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Rosh Hashana

To celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins tonight at sun-down, we turn to Howard Schwartz, author of The Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Schwartz suggested these two entries from his book and we are have posted the full text below. L’shana Tova!

Renewing Existence


It is said that the original creation of the world was only to last six days, but because of the holiness of the Sabbath, the world was renewed for the next six days, and the Sabbath has caused it to be renewed ever since.

Likewise, every Rosh ha-Shanah the existence of the world is renewed. That is because on Rosh ha-Shanah, the birthday of the world, God judges all His creations. It is decided in heaven whether everything in creation is fulfilling the secret purpose of creation, which is known to God alone. For if God determined that creation was acting against God’s intent, there would be no future need of it, and all of existence would come to an end.

This important myth emphasizes the world’s fragility, and that its continuity is not guaranteed, but that it is renewed every Sabbath and every Rosh ha-Shanah. This changes the meaning of Rosh ha-Shanah, which serves as the day of Judgment not only for people, but for the world as well. Those living in the current nuclear age can identify with the acute awareness of the fragility of existence that inspired this myth.


B. Rosh ha-Shanah 16b; Sefer Or ha-Hayim; Sefer Netivot ha Shalom.

The Day of Judgement

On Rosh ha-Shanah, God sits on the seat of judgment, and the books of the living and the dead are open before him. Then all those who have come into the world pass before God like a flock. This not only includes all of humanity, but every living creature is judged on this day—the Children of the Covenant as well as those not part of the Covenant; those who have free choice as well as those who do not have free choice. No one is left out of this judgment; even the angels are judged on that day, for it is the Day of Judgment.

God made this Day of Judgment to ensure that all abide by the Law. So too did God create the prosecuting angel who comes before Him and demands that all people in the world be judged. So it is that on Rosh ha-Shanah the judgment is written and on Yom Kippur it is signed and sealed.

Rosh ha-Shanah is both the Day of Judgment and the New Year. As the Day of Judgment, it is a solemn occasion on which God makes a judgment about whether we will live or die in the coming year and writes it down. However, it is not signed and sealed until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yet Rosh ha-Shanah is also the New Year, and as such it is a day of celebration. Both of these contradictory qualities—the solemn and the celebratory—characterize Rosh ha-Shanah, which is also a day of remembrance, a day of sounding the shofar, and a holy convocation.


B. Rosh ha-Shanah 16a; Sefer Netivot ha-Shalom.

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