Rosh HaShanah – Never Forget Me
There are three themes that define the holiday of Rosh HaShanah and they are outlined in the Mussaf prayer service of the day: 1. Malchiyot – God is King. 2. Zichronot – Remembrance and 3. Shofrot – the Shofar sound.
Shofar is the most well-known of the three as it is the definitive symbol of the day. Shofar is to Rosh HaShanah as Matza is to Pesach – the most visual, or rather, audio icon of the holiday. People make their way to synagogue at one point or another and may leave at one point or another, but everyone shows up for the Shofar. Understandably so as the Shofar blast has a way of cutting deep into our very core and into our soul.
Malchiyot/Kingship is a second theme because Rosh HaShanah is Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment. According to Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve were created on this day, the first of Tishrei, and so it is the birthday of Mankind. It is natural that we judge our lives on our birthdays and reflect on what we have accomplished and have not accomplished, and this is no different – it’s just on a big and universal scale. And that is exactly what is going on during Rosh HaShanah – we stand before the King who judges us as we hope and pray to be written in the Book of Life.
And part and parcel of being judged is the third part of this troika – Zichronot/Remembrance; that on this day God remembers every individual and all that we do. The concept of everything being scrutinized is not necessarily a comfortable one for most people. The idea that the Almighty sees every one of my actions, is aware of every one of my thoughts, knows every motivation, is completely attentive to any moment when I am not sincere, knows when I waste time or when I give myself the benefit of the doubt in a line call in tennis, knows when I am not completely truthful in my words, knows when I speak ill of another for no good reason or whatever else I might do that I wouldn’t wish to see on my resume – the fact that God knows every last bit of it can be a bit disconcerting. Indeed we see that politicians often lose their footing when every nook and cranny of their past and their actions are put under the microscope.
And this is exactly what happens on Rosh HaShanah and one of the reasons that Rosh HaShanah and its counterpart, Yom Kippur are referred to as Yamim Noraim – The Days of Awe. Days of fear and trepidation as God judges each of us to see if we are worthy of another year.
But there is the more positive and happy side to this recollection and scrutiny by God which is often overlooked. It’s the flip side of the dread associated with Judgment. Because if you think more about it, it is actually a quite comforting notion to be scrutinized and remembered by God in such detail.
Consider for a moment whom we judge the harshest and whom we criticize the most? Yup, our kids and our spouse. The people whose lives mean most to us. When we see a stranger do something that we know is self-destructive, we may feel moved to correct him or her but more often than not we ignore them and go on our merry way, completely indifferent to the damage they may be causing themselves. But when we see a loved one, a child, a spouse, a close friend who is hurting themselves, we feel the need to speak up and do whatever we can to fix the situation. We are always much more critical of those whom we love the most because they mean so much to us. Not that it is always expressed in the most effective manner, but the simple fact remains – when we intensely love another we are super sensitive to every nuance of everything they do.
And so the idea that God judges us is an expression that I am very special in His eyes, much the way a child is regarded by a parent. For while He is aware of every flaw that I may have, He is also completely aware of every struggle I have with those flaws. He had complete knowledge of every concern, every need, every challenge, every wish and every dream that I harbour in my heart of hearts. He is also completely aware of every good that I do – whether it is acknowledged by anyone else or not. He knows of every effort I make to improve myself and the world around me, whether it is met with success or not. Absolutely nothing is hidden. And just as a parent has an unwavering love of their child no matter how much they may succeed or not, so too God has the same unwavering love for each and every one of us.
Sometimes we go through life wondering if anyone is paying any attention. We go about our daily lives and struggles and hope that if we stay the course and do what is true and good, it will ultimately be noted and appreciated and pay off in some form or another. During those lean times, we mustn’t ever lose faith in the simple truth that our lives have meaning. Every one of us is created in God’s image and thereby has infinite worth, potential and good. No matter what the challenge, we must carry on and live in accordance with the principles of truth and good, integrity and honesty. Because none of it goes unnoticed, certainly not by an all-seeing and all-knowing God.
We may not get immediate recognition from others for what we do but if you stick to the script, it does eventually arrive. It might not be today or tomorrow but it does eventually show up – maybe in a year, maybe in ten years, or it may even take most of a lifetime. And in the case of the Jewish people, many millennium. But Truth, Justice and Goodness are the foundations by which God made this world because they are expressions of Him. And so they do win out and are duly noted – if not today, then certainly tomorrow.
So stay the course, don’t get distracted by the many that may not be paying attention and realize that even if no others take note of your goodness, the Creator of the Universe certainly does. He remembers you today and forever more. For every good that you do, God knows… and God remembers.
Do you remember
the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing
As we danced in the night
Remember how the stars stole the night away
-Earth Wind and Fire