Updated: Sep 16, 2020
The Nesivos Shalom asks two basic questions about this Incredible day:
The Gemara says (.ראש השנה דף טז) on Rosh Hashanah the whole world passes in front of Hashem כבני מרון like “flocks of sheep” as a shepherd counts all his flock so too all creation is passed through judgment for the upcoming year. This includes ALL aspects of creation, Humans, Animals, and even plants and trees. The angels tremble since they also have a judgment: Question is on what? Animals, plants and angels don’t have free will so what is the judgment exactly?
Is it a day of joy or fear? If it’s a day of judgment on our whole life, then it should be a day of anxiety and angst. However in the Torah it’s called a חג, a festival and in sefer Nechemia Ezra Hacohen tells Klal Yisroel “go and eat fatty foods drink sweet beverages and send gifts one to another for this day is holy to our master” that ‘day’ was Rosh Hashana. On the other hand, the Gemara (:שם דף לב) brings down a fascinating interchange. The angels ask Hashem “Why don’t the yidden sing Shira (hallel) on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?” Hashem answers them “Is it possible that the king is sitting on the throne of judgment and the books of life and death are opened before him and they are singing Shira?” Yet we find the Yerushalmi says that Hashem sings our praises on how we are not afraid of the judgement. Hashem says proudly “which nation is like this nation, generally when a person knows he has a judgment he puts on black clothes, and wraps himself with black clothes etc. However Israel is not like this, they put on white and wrap themselves in white, they cut their hair, eat, drink and are happy on Rosh Hashanah because of their trust in Hashem”
The answer is a misconception about life and the world we live in. We think that the world was created with an expiration date of 6000 years and each Rosh Hashanah is just a ‘fine tuning’ of nature.
This could not be further from the truth. The Arizal explains that Hashem creates the world for one year at a time, and on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem recreates the world from (before) scratch! This is why we say היום הרת עולם “today is the birthday of the world” because it’s a brand new one that is being created each year.
With this we understand the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, if Hashem is now recreating the world, well, now ALL of creation is taken into account if it will be needed for the ‘new world’ he is about to create.
The יסוד העבודה says a wonderful parable which we will explain with a modern-day example:
In 2027 a wealthy entrepreneur decides to purchase an island in the Caribbean and names it "Paradise Island"
He wants this island to be run like a well oiled machine and have a very specific purpose that will bring peace and harmony within the population. He allocates a budget of 4.3 Billion Dollars and 3 years for the complete development of of the island. Included in the budget was everything it would need from “soup to nuts”. Building materials, workers and everything they could possibly need: apartments, schools and even parks for the families of the workers.
Like any good manager he doesn’t just let things run on its own, rather every 3 months he pays a visit to the island to oversee its production: Two things become evident during this trip. There are some things that are needed more of and some things that are needed less of.
He sees there’s a need for more steel and cement, so he approves an order of 400 tons of steel and 300 tons of cement. He sees that out of the 300,000 workers only 250,000 are productive. So, he calls in the 50,000 ‘extra works’ and informs them they will not be working on the island anymore.
So continues the process until in 2030 Paradise Island is complete according to the specific agenda he laid out.
Then when it is finished, he allows people to move in with a specific criterion. To live there according to the standards, he laid out. Only good law-abiding tax paying citizens are allowed to live on the island. Also, the continued support and existence of the Island can only be possible if as a whole it is run according the ideals he set forth at the establishment of the island.
Here the owner makes a visit once a year on January 1st to see who is worthy to stay on the island and if the island itself is worthy of his continuous support.
Each year at years end the citizens knowing of this impending day looming over them, begins to worry and make sure that the Island is run according to his liking. When the owner finally arrives, all the citizens stand ready to pledge their allegiance to him and the ideals with which he established the Island. When he sees this, he happily signs another year of support and existence to Paradise Island .
With this we can understand the judgment on Rosh Hashanah. Hashem created the world with a specific goal and purpose in mind. Every year Hashem looks at the world and judges what is needed for the coming year based on that purpose. Therefore, everything in creation is judged. How many trees, grass, and elephants contribute to the ultimate purpose? Which ones will die and how many will be born?
With people who have free will we contribute to this process as well. Every one of us are given talents and capabilities in order to do our part in Hashem’s plan and ultimate purpose. On Rosh Hashana Hashem is determining whether we continue our “lease” on them and on our lives in general. This is why the day of creation is also the day of judgment and fear. Our performance on the year before will determine the judgement on our future. (With benevolence Hashem allows and commands us to do Teshuva, as how we are at that time overrides our yearly performance).
However, it’s also a day of great joy. Since Hashem is recreating the world that means the eternal bond with Klal Yisroel and Hashem is also renewed. We as a nation are created anew, as if we just became a nation and accepted the Torah.
This is why the essence of the day is to focus on our allegiance to him and the Torah, to Crown Hashem as our one and only God and motivation in our lives.
May we all be זוכה to the ultimate crowning of Hashem with the coming of Mashiach
במהרה בימינו אמן
Photo by EHRENBERG Kommunikation - Visit Åland, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30944483