Contact Us

Rosh Hashanah Is on the Wrong Day!

Rosh Hashanah Is on the Wrong Day!

The past of your life starts now

 Email

Hello Ask-The-Rabbi Rabbi,

Rosh Hashanah is on the wrong day. And that means there’s a serious mistake in the prayer book.

Every Rosh Hashanah, we say, “Today is the beginning of Your works, a remembrance of the first day.” So let me tell you something about the Jewish calendar: Rosh Hashanah is not “Happy Birthday, World!” It's the anniversary of the sixth day of creation. The Jewish calendar places creation at the 25th day of Elul, five days earlier!1

So what's up with this “beginning of Your works” and “remembrance of the first day?”

—Rush H. Shawna

Hello Rush!

That's what happens when you hyper-complicate everything. Think straight and simple and everything works.

“Today is the beginning of Your works” doesn't meanIt’s not an anniversary. It means what it says: the beginning. As in “time starts now.” an anniversary. It means what it says: the beginning. As in “time starts now.”

“A remembrance of the first day” doesn't mean an anniversary celebration. It means a replay. As in “system reboot.”

And it's on the sixth day because the first time the world began, it began on the sixth day.

Okay, that part is not so simple. It might even sound nuts. But a lot of reality sounds nuts.

So let me explain:

The world didn’t really begin until the prototype human being became conscious and did its thing—which was on the sixth day. At that point, retroactively, the world had begun five days earlier—on the first day.

And that replays every year, on Rosh Hashanah. Every Rosh Hashanah, the world begins again, retroactively, from the first day.



Who Discovered the World?




So what did Human 1.0 do on its first day?

Here's how the Zohar tells the story.2 Zohar—right? Not to be taken at face value. Everything here has deep, metaphorical meaning. So think deep:

When Adam first stood on his feet, all the animals saw him and were in awe. They followed after him like servants following their king.

But then he said to them, as it says in Psalms,3 “Come, let us all bow down and thank G‑d, our maker.”

And they responded (also as in Psalms4), “G‑d is king!”

Meaning, the first Adam made three discoveries and one great accomplishment:

  1. He discovered there was a world.
  2. He discovered he didn't make this world.
  3. He discovered there was something greater than him that did.
  4. And he got the whole world to go along with his discoveries.

Now, you have to recognize, this was an enormous change in the world’s status. Because now it had a background. And nothing really exists until it has a background.

Take water. What makes water water? Only the fact that there are places where there is no water.

As one clever person put it, “We don't know who discovered water, but it certainly wasn't the fish.”

The fish have no background. They know of nothing but water. Therefore, fish do not know that water exists. Until they are flapping around without it. But that doesn’t last too long.

To put it another way: You can't recognize that something is until you can imagine it not being.You can't recognize the existence of a thing until you can experience or at least imagine its absence.

So if you would have asked one of those animals that was worshipping Adam, “How long has this world been around?” (let’s assume for now that there were some intelligent ones amongst them)—you would get nothing more than a blank stare. Because not only is there no concept yet of a beginning, there’s not even a concept of a world.



World As Art




But we know that we are inside a world. Which means that we have something inside us that somehow can conceive of not-world. It's called human intelligence.

When we engage that intelligence, the world resonates with our discovery. Because, in truth, every creature has a sense of wonder.

And that's when the world becomes a world.

What's so great about becoming a world? Because now it has meaning. It says something. It sings the wonders of its Creator. Every creature, every detail of it.

It becomes art.

If this change in status had been entirely Adam’s idea, it would not have affected the past. It would have been an epic event, a new dawn—leaving the old world behind in the dimness of twilight.

But that was not the case.

The world was originally meant to be a glorious work of art. It was only waiting for someone to recognize it for what it truly was. Because there is no art without an audience.Human consciousness is both the audience and the punchline to existence. Without some observer to applaud, and say, “This is magnificent! I'm in awe! What art! What an Artist!”

To get it.

You know those stories where a punchline at the end turns the meaning of every detail around, forcing you to go back and re-read the whole thing?

That’s what Adam provided. He made the previous five days of creation into a whole new story.



Waking Up




So we are Adam. And we go through that story of the Zohar every morning.

Each one of us wakes up each morning believing that “I just am. Things just are. Why are there things? Because I am here.”

None of us can imagine a world without us. You and I, we each see ourself as the center of everything. We wake up to a world that worships us.

As in:

“Mommy, before I was born, were there birthday parties?”

“Yes dear.”

“And did they have birthday cakes?”

“Certainly.”

“And birthday gifts?”

“Of course!”

“What a waste!”

You laugh—but that's every one of us, the raw human being.

