Rosh HaShanah: A Holiday for All Humanity
Rosh HaShanah begins this coming Sunday at sundown. Although it is known as the “Jewish New Year,” unlike our other holidays, Rosh HaShanah is not exclusively set aside for the Jewish people. Rosh HaShanah celebrates the recognition of God’s kingship over the entire universe. It is a fundamental principal of Judaism, then, that every person benefits from these two special days by pausing and acknowledging this truth.
God’s kingship and majesty is manifest to all of us through His natural law. Albert Einstein, writing about the religiousness of a scientist remarked, “His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” (The World As I See It, p. 29) We try our best to comprehend the wisdom upon which these laws are based; but even though we fail to have a complete understanding, none of us disobey them. Continued, sustained life would be impossible. They are the decrees of the King of the Universe, and we must accept.
Judaism maintains that God’s kingship is also manifest in His universal moral law. While harder, perhaps, to maintain on a daily basis than the natural law, His moral law is also accessible to every human being. It is the observance of this universal moral laws, His rules of proper human conduct, that God, King of the Universe, is judging all His subjects on Rosh HaShanah, Jew and non-Jew alike. Our prayers on Rosh HaShanah repeatedly make this point vividly and poignantly. One prayer depicts all of humanity, each individual, passing before God just as a good and concerned shepherd reviews and looks after the welfare of each individual sheep in the herd under his charge. The King of the Universe cares for each and every one of His subjects.
Thus, our prayers on Rosh HaShanah repeatedly plea and intone that first, all mankind recognize God’s kingship and dominion over both the natural and moral laws. Second, we pray that, as a result of our recommitment to observe His moral law, the King of the Universe will judge us favorably for the coming year.
Judaism taught the world that every human being is created “in the image of God.” His or her life and welfare are important to God. All righteous people are beloved of God.
May all our prayers be accepted by the King of Kings on Rosh HaShanah. May you and your families be inscribed by God for a year of health, happiness, success, and prosperity. Most importantly, may we be inscribed for a year of caring, kindness, charity, understanding and peace. We are one brotherhood of humanity.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah
Rabbi Robert Kaplan