by Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer
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|''When Hashem will judge His people'' (Devorim 32:36).
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt'l poses the following questions. Since Rosh HaShana is a day of judgment on the past year, why is it on the first day of the new year, and not on the last day of the previous year? Also, why is confession of sins not mentioned in any of the Rosh HaShana prayers, won't it help us win our judgment?
He explains each year is not a repetition of years gone by. Rather, each year has its specific contribution to Hashem's master plan, and no other year since Creation shares that particular purpose. The root of Shana is Shinui, change, for the precise intent of every year differs from all others. The exact goal of a year is determined at the beginning of the year. At that time, all the relevant data is reviewed as to what has been accomplished until now, where the world is headed, and what needs to be done in the coming year. Thus, Rosh HaShana is not simply a day of judging our past actions and meting out reward and punishment accordingly. Rather, it's forward based, like a businessman at the beginning of the year reviews his inventory and staff to decide what and who has performed well to stick with his winners. So too, Hashem analyses our past productivity in order to determine the future. This is why it's on the first day of the new year, because its focus is for the future. This is also the reason we don't confess sins today, rather we resolve to accept Hashem's sovereignty for the future.
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt'l asks further, Rosh HaShana has other names as well: Yom Hazikaron, Yom Truah, and Yom Hadin. Why then is it commonly referred to as Rosh HaShana which is nothing more than the calendar date and has no Torah significance? It's really just saying New Year in Hebrew, without any real meaning. Also, the proper Hebrew word for beginning is raishis or techilas, why do we say Rosh which, literally translated, means head? Also, we learn (Rosh Hashana 16a) that we are judged daily, how can this be reconciled with the fact that we are judged on Rosh Hashana for the whole year? To this, he answers an innovative insight. The Brocha and shefa that is determined on Rosh HaShana does not come into being at a later time. Instead, it happens immediately, like a seed that has all the inherent potential already in it to blossom at a later date. So too, all the good for the coming year is not only decided now, it's actually created now, and will bloom at the predetermined time. This is the meaning of the Talmudic passage that we are judged daily, for the judgment of Rosh HaShana creates the nucleus of the Brocha, but at the appropriate day for the endowment to flower, we are judged anew if we are worthy of its emerging. For this reason we use the term Rosh HaShana. Just as the brain controls the limbs of a person, and their movements are the direct result of the commands emanating from the head, likewise all the good of the whole year comes forth from the potent seeds created on Rosh HaShana.
Rav Chaim's premise is found at Creation as well, where Ramban tells us that the six days of Creation correspond to the six millenia of world history. Each day of Creation corresponds precisely to the events that subsequently unfolded in its matching millenium. Indeed, Vilna Gaon asserts that someone who unlocks the mystery of the sixth day of Creation will understand exactly when during the sixth millenium Moshiach will arrive. Ramban says further that it's no coincidence Creation and history conform with one another, for the seeds of the development of the world were sown into each day, and they emerged into substance over the course of time. This is the meaning of the Rosh Hashana prayer, ''zeh hayom techilas masecha, zikaron l'yom rishon - this day is the start of Your handiwork, a remembrance of the first day.'' Just as the first days of Creation were imbued with the nucleus of the future of the world, each Rosh Hashana is implanted with the seeds of events in the upcoming year. If so, why is Rosh Hashana only a ''remembrance'' of the first day, and not an exact copy? Because the initial Creation wasn't dependant upon man's deeds, but on Rosh Hashana, Hashem only grants what we've earned.
Another explanation for the term Rosh is that on this day when a person is cleansed of his sins, his head is clear of pettiness, and he has a clarity of vision, a pristine perspective on life. Indeed, Rav Yisroel Salanter zt''l says that a person would sink in the quicksand of his foolishness, if not for the opportunity once a year to rise above it all. Rav Leib Taub comments that Rosh HaShana is like a bolt of lightning to a man lost in a forest: Its momentary flash of light enables him to see the way out of the forest even when the flash is over. Rosh HaShana too, lights up the way to serving HaShem even when the feelings of these holy days cease.
Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer, Kollel Beis HaTalmud Yehuda Fishman Institute, Melbourne Australia
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