A birthday should be more than just a celebration of age; it should be a day for introspection. On a birthday, one should ask whether the last year was utilized in the most productive manner. Positive resolutions should be made for the coming year. All in all, a birthday is a time for renewal of energies and purpose. Rosh Hashanah, as the birthday of humankind, is no different.
I can almost hear you saying: Come on, Rabbi, leave science fiction to people like Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the late Isaac Asimov.
Yet, this is no science fiction. According to the great Kabbalists (Jewish mystics), Rosh Hashanah is a time of cataclysmic renewal. They tell us that, on Rosh Hashanah eve, the world hangs in the balance: Every thing returns back to the way it was prior to creation. God himself goes through the process of introspection, deciding whether he really wants to rule over the world for yet another year.
We humans are charged with the mission of persuading God to continue with this world. We are given strict instructions to follow. In the prayer and litany of Rosh Hashanah, we beg God to continue to rule over us, and we swear our continued allegiance to him. This renews God’s desire for this world. Behold, a new year is ushered in. A brand new era has begun.
This idea of renewal, however, is not just applicable to God and his relationship with his creation. It applies to every single one of us in more ways than one.
See, Rosh Hashanah is a time for personal renewal as well. On Rosh Hashanah, a new year is born, and with it there are new opportunities for renewing old commitments, relationships and responsibilities. This is why during the days running up to Rosh Hashanah it is customary to beg forgiveness from friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances — anyone whom we may have slighted during the past year. By throwing off old baggage, we can start our journey into the new year unencumbered.
Clearly the Jewish New Year has a universal message. At least once a year we must look within and renew our commitment to those around us — if God can do this then so should we. What better time to do this than on the birthday of mankind, on Rosh Hashanah.