on our daily sins is not the purpose of the day. The purpose of the day is to set our values straight and to return to the reality of G-d as King.This davening emphasizes this again and again.
This is one of the many meanings of the Shofar. We are blowing the shofar to crown G-d as the King. We are blowing to proclaim to the world: HaShem is the ruler of the world. May He reign forever. And we hereby dedicate to Him totally.
ROSH HASHANAH SETS YOUR SPIRITUAL LEVEL FOR THE WHOLE YEAR
The mussar seforim emphasize over and over again the opportunities for greatness that are available on Rosh HaShanah (see Miktav Me’Eliahu, Chelek Beis, p. 68). Because we are recreated on this day we have the ability to rise to heights that are not available the rest of the year. We have the ability to recreate ourselves to a much higher level than we ever dreamed possible. To a great extent, whatever our level is on Rosh HaShanah that will be our level for the whole year.
On Rosh HaShanah, choose greatness. Choose the Al-mighty totally without any reservations. This is the day to awaken to reality. If you choose it, you have the ability to reach unlimited heights. So please take the opportunity to succeed. Your whole year depends on it.