The ongoing flow of our life-routines makes it difficult for a person to remain fully aware of the presence of G-d. There is so much to think about in day-to-day life that it is difficult to keep in mind that everything we say and do is heard and recorded on High.
How easy it is to forget that we are to be judged after one hundred and twenty years for every word and for every action! Although we subscribe fully to this belief in theory, it is difficult to apply it in actual day-to-day living. We easily forget that we stand before G-d and all the thoughts of our heart are revealed to Him.
The prayers of Rosh Hashanah concentrate on heightening this awareness of the sovereignty of G-d over mankind and all creation. Only when a person realizes that he is standing in judgment before his Maker can he acknowledge G-d’s rule. He must actually sense that his life is in G-d’s hands, not his own. When he pleads “Remember us for life,” knowing full well that his continued existence depends on G-d’s approval, he acknowledges that his future is up to his Creator to approve or, Heaven forbid, disapprove.
This awareness brings home to him the fact that G-d’s approval is a direct function of his own willingness to fit in with the pattern of life that G-d has commanded him to follow. Therefore he turns to his Maker and prays for life “for Your sake, O Living G-d!”
The foundation of repentance lies in the acknowledgement that G-d alone rules the universe, and shall always do so, and our duty to adapt our life goals to the purpose for which our Maker first created us. The more deeply based our acceptance of G-d’s rule, the more profound will be our return to Him.
This is why the Days of Judgment – Rosh Hashanah – precede the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. First of all, we must enhance our awareness of our Creator as our King and Sovereign. There can be no complete teshvuah, repentance, without complete submission to G-d’s will. The confession, regret and even the fasting of Yom Kippur cannot be valid until one has a full awareness of the King against who he has rebelled by sinning.
First we observe Rosh Hashanah, to declare G-d’s sovereignty; only then can we express our regret for past sins and declare our determination to repent and to mend our ways.
The more profoundly we are able to perceive G-d’s kingship on Rosh Hashanah, the greater will be the teshvuah that follows on Yom Kippur.