Rosh Hashanah

In Rosh Hashanah 32b, the Gemara notes that we do not say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Gemara describes the angels asking Hashem why the Jewish People do not sing praise to Him on these yomim tovim. Hashem answers: “Is it possible, when the King is sitting on the throne of judgment, … for the Jewish People to sing praise?” The Maggid discusses the thinking behind the angels’ question and Hashem’s answer.
To explain the angels’ position, the Maggid quotes the teaching (Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah) that when a person appears before a mortal judge, he comes dressed in black clothes and disheveled, but when we appear before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, we come in dressed in white and well groomed. The Maggid interprets this teaching in terms of a key difference between the way a mortal judges and the way Hashem judges. When a person appears before a mortal judge, he cannot be sure of the outcome, even if his case is strong, for a mortal judge is swayed by subjective factors. If the judge likes the person before him, he will issue a favorable judgment; if he dislikes him, he will issue a harsh judgment. Hashem’s judgment, by contrast, is completely just – in His righteousness, He gives us exactly what we deserve. Thus, when we appear before Hashem, the outcome is entirely in our own hands. If we repent, set out to rectify our misdeeds, and make ourselves worthy, we can be certain that Hashem will issue us a favorable verdict.
Hashem’s judging us in this way, the Maggid says, surely calls for our appreciation. Certainly we should honor Him, and the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, by seeing to it that our appearance is respectable. Beyond that, courtesy would dictate that we should even offer a song of praise to Him to express our thanks. This is the argument behind the angels’ position.
Yet we do not say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah. Why not? Because we are filled with grief over our debt of sin. Out of respect for Hashem and His holy day, we do not display our grief openly, and we appear before Him dressed in white and well groomed. But we still feel the grief in our hearts. Hashem is aware of how we feel, and so He does not expect us to sing Him a song of praise. Hashem agrees with the angels that, in principle, He rightfully deserves the praise. But He does not require it of us, for He knows that, in our state of grief, it is not possible for us to sing. At the same time, however, it behooves us to recognize the goodness Hashem shows us in the way He judges us.
K’sivah v’chasimah tovah!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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