Rosh Hashanah Part I
The 1st day of the month of Tishrei is Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment. Why on this day did Hashem decide to judge the world? We celebrate Passover on the 15th of Nissan because it commemorates the anniversary of the Exodus. Shavuot is celebrated on the 6th of Sivan the anniversary of the day that the Jewish nation received the Torah. What happened on the 1st of Tishrei that makes it the day of judgment?
Our Sages answer that Adam was created on that day. Starting with the 25th of the month of Elul, Hashem, day by day, prepared a magnificent world on which humanity would live. Even today, we are awestruck by the beauty and splendor of Hashem’s glorious world; can you imagine what it looked like when it was freshly created and pristine? On the 6th day of creation, the 1st of Tishrei, Hashem created man and crowned him king of the universe, placing everything that He had created on this magnificent world at Adam’s disposal to use as he saw fit.
The Sages teach us that Adam was created as a fully-grown man of approximately 27 years old. Having been the hand-crafted masterpiece of the Master Creator, he had to have been brilliant beyond our wildest imagination.
Imagine, for a second that you are Adam at 27 years old. You wake up one day and realize that you are alive; all at once you see Hashem’s magnificent world, with its millions of components, surrounding you. Grass, trees, birds, animals, sun, clouds, mountains, rivers, the list is endless. What would be your first thought?
“What is all this for?”
“Why, it’s for you!” comes the answer.
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
Is it possible that Hashem did not reveal to Adam why He created him and what his purpose in the world was?
The Torah tells us: (Genesis 2:15)
ספר בראשית פרק ב
(טו) וַיִּקַּח יְדֹוָד אֱלֹקים אֶת הָאָדָם וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן עֵדֶן לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ:
- Hashem God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.
Our Sages ask the question: What need was there to work and guard the Garden of Eden? The Torah just told us that the trees grew on their own accord, and a river flowing through the garden provided the necessary irrigation. They answer that Adam was to work the garden through the study of Torah and the performance of the positive commandments, and to guard it by refraining from the forbidden activities. This means that Man’s task in this world is to serve Hashem, and that the world’s material blessings are the tools that Hashem has given man to use to fulfill the mitzvot and to learn Torah.
The Mishna in Tractate Sanhedrin answers a perplexing question:
משנה מסכת סנהדרין פרק ד
לְפִיכָךְ נִבְרָא אָדָם יְחִידִי,
When Hashem created the vegetation, He said, “Let the earth be covered with vegetation!” When He created the fish, He said, “Let the seas be teaming with fish!” He did the same with the animals and all the other creatures in creation, all in multiples. Why, then, did Hashem create just one man? Why was man created as an individual?
The answer is to teach us that each person is as unique an individual as was Adam, the first man. And just as the entire universe was created exclusively for him, so, too, it was created entirely for every other human being as well. Just as there was no other human around when he was created, so, too, there is no other human being around, just like me! There never was and there never will be. Adam was no more unique or special than I am.
משנה מסכת סנהדרין פרק ד
לְפִיכָךְ כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד חַיָּב לוֹמַר, בִּשְׁבִילִי נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם
The Mishna in Sanhedrin continues to say,
Therefore, each person is obligated to say, “The entire world was created just for me.”
Everyone has a special and unique mission for which he was put in the world.
Therefore, just as on the day that Adam was created he was given all the accessories necessary to fulfill his mission in the world each of us is also judged to determine what tools we are going to receive to fulfill our mission in this world.
How is that determined? By what criterion does Hashem judge us and grant us our new bag of goodies for the coming year?
Our Sages teach us a very profound concept to answer this question.
The Talmud teaches us: (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 31b)
(3) תלמוד בבלי מסכת ראש השנה דף לא/א
דאמר רב קטינא שיתא אלפי שני הוה עלמא וחד חרוב שנאמר ונשגב ה’ לבדו ביום ההוא
Rav Katina said: The world will exist for 6,000 years, and then it will be destroyed for one thousand year (one thousand years of Shabbat).
Nachmanides explains that each of the thousand years that the world will exist corresponds to one of the days of creation. In other words, the first day contained, in capsule form, the entire first thousand years of creation. So, too, with each of the other days of creation, each contained, in seed form, one thousand years of creation. Indeed, the Vilna Gaon says that if a person were to fully understand what transpired on the sixth day of creation, he would be able to understand and even predict all the events that are happening in our time. The sixth millennium in which we currently find ourselves corresponds to the sixth day of creation, and everything was set then.
That the world was created to exist for six thousand years reveals the Torah’s very different approach to time.
