(Rosh Hashanah 32b) – “The Malachim (angels) asked Hashem, “Why is it that the Jewish nation doesn’t sing Hallel on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?”
Hashem answered them, “Is it possible that a king sits on the throne of judgment, with the books of life and death open in front of Him, and the Jewish Nation should sing?”
The Malachim’s position
Malachim (angels) see with a brilliant, piercing clarity. Having no physical limitations or impediments, they perceive reality to an extent that we mortals can only dream about. So then, why did the Malachim contend that the Jewish People should say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah? Isn’t obvious that the solemnity of the day makes it inappropriate to sing? What was the Malachim’s perspective, and what did Hashem made clear to them?
Issues of the day
The answer to this is based on a deeper understanding of Rosh Hashana. The Mishnah tells us that on Rosh Hashana, “Every occupant of the planet stands in front of Hashem and is judged.” Small or great, young or old, from the most prestigious to the most simple, every human being is examined, and his fate for the coming year is decided.
But it isn’t just individual lives that are examined. Global issues are also weighed, measured, and determined. Which nation will go to war? Which will enjoy peace? Which lands will experience prosperity and success? Which will suffer? Which new technologies will be brought to the marketplace? Which cures will be discovered? Which diseases will suddenly appear? Which epidemics will spread? Which dictator will refuse arm inspections, even though he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction? And which will play the game, speaking words of hatred from the United Nations floor? All of the issues of the coming year are reviewed, assessed, and arbitrated.
The headlines of the New York Times are written on Rosh Hashana. But it isn’t only the headlines of the coming year that are written; every article, feature, and news scoop from the global down to the local is considered, appraised, and deliberated.
There are many, many issues that affect the over six and half billion occupants of this planet. And every one of those issues is judged by Hashem on this day. Hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, and famine, economic expanse, and collapse. The issues of the day encompass the breadth of the human experience. The entire globe is one multi-dimensional chess game, and Hashem, the Ultimate Grand Master maps out the moves of the year to come.
Where we fit it
We, the Jews, are servants of Hashem. We are his Chosen Nation, and He is our Master. And, as such, we are also fans of Hashem. He is our King, are we are his people. During the course of the year, we suffer through the insolence, audacity and arrogance of a world that denies Hashem sovereignty. This causes us pain and angst. During this time of year, however, we revel in the fact that Hashem sits as Judge – He alone meeting out the fate of mankind. And so, we should feel a tremendous sense of joy, an outpouring of emotion, as we contemplate the magnificence of our Creator in His glory.
That is the Malachim’s position. From their lucid perspective, they see something missing. We wear Yom Tov clothing, we eat festive meals, and we bathe and shave in honor of the day. But, where is the singing out in joy? Hallel should be a part of the davening. Yet it is noticeably absent. Why? If we understand the magnitude of this day, if we envision Hashem sitting on the throne of judgment, we should be overcome with a sense of jubilation and wish to sing Hallel.
Nevertheless, Hashem answers the Malachim, “On a global level it is magnificent, but the judgment is on a personal level as well. Each person must recognize that, ‘My fate for the coming year is being decided. Will I live or die? Will I be healthy or sick? Will I enjoy great prosperity or not? The fate of family, and my community, is being decided. The human race is judged, and I too am a human. And so, it is inappropriate to sing on such a day.”
However, both emotions should be present during this day. Great simcha as we experience Hashem’s closeness, tempered with the awe that comes from understanding that our future and the future of all that is dear to us is being decided.
May Hashem grant us a sweet, good year with health, safety, happiness and success in all of our endeavors.
By Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
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