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Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

On Rosh Hashanah, All Creatures Are Judged Individually

Published on Tuesday November 2nd, 2021

On the 1st of Tishri, on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem judges all creatures individually. At that moment, all of man's actions are considered. There is no oblivion by the Supreme Judge, everything is clearly drawn up before Him. Then He opens three books: that of the Righteous, that of the ungodly, and that of the intermediate people. Each person is measured on the heavenly scale, the good deeds against the bad ones. According to the majority that prevails, Hashem seals the judgment of the person for the coming year.

Hashem did us a tremendous goodness in revealing to us the date of the day of judgment. Indeed, for the other nations of the world, this day does not have any particular meaning, it is like every other day of the year. However, to the people of Israel whom Hashem choose from among the nations, Hashem unveiled the singular importance of that day so that we could prepare ourselves and tackle it in the best possible way.

The Judgment!

A man was walking in the city of Moscow, while it was still under Soviet rule, when suddenly...a car stopped next to him, apparently a civilian car. Inside was a man posing as a secret agent of the police. Without saying anything, he pushed the man inside the vehicle, and said, "You will be in court soon!"

At the sound of these words, the man trembled with fear and began to imagine the worst. He knew the meaning of an appearance in court, in a country without law or justice. A man can be innocent and, despite everything, he could be sentenced to heavy penalties. He thought: Maybe they will imprison me for a long time, maybe even with forced labor? Or maybe they will send me to Siberia or to a psychiatric hospital? Even harsher sentences were passing through his mind. "But, ok, whatever happens to me will happen to me," he said to himself. He was filled with grief and, given the seriousness of the situation, he resigned himself to his fate: "Whatever will happen to me, will happen to me".

Suddenly, the driver stopped on the roadside. He got up from his seat and sat down next to this man. Then he turned to him and said, "I know you're a Jew, so am I. You thought I was going to lead you to these lawless authorities, but you're wrong. When I told you that you were going to be judged, I was referring to the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, which is fast approaching. I just wanted to make you aware, to wake you up as you approach the judgment before the King of the world''.

So too, we stand before a day of colossal importance. As it is written, "For all nations, He decides who will perish and who will live in serenity. Who will be affected by famine and who will be satiated. He remembers all His creatures today and decrees death or life for each one of them. Who is not judged on this day?" It is our duty to become fully aware of the importance of this day.

Fifty-One is not Fifty-Two

A Rav entered the classroom and told his students, "Fifty-one, is not fifty-two! Fifty-one, is not fifty-two! He repeated this phrase several times, with increasing enthusiasm each time. The students were surprised and asked: "Could our Master reveal to us the meaning of this sentence?'' He answered them, "When Loth (Avraham's nephew) left the city of Sodom as it was about to be destroyed, he hastened to reach the city of Mitzar (little), and he said to the angels who saved him: "This is the city that is near for me to take refuge, it is Mitzar (insignificant). I will flee there..."[Bereshit 19.20]. Although the city Mitzar was full of sins like Sodom, it was not destroyed. Why? Simply because Sodom was an older city than Mitzar. By how many years was the city of Sodom older? By one year! When Sodom was destroyed, the city was founded fifty-two years earlier, whereas Mitzar, only fifty-one-years earlier. It was because of a difference of one year that one city was destroyed and another one not! "[Shabbat Tractate 10b].

And yes ... Fifty-one, is not fifty-two! Man can think as follows: Ten years ago, I was listed in the Book of Life and, although I have not changed, five years ago, I was also enrolled for life, as well as two years ago, last year too ... This year will be the same, so I do not need to introspect, I'll continue this way and I'll be one more time registered for life. No! Fifty-one, is not fifty-two!

Fear of Heaven like Fear of Man

The Gemara, in Brachot (25b), reports the following fact: The students of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai asked him before his death: "Our Master, bless us!'' He answered them, "May it be the will of Hashem, may your fear of heaven be as great as your fear of flesh and blood''. The students replied, "That's it?'' He told them, "I hope that you reach that level. Know that a man, at the moment of sin, wants no one to see him, but he forgets that the Holy One, blessed be He, with all His greatness and glory, sees him very distinctly."

It would be very good if we prepared for the Day of Judgment as we do before appearing before a judge of flesh and blood. Indeed, if a man were to be judged in this world, it is clear that he would take the best lawyer to come out victorious. This should be all the more so on Rosh Hashanah, where all of creation is judged for life or, G-d forbid, for death, for peace or for war, for wealth or for poverty. It is clear that we need many lawyers. And who are our defenders? The Torah, the commandments, and the good deeds that we accumulate throughout the year, they alone can help us on this daunting day.

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