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Rosh Hashanah: It's Not about Who's Been Naughty or Nice

September 1, 2021 | by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith

Like a CEO of a major conglomerate, God is setting the budgets and allocating resources, based on what you're genuinely committed to take on.

Growing up, Rosh Hashanah struck me as a Jewish version of Santa Claus coming to town, with God replacing the big man in red.

He's making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice
(Santa Claus) God is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
And he knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

No wonder it was difficult for me to take the holiday seriously.

But all that changed once I actually learned about the deeper meaning of the Jewish new year.

God is hitting the reset button and recreating the world and your place within it, anew.

Turns out God isn't looking over the past year to find out who's been naughty or nice; He's actually hitting the reset button and recreating the world and your place within it, anew. Like a CEO of a major conglomerate, God is setting the budgets, allocating resources and determining each person's role, based on the level of responsibility you are genuinely ready to take on.

Jewish holidays are not merely commemorative. Each holiday opens a spiritual portal in time that enables us to relive the experience our ancestors went through. For instance, Passover doesn't just remind us of our exodus from Egypt; it's the time of the year we ourselves can access freedom and redemption like never before.

What happened on Rosh Hashanah that makes this the "Day of Judgment"?

The Talmud gives a fascinating reply: On Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, God conceived the world. Nothing actually existed yet! Actual creation didn't occur until six months later during Nissan, the month of Passover. Rosh Hashanah is the time to concretize your vision for the new year, to conceive of goals and blueprints. It's the ultimate blank slate when everything is possible.1

The judgment of Rosh Hashanah isn't based on your past performance because there simply is no past! You are re-experiencing the very conception of the world, the beginning point when God is handing out potential for all that is to come this new year.

This explains why there is no mention of repentance in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, because the holiday looks forward, not back. The emphasis is on declaring with the utmost clarity and passion your vision of the coming year.  The reset button has been hit; you are no longer weighed down by your previous baggage of regrets and failures. It's a new beginning and everything is up for grabs, as long as it is what you truly desire.

Once you have this newfound clarity you can look back at the previous year in a healthy, productive manner, and examine your past mistakes and obstacles that are holding you back from realizing your dreams and aspirations. That's what Yom Kippur is all about, and why it follows Rosh Hashanah.

Now is the time to get clarity, recalibrate and come into Rosh Hashanah fired up to work on attaining your dream goals for the upcoming year. You are making your case to the CEO. The books are open and His resources are endless. What are you genuinely committing to accomplishing this year? All that potential is being determined on this day. This is the judgment God is rendering on Rosh Hashanah.

So take some time in the coming days and think about the following questions:

  • In my quietest moments, what do I yearn for?
  • What are my set of skills and traits, and how can I use them more effectively to better my community and the world?
  • What does God want from me?
  • What change in my life that would make a significant difference in actualizing my potential and feeling a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life?
  • How can I improve my most important relationships?

Shana tova! May we all be blessed with a year of good health, joy, wisdom and clarity.

(See Tosafot, Rosh Hashana, 27a, and Rabbi Chaim Friedlander's Sifsei Chaim, Moadim, Vol. 1)

For more tools to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, click here to read:  10 Questions to Ask Yourself This Rosh Hashanah

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