Many ask why Rosh Hashanah precedes Yom Kippur.
Wouldn’t it make sense to first cleanse ourselves of sin and then coronate Hashem as King?
The answer is that doing teshuvah on Yom Kippur requires us to experience Rosh Hashanah and the message included therein.
We have seen that the essence of teshuvah is a shift in one’s heart, not just in one’s actions. The goal is to become an ish acher, a different person, not just one who does things differently than before.
This internal shift challenges some of our most basic assumptions about life.
We thought life was all about being right, and now we see there’s more to life than just that. We thought we could do everything, and now we realize that we can’t. We thought we knew what prayer, Shabbos, and Torah study were all about, but now it’s apparent that we don’t.
These new revelations are difficult to face and certainly to accept. What gives us the strength to overcome our natural resistance to giving up such deeply-rooted assumptions?
This is where Rosh Hashanah comes in.
Throughout the year, in the Amidah, we focus on OUR needs — our health, our wisdom, ourprosperity.
On Rosh Hashanah, for two days of the year, we make no mention of our personal needs in the Amidah. Rather, we use this opportunity to speak to the Master of the World about HIS “needs.” We ask that He reveal Himself in the world and that all of creation come to recognize His Kingdom.
The difficulty with letting go of our prior assumptions is that they’re our assumptions. It’s the reality we’ve created that’s so difficult to give up.
But what if we realized that it’s not our world, but Hashem’s world? What if we recognized that there is more to life than our desires? Would that make it easier to accept other perspectives? Of course it would, and this is the gift of Rosh Hashanah!
Once a year we get an opportunity to “burst the bubble” of our existence. To step out of our worldview and step into Hashem’s worldview. To see the world from an objective perpsective.
By putting our needs aside and appreciating Hashem’s “bigger picture,” we begin to consider other ways of viewing life.
Many people feel that a “successful” Rosh Hashanah is reaching a level of total and complete submission to the will of Hashem. Such images of greatness are impractical at best, and may even be counterproductive.
Rosh Hashanah need not be a day of great intensity, but rather a day to achieve calm and clarity.
We approach the davening with the simple goal of opening our ears to the words, allowing them to chisel away at the stone in our hearts that so desires to hold onto old beliefs.
For the two days of Rosh Hashanah, let’s take a break from ourselves and focus on a world bigger than we are. Appreciate Hashem’s “needs” and that we play a role in His “bigger picture.”
- During each Amidah on Rosh Hashanah pick one section to read more slowly, while contemplating the message that the world belongs to Hashem and not everything is the way we see it.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, sweet and prosperous new year,
P.S. please email Lebovits2@gmail.com to REPLY to share your thoughts and experiences on this fourth step of the teshuvahprocess.