Monday, 15 September 2014

Why Are We Judged on Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana is the main name of the Jewish New Year. But why does our New Year need to have such serious themes like a day of judgment? Why can't it be a happy day? To answer this we must look at the other names of Rosh Hashana. They are Yom Teruah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom HaDin and Yom HaRat Olam. Each one of these days explains part of the many themes on this important day.

Rosh Hashana is the easy one to translate and explain it literally means head of the year. Yom Teruah is a day of Shofar blowing. (I will talk more about Shofar blowing next week). Yom HaZikaron means the day that we remember everything that God has done for us and he 'remembers' all of our actions. 

Yom HaDin means judgment day. Each year on Rosh Hashana, God judges us but why? To answer that we must translate and explain another of Rosh Hashana's names, Yom HaRat Olam. This name means the day that the world was birthed. This is not exactly accurate. According to Rabbinic tradition the world was created on the 25th Elul but it was on the first of Tishri, the 6th day of creation that Adam and Eve were created.

What happened on that first day? According to the Talmud (Masekhet Sanhedrin) all the events of Adam and Eve until their expulsion from the Garden of Eden took place on that first day. Lets talk through those steps. Adam was created. He is put in charge of the entire garden but God warned him not to eat from the tree of knowledge (Etz HaDa'at). Then Eve is created from Adam. Adam then tells Eve not even to touch the tree. The snake convinces Eve to eat from the Etz HaDa'at and she gives the fruit to Adam too. They both realize they are naked and they 'hide' from God. God calls out to them hoping that they will acknowledge what they did. Instead Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the snake. God judges them and punishes the snake, Eve and Adam. From that day onward this day would always be the day that God judges the whole of mankind.

It isn't all doom and gloom because Hashem does not punish us completely. The punishment for eating from the tree should have been death. Instead God gave Adam and Eve a lesser punishment. To show to them that with sincere teshuva, we can return and attain the position we were at before we sinned. So therefore when God does judge us this year on Rosh Hashana our minds should be filled with thoughts that our beloved father and king is sitting in judgment like we do with our own children. We punish our children to help them correct a behavior. The judging itself brings no joy to God. He does it because he wants to bring us closer to him. Through this time of spiritual awakening, may we acknowledge that God is king and come closer to him.

Tizku LeShanim Rabot Neimot VeTovot
May we all merit many pleasant and good years ahead.

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