G-d is within this world as well. He is found in every atom of this world. It may sound strange, but this is what is happening: He as He is above takes Himself, as He is present within this world, to trial.
Only the soul of Man can argue on His behalf. So we do that, as lawyers for the defense. All that is required is to awaken the G-dliness within our own souls.
The spark of G-d within us below connects with the Infinite Light of G-d above. The circuit is complete and the universe is rebooted with a fresh flow of energy for an entire year.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
This is a very strange Rosh Hashanah meditation but then, Rosh Hashanah is a very strange time. I suppose you can look upon the quote from Rabbi Freeman as midrash, mysticism, or metaphor, depending on which one best fits your personality, but just how can God judge Himself? Isn’t He supposed to judge us?
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. –Revelation 20:11-12
This image is very reminiscent of how Judaism pictures God during the High Holidays. According to the Talmud, the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed again at the end of Yom Kippur. This event repeats on an annual basis. According to Christianity, the Book of Life is opened only once, as we see in the above-quoted passage from Revelation. While it may be difficult to imagine, I think that Christianity’s and Judaism’s different visions can be reconciled. I’ll get to that part in a minute. Back to my previous question.
How can God judge Himself? Isn’t He supposed to judge us?
When it was the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And during the ninth hour, Yeshua (Jesus) cried out with a loud voice, “Elahi, elahi, lemah shevaktani?” which is interpreted, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the men standing there heard and said, “Look! He is calling to Eliyahu!”
One of them ran and filled a sponge with vinegar. He placed it on a cane, gave it to him to drink and said, “Leave him alone, and let us see if Eliyahu will come to take him down!”
But Yeshua gave a loud cry and breathed out his life. –Mark 15:33-37 (DHE Gospels)
Here, perhaps we see God judging both Himself and us. If Jesus was meant to bear the sins of all mankind and to take the punishment that was upon us, this then is our judgment. That the judgment falls upon the King of Kings, the Son of God, he who is mortal and sent by the Divine, then in this, we can say that God judges “Himself”. That we are all created in God’s image and that the Divine spark resides in each of us can also be thought of as God “judging Himself”.
But didn’t all this happen only once? If so, why bother (at least from a Christian perspective) observing an annual Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
Time is not a train of cars hitched one to another, one year dragged along by the year preceding, the present hitched tightly to the past, the future enslaved to the present. Rather, every year arrives fresh from its Creator, a year that never was before and could never have been known before its arrival.
That is why we call Rosh Hashanah “the birthday of the world” in our prayers. The past has returned to its place, never to return. With the blowing of the shofar, the entirety of Creation is renewed. From this point on, even the past exists only by virtue of the present.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Midrash, mysticism, or metaphor…take your pick. From the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s point of view, the Universe is recreated every year at Rosh Hashanah. The “reboot” opportunity for our lives isn’t just poetic imagery, it’s a metaphysical reality. Are you having trouble believing that? Then what about this?
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. –Psalm 103:11-12
Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. –Hebrews 10:17-18
Once redeemed, God not only forgives our sins, it’s as if our sins never existed in the first place. It’s as if our very lives have been “rebooted”, as if the person we were had died and in our redemption, we have become brand new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible allows for a metaphysical reboot in the lives of human beings. Why not in the “life” of the Universe as well? Does the Universe have a “soul”? Rabbi Freeman seems to think so, along with an existence in space and time.
The universe has a soul. All that exists in the soul exists in space and in time.
In the cosmic soul there is a mind, a consciousness from which all conscious life extends.
In space, there is the Land of Israel, a space from where all space is nurtured.
In time, there is Rosh Hashanah, a time from which all time is renewed.
Rosh Hashanah, meaning Head of the Year. Not just a starting point, but a head. For whatever will transpire in the coming year is first conceived in these two days.
Midrash, mysticism, or metaphor…take your pick. From the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s point of view, Creation itself has a distinct and unique existence, not only as a physical reality, but as a mystic and metaphysical presence, expressed as a soul within a specific time and place. Existence is reset and a new life is begun at Rosh Hashanah and given a new heartbeat emanating from Israel and circulating its “blood” throughout the rest of the world. It’s as if Creation were a pool of water. Each year at Rosh Hashanah, God drops a pebble into the pool. The water is so disturbed that the ripples completely wipe away what had existed upon and within the water and everything becomes brand new again. A new universe, a new chance, a new life for each of us. A new relationship with God is offered if we want it. It’s as if salvation were given to us on Rosh Hashanah. For a Christian, it’s like being “saved” all over again.
Do we need to be saved each year? Maybe. I’m not saying salvation expires every year, but consider this, Christian. At some point in your life, you accepted the Lordship of Jesus over your entire being. Chances are, you had no idea what was going to happen next and how much you would have to change who you were and what you were doing. It was exciting at the time but, like your wedding day and the days afterward, what was once exciting and new can become an old, tired routine.
Rosh Hashanah is an opening of the door to the moment of salvation again. We can make a decision not to live within apathy or to settle for a second-best relationship with our Creator. We don’t even have to settle for a renewal of what once was. We can have it brand new, shining and perfect again.
Rosh Hashanah can be many things. When you are in a relationship with the One, Unique, Creative God, that relationship is not limited by physical and temporal boundaries. It exists on levels beyond which any human can experience. Nevertheless, those levels exist. We may not be acutely aware of them, but we can still take advantage of those places in time and space that man has not touched. God is there and God can do wonders. We can be His partner in those wonders and participate in recreating the Universe and recreating us. We can be new again, and the voices of God and man can echo back and forth between the Heavens and God’s footstool, upon which we dwell, as if reverberating between mirrors.
The words we say are spoken in the heavens. And yet higher. For they are His words, bouncing back to Him.
On Rosh Hashanah, we say His words from His Torah recalling His affection for our world; He speaks them too, turning His attention back towards our earthly plane.
We cry out with all our essence in the sound of the shofar; He echos back, throwing all His essence inward towards His creation.
Together, man and G-d rebuild creation.
Judgment is rendered and suspended. God and man together speak the Word in a shofar’s blast, and the Universe is again is new.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 28th.
L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.