By Rabbi Mayer Freedman | Anshi
Rosh Hashanah is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, it is considered a scary day. G-d is sitting down in judgment, reviewing how we performed this past year. Based on what He finds, we will either be blessed with a year full of success or, G-d forbid, the opposite.
On the other hand, Rosh Hashanah is a joyous day. It is a holiday, and we are supposed to dress in our finest, eat the usual holiday delicacies, and celebrate with our friends and families.
How can we be joyous on a day that is so awe-inspiring? Would one be happy on a day in which he is due in front of a judge for sentencing? Of course not! One would be frightened and nervous.
All the more so, it would seem, that we should be frightened and nervous in front of the judgment of G-d.
To understand this paradox, let’s delve a bit more into the essence of Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashanah is considered the birthday of mankind. What separates man from animal is the fact that we are responsible for our actions. We have the ability to choose between right and wrong, and this ability obligates us to be responsible for what we do.
Our job as members of the human race is to work hard and to accomplish. We celebrate the work ethic and revel in the fact that we are responsible for our actions. In other words, we celebrate the fact that we are human beings.
The day on which it is most clear that we are responsible for our actions and that we have the ability to affect our own destiny is Rosh Hashanah, when we are being judged. The fact that we can be judged shows that we have the ability to choose our own path.
Animals cannot be judged for their actions, as they can act only based on instinct. We can be judged for our actions because we have the ability to act based on choice.
It is this ability to choose, this responsibility for our actions, that we are celebrating on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah, it turns out, is a holiday celebrating the fact that we have the ability to judged. This is how these two ideas — a day of judgment and a holiday — are able to join together.
On behalf of all of us at Anshi and the ASK Morningside Center, I wish the entire Atlanta community a kesiva vechasima tova, a sweet new year of health, happiness and personal growth.
Rabbi Mayer Freedman is the rabbi at Anshi and the director of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel Morningside Center.