It's only once we engage our brains, we realize, “That's ridiculous. There's a world out there. There doesn't have to be a world, but there is. And it's not here because I'm here—because I didn't make it.”

“Which means I'm inside something greater than me. Something that grants me consciousness and life.”

“Which means I must have purpose, and my life has meaning.”

At which point the world begins to be. A whole world that was here before you were ever born also now comes to have been.And a whole world that was here before you were ever born also now comes to have been.

Because you discover what it was here for in the first place. It's here as a piece of glorious art, so that you will discover its Artist. It’s a whole new story.



The Big Morning




That's every morning. Which is why we have to meditate and pray every morning. Doesn't matter that you did it yesterday—today you have a new consciousness, you are a new person, and your world has to be rebooted once again.

But Rosh Hashanah, when the shofar is blown, that's the Big Morning. It's a replay of the very first morning of the first human consciousness.

The Ari (great Kabbalist, 16th century) taught that every year, a new packet of time, energy, life and consciousness is allotted for that year alone. As Rosh Hashanah enters, that packet recedes back to its origin. Time itself is absorbed back into the nothingness. All that remains is just enough life to sustain basic system functions.

And then, as the shofar is blown, a new life enters. A new state of consciousness. A new energy. And even a new continuum of time.

Meaning that even the past is renewed.

The past of this coming Rosh Hashanah is not the present you experience now. That will have disappeared, and a new past will be created.

And as on the very first Rosh Hashanah, we are the ones to decide just how real this new creation will be.

That's the whole judgment thing of Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah, the real judge is you.It’s our judgment—how we see ourselves. And how we see our world.

Is our world a world?

Do our lives have meaning?

Is there wonder?

Maamar Zeh HaYom 5742. See Maamar Zeh Hayom 5741 for a proper understanding of this maamar.

Footnotes
1.
Our reader likely knows this from a comment of the Tosafot in Talmud Rosh Hashanah 8a. If he knew it from Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 29, he would see that the source for the line in the High Holiday prayer book is right there. It’s found in a few other places, as well. There’s another opinion that the world was created on the 25th of the month of Adar. Some explain both are true, and the whole thing is much deeper than you can imagine. That’s for another time.
2.
Zohar 1 221b. Ibid3 107b. Tikunei Zohar, tikun 496. The last line is from the version of the story in Pirke D’Rabbe Eliezer, chapter 11.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
7 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Tzvi Freeman October 19, 2016

For Steve again Yes, I should have explained that. But you hit on it yourself.

Basically, we calculate the first autumn equinox as the fourth day of Creation—when the sun was put in its place. But we commemorate the first day as the day Adam was formed—two days later. Which is a very strange thing to do, -and the subject of this article.

(It's a little more detailed than that, but the details aren't so important.) Reply

Steve E Abraham New York October 10, 2016

25th day of Elul Again, Rabbi, with respect, when someone creates something, usually we call it day 1. The first day. So why do we begin on the 25th day of Elul? Why didn't we call the first day ... Elul 1? Did God create the universe with the moon and sun and earth in position of the end of the month? That would be the only answer. Why? Reply

Steve E Abraham New York October 10, 2016

Lunar calander If we are using the Lunar calendar, and need every few years to add a month, then it seems that none of the days of our holidays really fall out on their true anniversary. Reply

Tzvi Freeman Los Angeles October 6, 2016

For Steve Abraham Perhaps I shouldn't have written "25th of Elul." It would have been more accurate to write "five days earlier."

Time is also a creation. So before that first day, there was no before.

As for the other questions you ask—if I understand you correctly, those are the questions addressed by the article. Reply

Steve E Abraham New York October 6, 2016

. The Jewish calendar places creation at the 25th day of Elul, five days earlier!1 Why wasn't this day of creation called the first day? Calling it the 25th day suggests there were days before 25? I know you can say the earth and moon were created in an orbit that was consistent with being the 25th day of Elul. Why didn't God create the world on the first day of Elul? Or the first day of another month? Or on January 1? Reply

jim dallas October 3, 2016

works of arts and a Work of the Greatest Art sefira Ross is a top notch artist and I have noticed in these articles how she adds to the writing and furthers the understanding being achieved. i appreciate that being myself a painter in oils and other mediums like collage. thanks to sefira for being a part of a work of art. Reply

Anonymous September 29, 2016

Brilliant! R. Tzvi you continue to outdo yourself in making the most complicated spiritual ideas simple to understand. Thank you. Ksivs Vachasima Tova!! Reply

Related Topics
Find Services
Videos
Audio Classes
Holiday Songs
Kids Zone
Holiday Shopping Recipes
Free Greeting Cards