Day of Kingship – Mishpacha Magazine

On Rosh Hashanah, we restore the crown—and our focus


osh Hashanah is perhaps the most widespread Jewish holiday, when seats sell dearly and shuls proudly justify their building campaigns. But while this is a Yom Tov whose rituals are observed across the Jewish spectrum (think apples in honey), a deeper look reveals many odd features that we take for granted.

Why does Rosh Hashanah precede Yom Kippur? Logically, I should first seek forgiveness from Hashem, repent of my sins, and only then stand before the heavenly judge. What’s the point of submitting to a judgment that I’m going to try to overturn in the next few days?

Why don’t we sleep on Rosh Hashanah? Is the well-known retort “so you don’t have a sleepy year” a legitimate answer? Some of us insomniacs would find the prospect of a sleepy year quite enticing!

If Rosh Hashanah is a day of celebration, why do we associate it with the traditional trappings of a happy holiday, serving festive meals, and putting on our finest clothes?

Let’s see if studying these phenomena can give us a deeper understanding of the nature of the day.

A master plan

Rosh Hashanah is above all a day of firsts. teach khazal “Hakol holech achar harosh – everything follows the beginning.” However, it is difficult to imagine that Chazal intended this as a blanket statement. How many diets have we initiated with the best of intentions and followed perfectly…for exactly two weeks? Of course, not every beginning means the end.

An architect is commissioned to design a massive commercial skyscraper. After months of painstaking work, he submits a draft of the building. Beyond a simple pictorial representation of the building, this blueprint is an actual microcosm of the skyscraper. Any flaw in the blueprint — a foundation a few inches away, a slight discrepancy in the numbers — will be a structural disaster if not fixed. Also, changes to the building plan—additional bathrooms, coffee nooks, and the like—are infinitely easier to incorporate at this stage than when the building is up.

The most critical period in a person’s life is the period of conception and fetal development. This is where the genetic material that will affect the person’s future is encoded, including benign traits like hair color and size, as well as critical genetic information like the function of major organs and congenital diseases. At this delicate stage, even a tiny injury or deviation can have major consequences.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz teaches that Rosh Hashanah is both the blueprint and spiritual conception of the coming year. In practical terms, this means that our actions and behavior on Rosh Hashanah have the potential to affect the entire year. Of course, if my behavior on Rosh Hashanah encodes the genetic material for my year, I want to make sure I encode spiritual health, not G‑d forbid spiritual injury for the months to come. That is why we try to live as perfectly as possible on Rosh Hashanah; We are especially careful in our speech, performing mitzvahs, and avoiding sin.

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This also explains the reason for the simana milsa, the symbolic foods we eat after asking for a prosperous year. Like the architect who draws plans for a building, we too wish to instill sweetness, peace, and prosperity in our year. The act of saying “Yehi Ratzon‘ and then actually eating the symbolic food is how we map potential goodness into the blueprint of our immediate future.

In this context, the custom of not sleeping on Rosh Hashanah is easy to understand. I want to be fully conscious and effective as I lay the foundation for the year to come, and not waste those critical 48 hours in a spiritually forgotten sleep fog.

Divine Redesign

Hakol holech achar harosh‘ teaches us the extraordinary power of the beginning. But why is the very first day in Tishrei endowed with this authority? Why is this the day our spiritual year begins?

That kept going Maseches Rosh Hashanah teaches: “The world was created on the 25th of Elul… Rabi Eliezer says the world was created on the first of Tishrei [which is when] creation was complete. Adam Harishon, whose emergence was the final act of creation…was created on Friday the first of Tishrei.”

On the first of Tishrei, 5783 years ago, Hashem completed creation and established his sovereignty over our world by crowning himself king. Every year, on the anniversary of this monumental event, Hashem commits to a Chiddush Meluchah, renewal of his kingship. Rosh Hashanah is essentially a coronation ceremony for the Borei Olam.

While the coronation of a king can conjure up images of scarlet-lined footpaths, gleaming brass bands, and an adoring populace joyfully applauding their ruler, there are other emotions that come into play on Rosh Hashanah. With the right tone for the chagTeach Chazal “gilui bira’adah – we delight in trembling.”

