Head of the Year

September 19, 2017 at 5:58 AM

“Reign over the entire universe in your glory.” (Rosh Hashana liturgy)

מְלוֹךְ עַל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ בִּכְבוֹדֶךָ – תפילות ראש השנה

The body’s highest faculties are situated in the head, in the brain. The brain also contains the vitality of all the other parts of the body. Moreover, even as the other limbs of the body operate individually, the brain controls and directs their functionality.

All of these aspects of the brain can be found in the inner theme of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means, “the Head of the Year”.

First and foremost, the theme of Rosh Hashanah as expressed repeatedly in its prayers and rituals is our request that G-d, “Reign over the entire universe”—we declare our desire to be G-d’s subjects and we coronate Him as our king. This coronation precedes and transcends any other act of Divine worship, because only after evoking G-d’s desire to reign over us is there significance to maintaining our relationship with Him and fulfilling His will and commands. This essential service of Rosh Hashanah, a form of Divine worship that utterly transcends our everyday worship, is comparable to the supreme faculties and functions that set the head apart from the rest of the body.

The second theme of Rosh Hashanah is its status as one of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance that extend from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. Through sincere remorse and abandonment of our recalcitrant ways, we rectify any harm caused by our past transgression of G-d’s will and we restore our relationship with Him. The relationship with G-d aroused in teshuvah is even more profound than that of the specific commandments (and can therefore bring atonement for transgressing them,) yet teshuvah is premised on our duty to observe the commandments and serves to repair the harm caused by their transgression. Relative to the specific mitzvos incumbent upon a Jew, teshuvah is not entirely in a league of its own; it is like the vitality of the individual limbs and faculties of the body as they exist in general form within the brain.

Finally, it is our firm resolution on Rosh Hashanah to act on these profound emotions and experiences that ensures our practical observance of G-d’s commandments in our day-to-day lives throughout the year, like the brain and nervous system directing the functions of the entire body.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 4, pp. 1144-1146

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