The conventional understanding of time is that time is a beginning-less, endless continuum without purpose or goal. It just is. It marches relentlessly along, waiting for no one. We wake up one day to find ourselves alive, dangling somewhere in the middle of nowhere in time, and not knowing exactly what it is or what to do with it.
The Torah teaches us the opposite. The very idea that the world was created for a limited time implies that there is a purpose for the creation and that time is the medium through which we accomplish that goal. The word for time in Hebrew isזמן , which comes from the root which means to prepare, because we are to use every moment of time to prepare for our purpose in creation.
An example of a seed clarifies things. Every seed contains within it an entire forest. The seed holds the instructions for roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit. Each piece of fruit holds at least one seed from which a tree can grow. In this world, it may take years, perhaps decades, to see what was hidden in that very first seed. This is true because we live in a world that is under the restriction of time.
Hashem lives outside of time and is not bound to wait to see the outcome of that seed. On the contrary, Hashem simultaneously sees the seed, its resulting tree, and the entire forest. He sees all of time at once; Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, me, my grandchildren, and their progeny, until the end of time.
During the six days of creation, Hashem saw all 6,000 years at once. And on the sixth day, the day that corresponds to the sixth millennium, Hashem saw every one of us who is living today, putting us in His plan for the world. Each of us has an essential role to play in the fulfillment of Hashem’s purpose.
What, then, is Hashem’s purpose for the world? Rashi’s second comment on the Torah reveals the secret.
רש”י על בראשית פרק א פסוק א
בראשית ברא – בשביל התורה שנקראת (משלי ח) ראשית דרכו ובשביל ישראל שנקראו (ירמי’ ב) ראשית תבואתו
On the first two words of the Torah בראשית ברא – In the beginning of Hashem’s creating, Rashi explains, “For the Torah and for the Jewish nation.” This is the reason that Hashem created the heavens and the earth.
Simply stated, the world was created so that the Jewish Nation could model the perfect character and perfect behavior that are the domain of one who keeps the Torah’s commandments. The perfection of a Torah person presents a mirror image of Hashem’s perfection, and the mitzvot are the exercises that Hashem, our Creator, has prescribed, to bring a person to that divine perfection. When the Jewish nation would model perfect character and perfect behavior to the world, the entire world would recognize the truth of Hashem as the Creator of all humanity and follow suit with their seven mitzvot.
(Even though Adam was also created to learn Torah and keep the commandments, he had only six: 1. To believe in Hashem, 2. Not to curse Hashem, 3. Not to murder, 4. Not to steal, 5. Not to commit adultery, 6. To have a judicial system to enforce the above.
After the flood, when man was permitted to eat meat, Noah received a seventh commandment: 7. Not to pull a limb off an animal and eat it while the animal is alive. These commandments are the minimum behavioral standards for every human being on the planet. To fully be a holy nation, one that represents Hashem, only the entire Torah with all its components provide the recipe for perfection and holiness.)
When a person lives his life according to the Torah, by following its commandments and perfecting himself, he also prepares himself for the most sublime reward in the world to come. To earn that reward is the reason Hashem created us and put us into this world.
We now understand the purpose of time: to prepare the world to see Hashem and to prepare ourselves for our place in the world to come based on how we lived our lives here.
Hashem created the world so that all humanity can see and recognize Him as the Creator. This goal must be realized. And it is impossible that Hashem not accomplish His goal. If we do not bring it about through our actions, it will happen through the coming of Mashiach, whose purpose is to bring the entire world to the realization that Hashem is the Master of the universe. This is what we hope and pray for every day: for Mashiach to come and establish the Kingdom of Hashem in the world as it was in the days of Kings David and Solomon.
On the 1st of Tishrei this year, the very day that Hashem created the world, and for the 5779th time, He is looking towards the future of His world to see if it on course to reach its destination. Does it need adjustment? Not everyone has performed his role to expectation. Many have fallen short, and others need to take up the slack. As Hashem looks at the new year, He is assessing and evaluating what tweaks are needed to set the world back on course to realize His Divine plan. Hashem is also figuring out how He is going to reassign the jobs and positions among each of his subjects, so that His agenda may reach fruition.
This is what Rosh Hashanah is all about. On this day Hashem is going to give out the positions to those worthy individuals who wish to play an important role in Hashem’s Divine plan. With those positions will come all the accouterments necessary to fulfill the role in the most successful and appropriate way.
How special we are to be living at this most crucial time in our history. We have been chosen for a most providential mission. Our Sages tell us that we are so close to the coming of the Mashiach, we can hear his footsteps in the distance. Let us enlist ourselves in Hashem’s army and help the world recognize the amazing Creator through seeking to achieve the perfection inherent in the Torah.