The Meaning of Rosh Hashonoh

The first day of Rosh Hashonoh is the anniversary of the day that Adam and Eve were created. On that day, they also sinned by eating fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And on that day, G-d judged them.

And now, each year on this day, all people in the world are judged. The decision is made concerning what sort of year each of us will have, based not only on our deeds, but also on our intentions, and on our resolve to do better and on our repentance.

There can be no king without people. G-d created humans because G-d wished to have creatures on whom to pour goodness. But G-d didn’t want creatures whose whole purpsoe is to sit and soak up good. Good is so much more appreciated when it has been earned. So G-d created us, people with free choice, who can choose good, and work for it.

The greatest good any human can have is a true relationship with G-d. On this world, that relationship means to work for that ultimate good. In the Next World, that relationship will be the receiving of the ultimate good, not as a gift, but as an earned reward.

Thus, when Adam and Eve were formed, the purpose of Creation was realized. (The first part, anyway: this world, where the work takes place.) Now, I’m not going to get into the whole business about the eating of the fruit, because that’s a subject for a different page that I hope to write one of these days.

This being the beginning of the history of the world, G-d is King on this day. Therefore, the theme of Rosh Hashonoh is the Kingship of G-d.

This is one of the prayers we say on Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur:

Let us now relate the power of this day’s holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it, Your Kingship will be exalted in our prayers, Your throne will be reaffirmed with kindness, and You will seat upon that throne of kindness with truth.

It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness, Who writes and seals, counts and calculates, Who remembers all that was forgotten. You will open the Book of Chronicles — it will read itself! — and there is no doubt about its veracity.

The great shofar will be sounded (in Heaven), yet a small, still sound will be heard. Angels will hasten, a trembling and terror will seize them, and they will say: «Behold, it is the Day of Judgment, it is telling us to muster the heavenly host for judgment!» For if the people on earth are all found guilty, and this earth is destroyed, even the angels will not be spared.

All humanity will pass before You individually, like members of the flock.

Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living, and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.

On Rosh Hashonoh it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: how many will pass from the earth, and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time, and who before his time; who by water and who by fire; who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by stangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility, and who will suffer, who will be made poor and who will be made rich, who will be degraded, and who will be exalted.

But repentance, prayer, and charity
can remove any evil decree!

For Your Name represents mercy, and that is how You are praised: hard to anger and easy to appease, for You do not wish the death of even someone who deserves death, You want him to repent his ways and live. Until the day of his death You await him; if he repents, you accept him immediately.

It is true that You are the Creator, and You know the inclination of all people. For we are flesh and blood. A man’s origin is dust, and his destiny is to return to the dust. His life is spent earning his bread. He is like a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shadow, a dissipating cloud, a wind that blows and then ebbs, flying dust, and a fleeting dream.

But You are the King,
the living and enduring G-d!

There is no set span to Your years, and there is no end to the length of Your days. It is impossible to estimate the angelic chariots of Your glory, or to elucidate Your Name’s inscrutability. Your Name is worthy of You, and You are worthy of Your Name, and You have included Your Name in our name.

Act for Your Name’s sake, and show the holiness of Your Name through those who declare the holiness of Your Name, for the sake of the glory of Your revered and hallowed Name, according to the counsel of the holy Seraphim-angels, who declare Your Name holy in the holiest of places. Thus do those who dwell on high declare Your Name holy together with those who dwell below.

Perhaps this can give you a taste of the feeling and emotions that comes upon us during this season. The awe and fear of G-d, and the knowledge that if we repent G-d will grant us a better life. Because G-d wants us to repent.

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