On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: how many will pass from the earth, and how many will be born. Who will live, and who will die. Who will die at his predestined time, and who before his time. Who by water, and who by fire… [Tefillas Rosh Hashanah]
The second level of emunah is knowing that Hashem is involved in the big picture issues of life. Which nations will go to war and which will enjoy peace? Which totalitarian dictators will threaten world destruction? How much havoc will they be permitted to wreak? Which countries will prosper and which will suffer? Which political figures will suddenly pop up on the scene? Names that yesterday were unknown, will suddenly and menacingly take center stage. Which new technologies will be brought to the marketplace? Which cures will be discovered? Which diseases will suddenly appear? All of the issues of the coming year are reviewed, assessed and decided by Hashem.
If you visualize the planet as a multi-dimensional chessboard, Hashem sits as the Grand Master mapping out the moves of the coming year. This pawn will go here; this one there. This knight belongs here; the bishop over there. All of the events of the coming year are weighed, measured and determined.
In simple terms, the headlines of The New York Times are written on Rosh Hashanah. But it isn’t only the headlines of the coming year that are written; every article, every feature story, and every news scoop from the global down to the local is written down as well.
The New York Times recently reported that it employs 350 full-time reporters, and hundreds of freelance contributors in fifty-three distinct news bureaus divided into local, national, and foreign territories. A single Sunday edition of the Times has more words than the entire Tanach, and reading it aloud would take over twenty hours.
Why is that? Because there are many, many issues that affect the over six-and–a-half billion people on earth. And every one of these issues is planned out by Hashem on Rosh Hashanah. Hurricanes and tsunamis, earthquakes and famine, terrorist attacks and Ponzi schemes. For while Hashem gives man free will, that is only in regards to choosing. Each and every outcome remains in Hashem’s hands.
Looking at the world from this viewpoint, leads to a sense of order and calm. There is a Master to the house. Anything that transpires has been weighed and measured. While I may not know all of the reasons why, there is a plan and there is a purpose. I see Hashem running the events of the world, and I no longer fear super powers and economic collapse. Al Qaeda and Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi and Hamas — they are the puppets, and Hashem is pulling the strings. And so, I read the newspapers with almost joyful anticipation—I can’t wait to see what Hashem has in mind.
Closer to home
From this perspective I should feel a great sense of jubilation on Rosh Hashanah. We, the Jewish People, are servants of Hashem, and we are also fans of Hashem. We are His Chosen Nation, and He is our Master. During the course of the year, we suffer through the insolence and audacity of arrogant people who deny Hashem’s rule and control over the world. On Rosh Hashanah, we revel in the fact that Hashem sits as the true Judge, meting out the fate of mankind. As such, we should feel a tremendous sense of joy, an outpouring of emotion, as we contemplate the magnificence of the Din.
This is the day that humanity’s fate is decided. My Creator sits as the Judge. He alone determines what will transpire in the coming year. I trust in His kindness and His wisdom. And so I feel a sense of tranquility and joy. The house is in order—the Master is home.
Nevertheless, that emotion has to be tempered, because while it’s grand to recognize that mankind as an entity is being judged—I, too, am a man, and I, too, am being judged. My fate for the coming year is in question. Will I live or die? Will I be healthy or sick? Will I enjoy great prosperity or not? The fate of my family, the fate of my community, the fate of my loved ones, is being decided.
Understanding life settings
Before a man is born, Hashem sets a life for him. He will live so many years, enjoy this level of well-being, have this amount of success. That is his life setting. Each year those issues are revisited.
Before I was put onto this planet, I may have been granted 120 years. The question is: am I now worthy of that? Based on who I am now, is that good for me? I might have been originally slated to enjoy great financial success—am I now the type of person who will use my wealth wisely, or not? The issues that are decided on Rosh Hashanah encompass the breadth of the human experience. Each person is judged, each is measured, and their fate set.
So while I should feel jubilation on this day, it needs to be tempered by a sense of awe—that my future is being decided. But both emotions should be there—great joy mixed with trepidation.
And this is the second level of emunah. Knowing that Hashem determines mankind’s fate. We humans seem so powerful—we aren’t. We don’t control the outcome. Hashem is in charge.
The first level of emunah is knowing that Hashem created and maintains all of physicality. The second level is knowing that Hashem is involved in the actual running of the world.