Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 31 August 2013 / 25 Elul 5773

Rosh Hashana: "A Remembrance of the First Day of Creation."

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“This is the day ― Rosh Hashana ― the beginning of Your (G-d’s) works, a remembrance of the first day (of creation).” (Mussaf prayer for Rosh Hashana)

Since Rosh Hashana does not actually coincide with the first day of creation, but rather with the sixth day ― when God created man ― why is it referred to as the beginning of G-d’s works and a remembrance of the first day?

A story:

There once was a king with an only daughter whom he loved dearly. For her wedding, items were brought in from around the world, and special delicacies and decorations were custom-made. All the citizens of the land were invited to join in the celebration.

The wedding night finally arrived. With everyone seated, the groom anxiously awaiting the arrival of his lovely bride ― the princess.

One of the guests asked, “Where is the bride? She should be here already!”

The bride sat teary-eyed, afraid to leave her room.

“What's wrong, my dear?” asked the king. “Do you not want to marry him? If you don't want to, I'll tell everyone to go home and send everything back to where it came from.”

The bride thought for a second and then replied, “He's the man I want to marry, I'm just nervous.”

After some time, the princess stood up and announced, “I'm ready to go now.”

As the princess entered the wedding hall, accompanied by the king, all the guests rose in amazement. The guest turned and whispered to her friend, “Finally, the wedding can begin.”

Although everything else in creation was in place, the world was incomplete without Man.His arrival therefore marks the real beginning of creation.

A Day of Judgment

From the above we see that Rosh Hashana is a celebration that commemorates Man’s creation, like a birthday. Accordingly one may ask why the day is so serious. Where did all the fun go?

We are taught, “On Rosh Hashana all who come to the world (i.e., Mankind) pass before G-d to be judged.” But why is Rosh Hashana a day of judgment? Furthermore, what is the nature of this judgment?

Although Man was originally created to live eternally, after the First Sin G-d decreed death upon Mankind. Since the day of Man's creation is also the day he sinned, it became a day in which life was both given and taken from Man.Therefore, each year the same cycle repeats itself and Man is judged on Rosh Hashana, just as Adam was judged on this day for the very first time.

Ultimately, Man was judged with mercy and therefore granted long life. G-d told Adam, “Just as you were judged on this day and came out with mercy, so too your children will be judged on this day and come out with mercy”. So as we turn to G-d in prayer and teshuva may we all merit a long, healthy and prosperous life — Amen.

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