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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

A Rosh Hashana Message

As the Days of Awe approach, we are encouraged to reflect upon our past year; our accomplishments, what we did well, and what we could have done better. It can truly be a daunting and overwhelming experience, and we might not even know where to begin. On Rosh Hashanah our very existence as we know it is being judged! How do we prepare ourselves?

If we take a closer look at Rosh Hashanah, we see two very different, almost contradictory themes. On the one hand, we are taught that it is a Day of Judgment; but on the other hand, we are encouraged to approach it with a festive spirit-we take haircuts, shower, and don our festive finery. We serve delicious meals, and a general ‘Yom Tov’ atmosphere prevails. How do we understand these two ideas?

The Talmud gives us an amazing insight; says Rabbi Yitzchok, “a person is only judged based on the deeds of that moment, and not on future deeds”

However, Rabbeinu Chananel, quoting the Yerushalmi, states- says Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi “a person is judged based on their present state, and not regarding their past”.

Now, the first statement is readily understood; although G-d knows that we may sin in the future, that has no impact on where we stand now. That makes perfect sense. But what is the meaning of the second statement? If the judgment is not regarding our past deeds, then on what basis are we being judged?

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe of blessed memory explains; Rosh Hashanah is a day that we devote exclusively to declaring that G-d is our King. It is as if we are all invited to come celebrate the coronation and rededication of our beloved King, and demonstrate our willingness and desire to accept Him and serve Him. That explains the joy and festivity of the day; about what are we being judged? We are being judged about how sincere we are in our love and dedication to Him. Now is not the time to reflect on our past, now is the time to dedicate ourselves to the future. G-d says, “Let me see who has come to declare me their King, and if I am their King, then it is my responsibility to provide for my subjects. We will deal with the past a different time”. This is a beautiful idea to help us look forward to a productive year of growth!

Hashem is not looking now at our past sins, and He is certainly not looking at our future sins; He is judging us at this very moment, if we are accepting Him and coronating Him! And not only that, He provides us with the tools to do so; the Shofar, the beautiful pesukim of Malchus, and the inspiration of the day!

May we all merit to be inscribed in the book of health, happiness and prosperity and have many more productive years to come!

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