Rosh Hashanah: How You Know You Matter

(Pxfuel)

I once watched a YouTube video called, “A Reason to Stop Worrying — Watch This Whenever You’re Stressed or Anxious.” The narrator began by showing Earth in space, explaining that every person is somewhere on that rock. Then, he proceeded to zoom out further and further, showing Earth’s infinitesimal size relative to the never-ending space which consumes it all; as people, we are less than 1-7 billionth of that tiny speck he showed to be Earth. The narrator’s point was that, from a scientific point of view, we are so insignificant that we can’t even comprehend it, so we don’t matter, and our choices don’t matter. Hence, there’s no reason to worry. Rosh Hashanah shows that he could not be more wrong.

On Rosh Hashanah, as we all know, we are judged by Hashem. As it says in Masechet Rosh Hashanah, “A person is judged only according to their deeds at the time [of judgment],” meaning that our actions, behavior, and words until that very point are brought before Hashem (16b). A surface-level understanding of this day of judgment can feel taxing and stressful, but a closer look identifies the day’s profound implications.

Rabbi David Aaron explains that Rosh Hashanah is more accurately described as a day of assessment, a time when we reconnect to the essence of ourselves and reflect upon our lives. Hashem lovingly and compassionately looks at our accomplishments, our struggles, our growth, our falls, and our recoveries. Every word, chuckle, whisper, tear, frustration, triumph, and celebration is considered by Hashem through the prism of our life experiences.

This assessment looks at who we were, who we are, and who we could be. People often ask: Why does Hashem need to judge me like this? It’s because we matter.

“Every person has the ability to change the world,” Rav Kook writes. “It all exists within one’s spiritual resources. It all depends on whether or not one has the power to reveal it. Indeed, this is true not only for the sophisticated and knowledgeable, but even the simplest person. There is no limit to the power of the soul. It is a candle of the Divine in the world” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 1:846).[1]

It is ingrained within every single person that what we do matters; it’s why people act honestly when no one’s watching, why kindness persists without a likelihood for reward. Yet, we are scientifically insignificant, less than a grain of sand blown across an empty desert.

Rosh Hashanah refutes every sensibility of the physical world, arguing that we are valuable, that we have unconditional self-worth, and that Hashem cares. Rosh Hashanah tells us that not only does the world need us, but Hashem needs us.

When we open our siddurim for this anomalous Rosh Hashanah, we need to dream of who we can become, how we can change the world around us and the world within us. The day any person was born is the day Hashem decided that the world could not go on any longer without them. Hashem imbued us all with a specific divine mission, a unique calling to bring love, goodness, justice, peace, and wholeness into the world. As Rabbi David Aaron said, “Who you are is Hashem’s gift to you, and who you become is your gift to Hashem.”

[1] As translated by Rabbi Ari Ze’ev Schwartz in “The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook,” p. 17

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter studied for one year at Yeshivat Orayta and is now studying International and Global Affairs at Yeshiva University. He enjoys writing on a spectrum of topics, specifically on the weekly parsha.
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