Harav David HaCohen
Why do we call these days High Holidays (Yomim Noraim)? What happened from a spiritual aspect and what is their contribution to the world of the Jewish person?
The words Yomim Noraim (Y”N) are the historical code of the past, present and future of Am Yisrael. Let us hear from one of the scholars of the Talmud that explains what happens in the heavens during these days. “Rav Krospidai says, Rav Yochannan says 3 books are opened in Rosh Hashana(R”H). One is for the rishaim gimurim, one for tzadikim gimurim and one for Bennonim. Tzadikim gimurim are written and stamped for life. Rishaim gimurim are written and stamped for immediate death. The benonim are hanging on and waiting from R”H until Yom Hakippurim. If they have merit they are written for life, if they do not have merit they are written for death.”(Masechet Rosh Hashana 16:2).
Since the human being has been, he created for himself positive perspectives on how the world should be. They were created in his mind and his environment had influence as well. However, the perspectives are not clearly stating their true identity. The identity of the human being is his ambitions and they can show not only who the person is and what his spiritual situation is but also they are his identity.
What is special with the human being and what makes the difference between one person and another is the ambition and their ingredients and their powers.
The only way to check the ingredients of our ambitions and their power is the deeds. The human deeds can show the interior of the person and his identity. The deeds are also the only way that influence the design of ones ambitions. The whole layer that the person puts in his way to come through his ambitions creates in him a desire to build a new added layer. That is the meaning behind Chazal saying ”Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah” (one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah). By his deeds the person sets his identity and his internal personality.
Setting the identity is the target that the person sends to spend his life on earth. “See that I gave before you the life and the good, and the death and the evil….and you chose life.”(Deva rim, 30).
Man, who chose the good, sets his spiritual identity as part of the good and therefore his existence is eternal, as the eternity of the goodness.
Man who chose evil, sets his identity as part of evil, therefore, also his life isn’t life. His life is transient as the transience of evil.
Now here we arrive to the 3 books that are opened in R”H. The Y”N are days of testing the spiritual man. In these days the personality of man is tested, as well as the ambitions of his heart. The test is hidden in his heart. It is for each man to define himself in which category he can place his ambitions. If his ambitions are positive, straight and pure if they have the right power then he is alive. This is not a verdict rather the reality itself. If the person has no spiritual ambitions the spiritual person in him is dead and this is not a sudden verdict rather the reality. The Benonim (the people in the middle) have good intentions but they have not yet made them a reality in their hearts. There is in them right ambitions and negative ambitions. They have been in internal battle one against the other. Sometimes those people feel ashamed of their deeds that are not suitable to their ambitions. Those people get 10 days of repentance to be able to identify their ambitions and to make them as an internal reality. This reality will give them the opportunity to identify their identity.
The book of life and death, are the categories in which the person directs himself during the time of testing. The fact that some people who are known as evil continue to live after R”H are not a contradiction to this determination. Those people are indeed dead spiritually.
Why does the test time come in R”H and what is special during these Y”N?
The person who determines his identity, this determination goes along with his entire life. The stations that sometimes come to man throughout his lifetime give him the opportunity to express his personality in his determinations.
The people are exposed to a variety of dilemmas. One is busy with the questions about being careful with respecting others and respecting Hashem and the other one still hesitates at the bottom of the stairs struggling if he should rob or steal. Between those poles mankind struggles with various questions on its values.
According to this division we have to consider our different events in our life. Disastrous events that G-d forbid happens in one’s family becomes in many cases as a station in one’s life. Moment of accounting of one’s soul that a person can make a deep difference in his life. Also a nation’s disaster has become a point of change in one’s life. Some choose to strengthen their faith and keep their tradition and other the opposite. Every extreme event shakes the person from his peace of mind and forces him to take a position.
Actually this is the meaning of the Y”N that besides their holiness the right public environment, the feeling of those days, the feeling of accounting of one’s soul, and the big participation of the entire public in the process of repentance all those easing the individuals participation to be part of the repentance circle. Those days must be used as a huge crane that will raise the person from his daily life and from his neglect that will force him to choose a new way and a right ambition. A person that ignores, and that finds out through his choice that he is a neglected man and that he is actually dead spiritually. Actually the days of atonement create a sharp turn in the spiritual world of the human. In this day man reaches the top of his internal feelings and his most secret ambitions. In this day man releases his physical restraints. that there is no eating or drinking and there is no actual special mitzvah(like shofar, matza, succah , lulav, etc…) This is the day that Am Yisrael is considered like “Malache Hasharet” , this day that is special for checking the spirituality of the person and to check internally at his deeds and his non deeds.
The historical events in our generations tells us that even people that are far from making mitzvoth throughout the year feel a special feeling not knowing what the feeling is even if you call it a different name. This feeling is the umbilical cord that the Jew is tied to the womb of the Torah that we call Judaism. Judaism is feeding what is known in the national language the “Judaic Point”.
This is the gift that Hashem brought to his nation”KI Bayom Haze Yichaper Alechem Mikol Chatotechem Lifne Hashem.”(Vayikra 16:30). Even those who disconnected themselves from their heritage and from the Jewish tradition intentionally or non-intentionally and even those that have sinned and went far away and threw everything behind them, this day gives special opportunity to hold onto the end of the rope and go up spiritually.