From the Kabbalists
There are many levels of understanding the significance of Rosh Hashana
also being Rosh Chodesh (New Moon Day). Every Rosh Chodesh inaugurates
an entirely new energy and a new opportunity to begin again. The ability
to renew and rejuvenate is one of the secrets of the Jewish calendar being
based on the lunar cycle. The capacity to begin again and again lies at
the very root of Jewish survival. Rosh Hashana, the new year, is the "headquarters"
for newness, thus it shares the same energy as Rosh Chodesh.
The shape of the moon on Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashana is but a thin cup
like sliver seen for a short time in the western sky before going down
at sunset. The judgement taking place on Rosh Hashana is similarly very
hidden, yet a sliver of the light does reach us. We can envision the shape
of the moon representing our heartfelt prayers to create a vessel to receive
blessings. God wants to give us so much - the question is do we have vessels
to receive it.
The Midrash states that when the moon was created it complained to God
that both it and the sun could not wear the same crown. Therefore God
made it smaller. A different Midrash states that every Rosh Chodesh, God
- as it were - brings a guilt offering for making the moon small. Rosh
Hashana comes on a Rosh Chodesh in order to teach us that since we should
not judge anyone till we stand in their place, God - so to speak - whispers
to us that he empathizes with our situation and thus understands our desire
for rectification and forgiveness, for He too brings a guilt offering
on this day! This parable represents the judgement on Rosh Hashana as
one of understanding and compassion.
From the Chasidic Masters
In the future, when Moshiach comes, every creation in this world will
understand and recognize that there is a
G-dly power within which makes it exist and gives it its life-force. This
is the meaning of the line from the Amida prayer which we say on Rosh
Hashana. We beseech G-d to reveal His Kingship in this world - "May
everything that has been made know that You made it"- because in
truth nothing exists without this G-dliness.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)
From Ascent Quarterly - "Shoot!"
Q: Wouldn't it be better to have Yom Kippur first, to be forgiven
before the day of judgment?
A: (from Yerachmiel Tilles, editor)
The best of all possible scenarios would be if we would all regret and
turn away from every single one of our intentional sins before Rosh Hashanah,
thus securing a good judgment immediately on that day. Then the atonement
powers of Yom Kippur could be utilized primarily for its original function
of providing forgiveness for unintentional sins, and we could bask in
the special purity of the day in order to forge a closer relationship
with G-d, instead of having to be pre-occupied with all of our negative
baggage. Instead of spending the day confessing sins, it would be much
better and feel much better if we could be professing love instead.
As it is, we are promised that all those with a positive record for the
year in which their merits are dominant are immediately inscribed on Rosh
Hashanah in the Book of Life. So, for them the progression from Rosh Hashanah
to Yom Kippur is certainly in its proper order. Hopefully, this category
includes a vast amount of the Jewish population.
For most of the rest of us, those whose records for the year are more
or less balanced, the experience of Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgment
hopefully serves to inspire us to utilize the seven days between Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur in their intended designation: the Days of Tshuvah,
a special opportunity to return to G-d and His path during the period
of time when he is most receptive. Then we too, along with the righteous
who were already inscribed for good on Rosh Hashanah, will be inscribed
and sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur for a good and sweet year.
Some Laws and Customs
The foods eaten during Rosh Hoshana are all quite symbolic. Perhaps the
most well-known is an apple dipped in honey at the beginning of the Rosh
Hoshana meal. We first recite a blessing in which we ask to be blessed
with a good and sweet year. We also dip our challah in honey for the same
reason. Furthermore, there is a custom to eat round challas, sometimes
with raisins to increase the sweetness. The idea of something round is
that of completeness. We want our year to be wholesome, round and sweet.
Other customs include the eating of a pomegranate of which we say a blessing
asking that our merits be as numerous as its seeds. There is the idea
that in a perfect pomegranate there are 613 seeds, corresponding to the
613 mitzvot that a Jew is commanded to keep.
Also on the first night of Rosh Hoshana people place on the table the
head of either a fish or sometime even a sheep. The animal head represents
that of being the head of the new year and that we are always leading
with our head, as opposed to our hearts. As we say in the blessing that
we be as the "head and not the tail."
People also eat fish during the meal since fish represent multiplicity
and we ask to be blessed to have children as numerous as the fish in the
sea. Fish are also only able to survive within water, and the water is
an allusion to the Torah which we refer to as the "living waters."
Therefore, as we eat fish we are reminded that we too should live only
through the Torah and like a fish never closes its eyes, so our eyes should
always be open to the miracles that surround us.
"Out with the old year and its curses!
In with the new year and its blessings!"
"L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim"
MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED
FOR A GOOD AND SWEET YEAR
OF HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND GROWTH!
The ASCENT staff
Last year's Rosh haShanah
for more Kabbalah
insights on Rosh Hashana