As the anniversary of the day when the world came into being, Rosh Hashanah is a time of renewal for the entire Creation. We are accustomed to viewing Jewish holidays merely as commemorations of events which took place in the past. There is far more to each of these special days. We are given festivals not only to recall events of the past, but also to heighten our awareness of the on-going processes that takes place in our own lives on these special days. This is true of Rosh Hashanah, just as it is of all the holidays. Let us explain:
On the one hand, as each new year begins, we return to the date of the creation of the universe; at the same time, we mark the end of a cycle in our own lives, and the beginning of a new one.
Just as the original day of Creation was a time of innovation and initializing, so, too, does each Rosh Hashanah offer us the opportunity to institute changes – hopefully, improvements. It is our annual opportunity to initiate new spiritual growth in our own lives.
Such is the nature of the days of Rosh Hashanah, and they bring us this opportunity anew each year, once a year. It is a golden opportunity, a special gift from the Creator, an opportunity not to be lost.
Before He created the world, G-d weighed the question of whether or not it would be a good plan. He also determined precisely in what form and manner to fashion the universe which He put into motion on the first Rosh Hashanah.
Ever since, this day has retained the characteristic of being a Day of Judgment, and so it is yet today. All facets of the universe are evaluated and renewed in keeping with the findings of the Supreme Judge. This includes our own lease on life, the “budget” apportioned to each of us, and a myriad of other factors.
For instance, a person may be found deserving of winning a minor fortune in a lottery, but, at the same time, may incur “debts” for his misdeeds which will bring upon him or those close to him a disease, Heaven forbid, or other misfortune. This turn of events might easily liquidate his newfound winnings and leave him penniless.
Because we know that we are being judged on this day, we turn to G-d with prayers for a good, healthy year, with pleas for forgiveness, and with promises to improve our ways during the twelve months ahead of us.
How are we judged? Let us look back to the first Day of Judgment, over five thousand years ago. Every being, every stone, every leaf, every creature, was fashioned with a role to play in the mosaic of Creation. Each one was endowed with precisely those resources which it would need in order to fulfill the role assigned to it.
Each year, on the anniversary of this first Rosh Hashanah, G-d again measures each of His creatures up against the yardstick of the role He has assigned to it. Has he or it played its part? How well? How willingly? Is it advisable to renew its lease on life for another year?
Each person's judgment is specific to himself, his situation, his personal accomplishments, his aspirations, and his failures. If he is found deserving of another year of life in this world, Heaven then weighs what accessories he will require to fulfill the role assigned to him, as though he were a newly-fashioned part of the creation.
Each facet of one's life is evaluated on the basis of his merits and the role he is expected to accomplish: health, family bliss, financial success, social acceptance, prestige, insight and talents, and much more.
Some ask: Why is so-and-so showered with wealth, when others, far more righteous than he, find it so difficult to provide for their families?
With our limited, human insight, we can never know what the future holds for us, much less for others. Therefore, our Sages advise that we not pray explicitly for abundant wealth, prestige, and so forth; it is beyond our limited vision to know whether these gifts will indeed be a true blessing, in the long run.
What, then, you ask, should be our requests as the new year begins?
We would do well to ask that we be granted all the tools and implements we will need in order to carry out the role assigned to us during our sojourn here in this world. As in the military, each recruit is automatically provided with whatever equipment he will need in order to fulfill the personal orders issued to him.
So, too, does the Creator provide, with a generous hand, all that His agents-creatures might require, once they acknowledge Him as their “commanding officer” and express their willingness to carry out the tasks assigned to them.
This is why, on Rosh Hashanah, we declare: “G-d is our King of Kings, seated on the elevated, exalted throne...”
We thus reaffirm our acceptance the Almighty as our sovereign. We acknowledge our duty to obey His commands and fulfill His will. Together, we declare that He is omnipotent. It is He and none other Who determines what path our lives will take, and the future of the entire universe. We are His subjects who seek to fulfill His commands.
Our fealty established, we proceed to explain that, during the coming year, we wish to be privileged to continue in this role; likewise, we pledge our loyalty to His commands as He expressed them to us in His Torah, and ask that He furnish all the tools, supplies, and equipment we will need, so that we will be free to devote ourselves fully to His service.
When we ask for Heaven's blessings for the sake of Heaven, rather than for our own pleasure, G-d hearkens to our prayers and answers them with a loving heart, for it is He who “opens His hand, and satisfies the desires of all.”
Our best wishes for a year of blessing and peace, of good health, and spiritual growth to all of Israel.