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A Rosh Hashana Dvar Torah: The Truth about Rosh Hashana

What's Missing from Rosh Hashana?

There is something missing from the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, ushers in the time known as the Days of Awe. It is, according to our sages, the day of judgment, or Yom Hadin. The poignant prayer of Unetaneh Tokef describes the great trepidation of the angels in heaven as God sits down to judge the world. We have preceded Rosh Hashanah with days of reciting the penitential prayers, the selichot. The shofar blasts are to awaken us to repent.

So what is missing? Simply any mention at all of sin or repentance for sin. We certainly refer to Rosh Hashanah as the day of judgment, yet we seem to do nothing to turn that judgment in our favor. Contrast this with Yom Kippur, where we fast and confess all day long. But on Rosh Hashanah we do not say a word in our own defense. Strange, no?

No Defense Against The Prosecution?

In truth, we do say words in our own defense. As a matter of fact, the defense that we give is more convincing and effective than any confessional could be. What are these powerful words? To put it succinctly, they are our dreams and aspirations for the world.

When we say things such as, " and all living beings shall know that You have created them, and all who have the spirit of life in them shall proclaim 'the Lord God of Israel is the King, He rules over everything,'" when we give expression to all of the highest hopes of mankind, we show our true character. By stating that we look for into a world of faith, of justice, of peace, and are not concerned with our own personal welfare, we demonstrate that our hearts are in the right place. How could God judge us harshly even if we have slipped up a little, when our deepest yearnings are for His word to rule the world?

The Greatness of Rosh Hashana

And so, when we look at the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, we see the truest aspirations of the Jewish people. This should inspire us to do what we can to move these visions of glory forward and to create a a world of redemption, each and every one of us in his or her own way. Every good deed, every act of kindness, every prayer uttered and word of encouragement given paves the way for those wonderful days to come. May we be written and sealed in the Book of Life.