The first day of the month of Tishrei is far more than just the beginning of a new cycle of months in the Jewish year. While it is true that it marks the anniversary of the creation of the world over five thousand years ago, the day itself embodies far more than a standard anniversary of a historical event.
Each year, on the first of Tishrei, the world and all that is in it experiences a renewal. It is not only Rosh Hashanah which encapsulates the initial experience of the date, but all of the special days which mark the Jewish calendar. On the festival of Pesach, (Passover) we can relive the Exodus in terms of our own lives, experiencing a release from the bondage of those forces to which we, personally, have allowed ourselves to become enslaved.
On Shavuos, the Jewish People can once again experience a taste of the revelation at Sinai and the acceptance of the Torah. On Sukkos, we again sense G-d’s protection, similar to what the People of Israel experienced in the wilderness, after the Exodus.
Just as there is a well-defined cycle of physical changes that characterize summers as hot and winters as cold, so, too, does the spiritual world have its seasons, each with a specific abstract concept which is renewed each year at the appropriate time.
Rosh Hashanah marks the creation of Adam and Eve and the completion of the act of creation. Its particular characteristic is an annual, spiritual re-creation. On this day, G-d creates the world anew for a period of one additional year. At the time of the original Creation, G-d weighed each of His creatures and decided whether or not it was worthwhile creating it. So, too, on this day each year, does He weigh the contribution each of us makes to His universe. Are we playing a role that brings the world closer to the purpose for which He made it?
He takes stock of how well each of us has fulfilled the role He has assigned them in His universe, and hands down a judgment accordingly.
Therefore, before we appear “in court” on Rosh Hashanah, we would be well advised to take stock of where we stand and what our priorities are. Do they jibe with the purpose for which G-d gave us life? If so, how much closer did we come to achieving them in the past year, and what would we like to do differently during the year to come?
This is the essence of the judgment which takes place on Rosh Hashanah.
Each component of the original creation was brought into being in order that it fulfill a specific role. As the New Year begins, G-d again reviews His creation, and weighs:
1. Is it indeed worthwhile renewing this particular creature’s lease on life for another year? Will he or she or it contribute to fulfilling G-d’s plan for His Creation?
2. Will this individual or component be able to fulfill the task assigned to it? Each person is judged separately.
If the answer to these two questions is positive, the case proceeds to the next item: what tools and resources does this person need in order to fulfill the tasks assigned to him?
In this sense, a person is created anew each year, and assigned the equipment he will need in order to achieve his task. His “kit” for the year includes the state of his health, family happiness, financial success, social success, and so forth.
Man’s vision and foresight are limited; consequently, we cannot understand the justice or the logic in the assignment of “tools” apportioned to each one. We are tempted to ask: Why is so-and-so blessed with so much success, while others, some of them very righteous and saintly, have such a difficult time making ends meet?
Another factor which limits our vision is the fact that no one can be certain what the future holds for him. Therefore, we refrain from making requests such as “Grant us wealth” or “Give us prestige and honor.” With our limited foresight, we cannot be certain that wealth or prestige will not be our undoing. Sometimes, it is better not to be able to afford a ticket for a luxury cruise, especially if you’re planning to book on the Titanic.
What, then, should we ask for on Rosh Hashanah?
We ask Heaven to supply us with everything we need in order to fulfill the task assigned to us in this world. Everyone has a role to play, and therefore, everyone is entitled to receive the resources he needs in order to fulfill his task.
However, this rule applies only when a person realizes that it is not he who is in charge; there is a Supreme Power to whom he owes allegiance, and whose word he must obey. Likewise, he must keep in mind that the Supreme Power who is in control brought him into this world in order that he fulfill a specific task during the years allotted him on earth.
Once we are aware of the significance of the day, we declare to G-d: “You are the King of Kings, who is omnipotent and rules over the universe and everyone and everything in it. We are Your subjects, who wish to fulfill Your orders.”
Once we have acknowledged G-d as our ruler, we continue our supplication by asking that He continue to support us for the coming year so that nothing will interfere with our serving Him.
When the gifts which Heaven bestows on man are intended for use in fulfilling G-d’s will, everything is viewed differently in the Heavenly court. Our prayers will be accepted lovingly and willingly by Him who grants life to all His creatures.