The Rosh Hashanah feeling is in the air. The smell of fresh challah, apples, honey, and even fish heads (if you go for that) being sold out in the stores. Yet, with all the shopping, cooking, and preparing for this important Yom Tov, we must also recognize the spiritual significance of the days that we are approaching. This is a time when we look to show Hashem that we truly want to grow and make real change in our lives. We consider how our level of mitzvah observance and think of actions we can commit ourselves to that improve our overall relationship with Hashem. Some people decide to dedicate more time daily to their Torah learning in the upcoming year. Others look to improve their kavanah in t’filah and commit to focus more on the words and the meaning of the prayers that are being said. Certain individuals feel that this year they want to strengthen their relationship with their spouse or their children and will commit to being more patient, more sensitive, and more loving towards them in the year ahead. Whatever area one chooses to grow in is wonderful, but we cannot help but wonder, “What happens if I do not do it?” or “Am I really going to stick to this plan that I created for self-improvement, and if I do not follow through then what will Hashem think of me in deciding my fate for the coming year?”
In the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read the story of Avraham sending out Haggar and her son Yishmael from his home. When they were stranded in the desert, Haggar began crying as she was afraid that Yishmael was going to die. At that time, an angel came to her and said you have no need to worry, because Yishmael’s tfilot are being answered, and he is being judged, באשר הוא שם, wherever Hashem is, as He is in the present state. Rashi tells us that at that time, when Hashem decided to provide a be’er (a well) for Yishmael, the angels were questioning Hashem, “How could You possibly create a miracle, providing a well for Yishmael?” They accused him saying this is an individual who is going to cause such devastation to the Jewish people in the future? Hashem responded back, while that may be true, however right now is Yishmael a tzadik or is he a rashah? They responded back that he is a tzadik, due to his sincere t’filah. Hashem said back in that case that’s how I judge באשר הוא שם as he is in his present state. He is deserving of the well because right now at this moment he’s considered a tzadik.
The gmorah in mesechet Rosh Hashanah (16b) gleans from this episode that when Hashem comes to judge us, He judges based on who we are right now. He evaluates us based on our present state, not based on what’s going to happen in the future. The fact that we may slip up at a later time does not enter the calculation of Hashem’s decisions for our health, parnassah, shalom bayit, and spiritual success in the coming year. He’s judging us based on who we are right now.
Rav Avigdor Nebenzal tells us that this serves as a tremendous chizuk for us during this time period. We must recognize that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is looking at who we are at the current time. If right now we are making sincere commitments to come closer Hashem, if we are telling Hashem with the utmost sincerity that we truly want to dedicate more time to Torah learning, that we have a plan to understand the t’filot we are saying daily, that I’m taking on a daily small act of kindness to improve one of my relationships, then even if later on we may slip up and not stick to our commitments, Hashem decides our future through the lens he sees right now. Hashem’s judgment during this time is based on our sincerity that we express at the present time, and if we can show the Ribbono Shel Olam in a very real and meaningful way that I want to come closer to You, I want to take on more, I want to become a better Jew, then Hashem will be so proud of the “current you,” and will bless us with a wonderful year of happiness, and success based on the great individual He sees in front of Him RIGHT NOW. Wishing all of you a Ketiva V’chatima Tovah, and a beautiful Yom Tov.
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