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Jewish World Review
Sept. 15, 2004
/ 29 Elul, 5764
Rosh Hashanah: Who's Judging?
Rabbi David Aaron
On Judgment Day we tell the Creator to bring it on why?
The oral tradition teaches that when we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah the King, Who is sitting sternly on His throne of judgment, suddenly gets up and takes the seat of compassion. Suddenly, the whole nature of the day changes when we blow the shofar. With just a blast of the shofar the day is transformed from a day of judgment to compassion. How do we toot our way out of this frightening trial? By accepting it and embracing it.
When we blow the shofar we are, so to speak, signaling G-d to judge us. Nowadays, when there's a court case and the judge wants to bring the court to order, he bangs a gavel to commence the trial session. But in the olden days the trial began with a blast of a shofar.
Now imagine you are summoned to stand trial before the King to be judged for your deeds of the entire last year. You are trembling, frightened, overwhelmed. Nonetheless, to everyone's surprise, you enter the court with excitement and joy. You confidently walk up to the judge's desk, grab the shofar and blow it. Everyone is absolutely shocked. You not only do not evade the trial, or deny the charges; you actually invite the judgment and anxiously announce "this is my day of judgment. I want no delay. Go ahead judge me now."
In other words, when we blow the shofar we initiate the judgment. We are saying we want to be judged and we are not in the least afraid of the outcome. We joyfully accept the judgment and embrace it with love. How could this be?
Most people are either in denial of judgment or spend much effort evading it. January 1, the secular New Year, is also viewed by many as a day of judgment and personal evaluation. People often make resolutions for improvement in the coming year. However, that day has also become a time to get drunk. People make resolutions and then get smashed. I can understand why. Judgment is so painful, frightening and challenging. It is natural to just want to get drunk, run away, avoid and deny it.
The Psalms teaches, "Happy are those who know the secret of the blast of the shofar." What is the big secret? Couldn't anybody figure out how to blow a shofar? The real secret of blowing the shofar is to know that when you lovingly accept and embrace judgment it transforms into compassion. This is because you realize that the One who is judging you is not only your King but also your Father, as the saying goes in Hebrew Avinu Malkeinu our Father is our King. He is judging you not because He is insulted by your behavior you get on His nerves so He wants to get back at you and slap you out. He is judging you because He loves you and cares about you. When you don't understand who is judging and for what purpose then you will naturally run from it. But when you understand that your Father is the Judge and all He wants is the best for you then you will lovingly embrace a day of judgment as an opportunity for change and growth.
If we deny our mistakes and avoid paying the consequences then we continue to make them and continue to hurt ourselves. I would rather be living in reality than denying it and living in illusions. When we transgress the mitzvas, our religious duties, we forfeit our mission to build G-d's kingdom on Earth and we ultimately cause harm to ourselves.
Our neglect to obey G-d's will becomes the source of our own personal destruction.
Therefore, we tremble with joy on Rosh Hashanah because we joyously accept the judgment. We understand the true meaning of judgment and we know that the Judge is our Father and He loves us. We know that no matter how harsh is the sentence that He decrees upon us it is exactly what we need to get in line, back on track, to fulfill our life mission.
Carl Jung once said that neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering. In other words, when we deny our suffering we end up suffering in other ways and cause ourselves more harm. I would say the same principle applies when we deny judgment and are not willing to accept the consequence of our behavior.
When we do that, we continue to hold onto the illusion that we are self-defined, existing independent of G-d, and this attitude generates feelings of alienation from the true ground, source, context and essence of our self, which is G-d. The feeling of alienation from G-d, Who is the source of all life and all pleasure, is the cause of all pain and sickness both physically and spiritually.
When we accept judgment then we no longer need it. The very acceptance of the judgment fixes the cause of all our mistakes and sins because we realize that we are not independent of G-d and unaccountable. G-d does not need to decree upon us any corrective consequences to get us back on track because when we lovingly accept judgment we put ourselves back on track. We have learned our lesson.
Therefore, the Judge gets up from His throne of judgment and sits on the throne of compassion.
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G-d, and also the author of Endless Light, Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on link to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2004, Rabbi David Aaron