Does God Make New Year’s Resolutions?

The Rabbis have a notion of divine mimicry. They believed that God mimics us, observing His commandments just like we do. They claimed that He, like us, davens, learns Torah, wears Tefilin and performs many other mitzvot.

Their fascination with this idea lead them to inquire about the specifics of His observance. They, for example, wanted to know which biblical texts are inscribed in His phylacteries.

There is one caveat though. His performance, according to them, serves the inverse purpose of our observance. We keep the mitzvot out of a sense of subservience towards Him, while He does them to serve us; to improve our lives and ultimately achieve greater intimacy with us.

Taking the idea of divine mimicry to its logical conclusion would suggest that He also blew shofar this Rosh Ha’shana.

If true, one cannot help but wonder: since the purpose of the earthly shofar is to inspire reflection and promote penitential self-improvement, what does the heavenly version of that process look like? Does the echo of the shofar blasts ricocheting in the heavens inspire supernal remorse and divine repentance? And, if so, what are the specifics of that reflection? What does He think where His metaphorical shortcomings last year, and what are His aspirations for the year to come?

We, obviously, lack verifiable knowledge about the divine mind, and, therefore, cannot say anything conclusive about it. But, like the lover who desires to better understand its beloved, we owe it to our soul to help satisfy its innate yearning to better understand the inner workings of the divine source which fuels its passions. Conjecturing about the pain the cry of the heavenly shofar was trying to articulate would help quench our soul’s thirst to better comprehend God, its beloved.

Here is, therefore, a speculative attempt at discerning the reflections Monday’s shofar blowing perhaps might have generated on high:

• Was God disappointed about the prohibitive cost of observance?

• Was He sad for all those parents who struggled last year to impart a meaningful yiddishkeit to their children, one which resonates with them in this confusing and chaotic twenty-first century?

• Was He frustrated that in the year 5775, His halakhic system still has not figured out how to be more accommodating to the agunot in our midst?

• Was He pained by the suffering His Torah inadvertently inflicts on our LGBTQ children?

• Was He crying for the thousands of migrants who are clamoring for a life that is terror-free?

In the same vein, turning from a disappointing 5775 towards a more promising 5776, what are His hopes for the new year?

• Does He aspire to live in a world where fewer obstacles are put in the way of those who attempt to infuse people’s lives with Godliness?

• Will He abandon His reciprocal stance and allow His loving embrace to also include the rebellious child; the spiritual wanderer and religious deserter?

• Is He hoping to more generously dole out spiritual reprieve to those who are experiencing pain or affliction?

• Lastly, will He finally heal this broken world?

While we lack certainty about His thoughts during the supernal shofar blowing, we know for sure what His subsequent prayer was about. The Rabbis shared with us its content. He prays daily that He curb His anger so that He can be a kinder and gentler God. His prayer, according to the Rabbis, also expresses the hope that His generosity trumps His desire for legal exactitude.

Closing the loop, this is perhaps an area where we can mimic Him. We can, like Him, resolve to make this a year where we are more generous and less judicious.

עלה אלהים בתרועה, ה’ בקול שופר

About the Author
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz is the Senior Rabbi of PHS, a Modern Orthodox congregation in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and Chair of the Talmud department at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He received ordination in 1986 from Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, dayan of UTA Satmer. Rabbi Katz studied in Brisk and in Yeshivat Beit Yosef, Navaradok for more ten years, and is a graduate of the HaSha'ar Program for Jewish Educators, Rabbi Katz taught at the Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and SAR High School, and gave a popular daf yomi class in Brooklyn for more than eight years.
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