Based on what I learned in second grade, and have had reinforced annually ever since, here’s how the heavenly court determines what kind of year you’re going to have.
Wait, wait, wait – heavenly court? What is that? God and the angels? The devil as prosecuting attorney? Never mind, let’s put the heavenly court aside. Here’s how God determines what kind of year you’re going to have:
On Rosh Hashanah, the Almighty opens up the books of life, salvation, whatever, and watches while down below (across, above, nearby, down the block) the Jews pray and pray. And pray. This takes two days because there are a lot of us and only one god. Or perhaps we’re grossly inefficient. We pray that God will treat us nicely, whether he’s our king, our queen, our father, our mother, or our master.
An aside: while God prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “They” and “Them”, they’re problematic for obvious reasons. I beg the reader’s forbearance on this matter.
Sometime during Rosh Hashanah, God takes His pencil out from behind His ear, and makes a note about you in each of the books. Pencil? Ear? Hey, if there are books, there can also be a pencil and an ear. Probably two ears, because God loves symmetry, in at least one religion.
A week or so passes, during which time the Jews pray even more. Oh – and White Clothes Matter. And they do their best to be good so that they’ll get lots of presents when God comes down the chimney on Yom Kippur. Or something.
Yom Kippur comes. God opens the books again while we fast. And this time, he really, really means it. He’s putting his foot down. He’s counting to three. Last chance! He’s writing with a pen and he has a seal that he stamps each decision with, so repent or else.
All done. Oh, but wait, here comes Hoshana Raba. Though God has already sent out the messengers with the bags of toys, I mean, with the decision of the heavenly court, I mean… well, you know what I mean, he can send a post-it note with another messenger who chases after the first set of messengers to change the judgment, presumably for better, but possibly for worse. That’s why on Hoshana Raba we greet each other with, “Hope you get a good post-it”, or “Post-Kippur post with the most.” As our sages said, “Good post, or you’re toast!”
That’s it. All done until the following year, and nothing you do or say after that can affect the quality of your year or the lives of anyone around you, since God has already written it down in the books. In pen. With a seal. And there might be a post-it near the seal.
Or does that sound like predestination?
Wouldn’t it be nice if our teachers started to treat us like adults and edged away from those metaphors? They weren’t very helpful in second grade, and they haven’t aged well. God isn’t our king, our father, our mother or our master. He’s God, whatever that might mean. And She doesn’t need a pencil (though He might).
Meanwhile, I recommend trying to be good every day. After all, He knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Happy New Year, a Merry Hoshana Raba, and to all a good night.