To cheer? Absolutely! We crown HaKadosh Baruch Hu as King and rejoice to know that we are in the hands of the ultimate loving, just and capable ruler. Our festive meals, the beautifully set table and the elegant clothes show our joy. But tremble? What is the fear factor in the renewal of Hashem’s kingship?

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According to Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim), we have an erroneous perception of Chiddush Meluchah, renewal of kingship. And ironically the king of it Chiddush Meluchah Most instructive in this regard is none other than our old nemesis, King Pharaoh.

“On . . . the birthday of Pharaoh he made a feast for his servants” (Bereishi 40:20). The Pharaoh considered himself a deity and therefore celebrated his re-crowning on his birthday, the day on which his “divinity” was established. That Pesukim teach this during the celebrations”Vayisa es rosh sar hamashkim v’es rosh sar ha’ofim b’soch avadav – he “raised up” both the butler and the baker.” But while the same word is used, the plot of “vayisa‘ led to conflicting results for the two servants: the Sar Hamashkim was restored to his former position as cupbearer, while the Sar Haofim was hanged.

What was the meaning behind Pharaoh’s “vayisa“, this act of Nesias Roshthat produced such contradictory results for its servants?

Bamidbar Rabba (1:11) explained Nesias Rosh as an evaluation of each individual in the kingdom, assessing their past performance in their position within the kingdom and determining their future duties and responsibilities.

Some citizens are promoted for their superior work, securing plum posts in the kingdom, while others are fined or even dismissed for substandard service or disloyalty. In addition, each post in the royal kingdom comes with a number of perks. A more prominent position merits a higher salary, a corner office, and secretarial staff, while an exceptionally humble position can warrant no more than a broom and dustpan. Essentially when a king renews his kingship and interferes Nesias Roshhe reassigns each member of his empire to a new job and equips them with the necessary tools to carry out their tasks.

Every Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of creation, Hashem renews His sovereignty over our world. We are happy -“gilui‘ – knowing that Malkeinu, our king, is also Avinu, our beloved father. However, Chiddush Meluchah is also a time”Nesias Rosh‘, a time of reckoning for the kingdom.

For as Hashem renews his kingship, he simultaneously renews the positions of each member of his realm and redefines the tools each of us will need to complete this year’s quests. Some of us will remain in the same position as last year and given the same physical, emotional, or financial tools as last year. Some of us will be upgraded and our conditions will improve significantly.

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One thing is certain: on Rosh Hashanah, each of us must earn anew for every “tool” we have. There is no carryover from previous years, no specifications. Every aspect of my functioning – from my five senses to my blood circulation and my brain function to my balanced serotonin levels – is up for review. My financial realities, the well-being of my loved ones, successful tools for human relationships…all are part of heaven’s purview. This is the reason for “radah‘ is reason to tremble.

return of the crown

How does Hashem determine the job and then the tools I’ll need for the year ahead?

Chazal teaches: “Imru l’fanai malchuyos, k’dei shetamlichuni aleichem – Speak malchuyos before me, that you may crown me king over you.”

The success of an empire lies in the recognition of the king as supreme ruler by his subjects. When commoners find their opinions more important than the king’s, rebellion ensues.

We are quite adept at crowning Hashem over heaven and earth, over the planets and the Milky Way. However, when it comes to crowning Him over ourselves, we shy away.

Why do I have to do this?

Isn’t there one straight somewhere to make this easier?

Is this really halacha?

Somehow His crown feels much more comfortable on our heads. Crowning Hashem King means righting the imbalance, regretting the times I believed the way I thought, felt, or looked was more important than what He asked of me. It means returning the crown to its rightful owner and restoring Hashem’s Ratzon to the epicenter of my life.

Correcting this imbalance is the first step towards chuva. For how can I beat my chest in remorse while still putting my personal preferences ahead of His Divine Will? Rosh Hashanah, with its focus on Hashem’s kingship, must precede Yom Kippur if my chuvah is to have any lasting power.

This Rosh Hashanah, let’s infuse our year with ultimate spiritual health and create a plan that embraces sweetness and prosperity. Let’s put the crown and center of our lives back in the One and Only Place where it belongs.

Ms. Elana Moskowitz has been teaching seminars for over 20 years.

(Originally in Family First Issue 811)

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