Rosh Hashana, the first day of the seventh month, is known as “Yom HaDin” – “The Day of Judgment”. We have received that on this day God sits on the throne of judgment and judges all the inhabitants of the earth.
One would expect that the prayers of this day would emphasize a plea for mercy in this judgment. After all, so much depends on this judgment and what else can we rely on but upon God’s mercy? Yet, surprisingly, not only do the prayers of Rosh Hashana not emphasize a request for mercy, the concept of a plea for mercy is almost completely absent from the prayers that we pray on this day. Instead the emphasis is on our desire to see the kingdom of God established here on earth. Throughout the machzor (the traditional
prayer book) we find the entreaty for God to establish His kingdom on earth
repeated again and again.
There is no question that our desire to see God’s kingdom established is an important part of our relationship with God, but why is it emphasized on this day? And why do we not appeal to God’s mercy on this day?
In our search for an answer to these questions we will first ask another question; What is the nature of the judgment that takes place on Rosh Hashana and how does it differ from the judgment that takes place after death, or on the great Day of Judgment (Isaiah 66:16, Joel 4:2)?
Rabbi Chaim Freidlander explains that the judgment of Rosh Hashana differs from the judgment that takes place after death. The judgment that takes place after death would be compared to a final score-card, where God judges every deed, both good and bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14). It is a judgment of the past. The judgment of Rosh Hashana on the other hand is a judgment of the future. This judgment could be compared to a CEO reviewing the various departments of his company to see how they contribute to the overall performance of the company. God is judging each one of us and considering our place in His future plan for the world. The question that God asks about each of us is; what role could this particular individual play in My plan for the world?
What is God’s plan for the world? The Scriptures teach that God’s ultimate plan is that His kingdom be established here on earth openly and unequivocally (Deuteronomy 32:39, Zechariah 14:9). This is God’s plan and God is moving all of history towards this ultimate goal.
As God’s children, we identify with God’s plan. Our deepest yearning is that our Father’s purpose be accomplished as He desires.
The entire purpose of this judgment is for us. So that we should bring our lives into focus and realign ourselves with our true inner yearning, as Jews and as God’s children. Putting in requests for my own self as an individual would not be appropriate on a day where the focus of God is on His purpose. On the day of Rosh Hashana we are called upon to align ourselves with God’s judgment, with His purpose here on earth. On this day we renew our
commitment as God’s children to establishing God’s kingdom here on earth; this
is our true desire and we move our focus away from our own personal desires.
To the degree that we are capable of sincerely identifying with God’s plan, and removing the distractions of our personal wishes, to that same degree will we merit a favorable judgment.
As God’s children, we want Him to see in our hearts, to hear in our prayers and in the blast of our shofar; one thing and one thing only – the yearning and the longing for God’s kingdom to be established here on earth to the eyes of all flesh.
May it happen speedily in our days.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal