Facing God on Rosh Hashanah
Three ways to prepare for your personal judgment day.
How should we view ourselves standing before God on Rosh Hashanah?
A rather enigmatic piece of Talmud gives three descriptions about how each and every one of us passes before God. The Mishna says, “On Rosh Hashanah all the inhabitants of the world pass before Him like “Bnei Maron.” What does this mean? The Talmud offers three possible interpretations of the unusual phrase “Bnei Maron”:
- All people pass before God like sheep being lead through a narrow door and counted one by one for tithing.
- Individuals pass before God as if they were on a very steep and narrow mountain pass where one must carefully walk single file.
- Every person passes before God like the soldiers in King David's army, walking single file on their way to war. (Rosh Hashanah 18a)
Each interpretation teaches us a way to prepare for this most significant day.
1. Like sheep: counted, worthy, loved.
In a world teeming with billions of people, does God really care about me and all the details of my life? In the big scheme of things, I’m just a small speck of dust. God surely has more important things than to examine my life and judge me.
Being compared to counted sheep comes to uproot the notion that God doesn’t really care about my life. Something that is counted is considered important, valuable. God cares about you specifically. He is creating every molecule of your being; He is not only aware of you, He cares about you. He is rooting for you. You are not just a dot in the masses of humanity. Your are God’s child whom He loves, as a father loves his child.
How we make this more tangible? Try this exercise before Rosh Hashanah: Find some quiet time and take pen and paper and write a letter from God expressing His love and confidence in you, and how He is rooting for you. And for the cynical readers out there rolling their eyes at this suggestion – do it anyway. You will see it can be a very powerful and moving exercise.
2. Like a mountainous pass, all alone, with nowhere to hide
The only way to traverse this narrow pass is by walking totally alone. There is no room for anyone else. On Rosh Hashanah, standing before God, there is only you. There are no friends to hide behind, no society to get lost in, no excuses to rely on. It’s only the real you, all your decisions, the potential left dormant, the tremendous dreams that were in reach but left unfulfilled. We hide behind a litany of excuses and layers of deception that distance ourselves from our true inner selves. We think everyone else is doing it, or the converse: no one else is doing it, so why should l be expected to? We think we’re doing just fine since everyone tells us we’re fine. But on Rosh Hashanah there is no one else; it’s just you. It’s the moment you need to confront who you really are.
So spend a few minutes and ask yourself: What excuses do you rely on to exempt you from unleashing your potential and becoming truly great?
3. Like King David’s Soldiers, with a unique mission
King David’s soldiers were known to be the mightiest. They were not a just mass of people; each soldier had a unique mission that contributed to the army. On Rosh Hashanah God recreates the world and determines the annual allocation of resources. He judges each of us based on our unique mission and how it’s affecting the nation. Where do we stand with our mission? Are we clear on our specific purpose? How driven are we to accomplish it? What do we need from the Almighty this year in order to accomplish it?
On Rosh Hashanah we will be standing before the CEO who has unlimited resources and he wants to hear our proposal that has the good of his company in mind. Now is the time to get the clarity about what we are committed to accomplishing this upcoming year and to evaluate how well this fits into what God wants from you.
AN effective tool to think about is to write down five of the most pleasurable moments you’ve experienced in life, moments when you felt most alive? Step back and see if you can articulate a common theme. Then ask yourself: What specific goals am I committing to this year to fulfill my personal mission?
This is a time for quiet introspection and reconnecting with your dreams and aspirations. Don’t give up on them; the Almighty knows you can achieve great things and He’s rooting for you.
Based on an essay by Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, zt”l.