- The Jewish New Year
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- The Jewish New Year is unlike man-made
celebrations of the secular New Year, accompanied by self indulgence,
drunkenness, and the inescapable self realization that the partiers
celebrate nothing other than the celebration. Through the laws
pertaining to the Jewish New Year, God continues to direct us
to absolute truths in our never ending search for reality.
- Our new year, Rosh Hashanna, Judaism
focuses on a singular concept that God is the King, the Ruler
of the universe. We make no personal requests. Rather, we praise
God, His absolute omniscience and omnipotence through precisely
formulated prayers. Our prayers accompanied by the Shofar blasts,
emphasizes this one theme:
"And so too Hashem our God, instill your awe upon all your
works, and Your dread upon all that You have created. Let all
works revere You, and all creatures prostrate themselves before
You. Let them all become a single society to do Your will wholeheartedly.
For as we know Hashem our God, that the dominion is Yours, might
is in Your hand, strength is in Your right hand, and Your name
inspires awe over all that You have created."
- Regarding this idea of God's complete
rulership, Talmud Rosh Hashanna 16a records a Mishna stating,
"on Rosh Hashanna, all those who enter the world pass before
God (in judgment) like sheep". The Mishna quotes a source,
Psalms 33:16 - "Who forms at once their (man's) hearts,
Who understands all their doings." Metsudas Dovid understands
this as, since God created all people the same, He therefore
understands all people equally, and this understanding is limited
only to God - as God is Judge. One Who judges accurately possesses
the entire truth about His created beings.
- Ibn Ezra offers a different explanation,
understanding the verse in Psalms slightly different, "The
One Creator (of) their hearts, Who understands all their doings."
Ibn Ezra teaches us a subtle idea: "There is One Creator
- and there cannot be many - therefore He alone understands all
their doings." Ibn Ezra states, precisely due to God's
oneness, does God judge people. I ask, "Why does the
reality that God is one, demand that God judge man?" How
is God's judgment of man a natural outgrowth of His being one?
- Ibn Ezra teaches this; God judges mankind,
thereby teaching us that there is a Judge, One God. The very
act of God judging us, is an essential lesson. It teaches the
most fundamental idea, i.e., Unity of God. As only God judges,
no other being or entity can judge.
- God judging man targets many goals.
I feel Ibn Ezra derived from this institution of judgment, that
man must recognize God as the Ultimate Ruler. This is the main
idea: Being judged is not primarily so man takes account of his
actions, as an ends in itself. Rather, being judged is so "man
recognize the existence of The Judge". There is a Being
with ultimate knowledge and power - the Creator of all reality.
- "Then You Hashem will reign
alone over all Your works, on Mount Zion, resting place of Your
glory, and in Jerusalem Your holy city, as it is written in Your
holy writings, "Hashem shall reign forever, your
God, oh Zion, from generation to generation, praised be God".
- This quote repeats, "G-d will
reign". By definition, God
does not share His Oneness. He possesses the distinction of Oneness
exclusive of all 'others'. We stand in judgment, thereby attesting
to His eternal, independent reign. The idea of God is inherently
bound up with the concept that God knows all of man's actions.
We cannot agree to any concept of God, bereft of His absolute
knowledge of our actions. This necessitates our act of repentance
before Him. According to Ibn Ezra, standing in judgment is truly
a testament to God's unique role as Ruler. The Creator knows
His works, as the verse says, "The One Creator (of) their
hearts, Who understands all their doings." By definition,
"He alone understands all their doings." We
therefore attest to His reign by standing in judgment.
- This command to attest to God's exclusive
reign as King by adhering to the laws of Rosh Hashanna, implants
in man the most basic idea: God is One.