Called to Judgment

Rosh Hashanah shatters our illusion of being self-contained without any accountability to a higher power.

There is a part of me that really dislikes Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah seems to be a very uncomfortable experience--not a pleasurable day at all. It's called

Yom HaDin

, the Day of Judgment and I simply dread being judged. Who enjoys feeling fear, feeling threatened, or thinking about possibly being punished? It is also referred to as

Yom HaZicharon

, the Day of Memory. On this day God remembers everything--every little itsy bitsy tiny weenie little thing that I did last year--and then decides my fate for the upcoming year.

There is, however, another part of me that feels much love for Rosh Hashanah. It is an opportunity to take inventory of my actions, reflect and make changes to improve myself and my relationships with others. Judgment is actually empowering. It tells me that God cares about my choices and that I make a difference in this world.


There is a verse from the book of Psalms that summarizes my ambivalence. The sages associate this verse with Rosh Hashanah. It states "Serve God with reverence, rejoice in trembling." This seems to be a paradox--either, I am happy and rejoicing or I am frightened and trembling. How can I be doing and feeling both? Yet on Rosh Hashanah somehow I am rejoicing about my trembling.

On Rosh Hashanah when I acknowledge that God is the one and only King and Judge, my ego feels frightened and overwhelmed. My illusion of being self-contained without any accountability to a higher power is shattered. This egotistical illusion is what the Kabbalah calls klipah, the hard shell. When the shell is broken I realize that I cannot do whatever I want, whenever I want or wherever I want. I am not independent and self-defined. There is someone that I am responsible and accountable to. That is very frightening for the ego, but also very reassuring for the self.

The self wants to feel accountability because if I am not accountable then I don't count. Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah, while my pained ego shatters into little pieces, my true inner self--the soul--is encouraged and rejoices.

On Rosh Hashanah we tremble with joy because we know that God's judgment is actually an expression of great love and care.

Listen to the sounds of the shofar.
When we blow the shofar, we start off with a long blast announcing the coming of the King and the establishment of His ruling power. Then the shofar is sounded again, but this time it is a few shorter, fragmented blasts. The sound of this second blast reflects the breakdown of the ego. The King's presence overwhelms the ego and it breaks down. Then, strangely enough, out of the breakdown comes this new strength, another longer blast, and that hints to the establishment of the self. This is one interpretation of variation in the blasts of the shofar.

What the Shofar tells us
Read more on page 2 >>

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