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I Don't Like Rosh Hashanah

I Don't Like Rosh Hashanah

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Question:

This is about Rosh Hashanah. I never could stand that holiday. All other Jewish holidays have something happy and beautiful about them. Rosh Hashanah only frightens me.

For instance: I find it very negative when I am told that G‑d (who forgave me already) has my sins written down in a book like a bookkeeper, and on that day I will be judged on them. And on how I behaved the last year depends whether I will live another year or not. During the whole year I lived every day, because G‑d gave me that day. He wanted me to live, so I lived. Suddenly it should be decided if I will die or not.

I try to make His will my will. So I don't have special wishes. His nearness is all I want. I would like to improve in that more and more, to get nearer and nearer to Him.. But when others are talking about Rosh Hashanah and are frightened, I get frightened too. And I get the feeling, that something with me is not as it should be. As if the G‑d I love during a whole year (not always perfectly, of course) turns into a stranger for one day, who will tell me how bad I am. And that He is right very often doesn't make it easier.

Response:

This is a story of a Jewish farmer who, like many Jews of Poland at the time, had hired a schoolteacher to live in his house and live off his farm in return for teaching his children. Each day, the children, from youngest to oldest, sat around a splintered wooden table on four hard benches while he supervised each one in his studies.

But when the season of Rosh Hashanah approached, the schoolteacher would not stay with the farmer and his family. He longed to be in a town where he could pray with a congregation and celebrate the festive month of Tishrei within a Jewish community. And so, for over a month, the father replaced the teacher.

At first, keeping order in the classroom was challenging. Teacher was teacher, but Dad was a softy. You could always get out of class to go to the outhouse--and not necessarily return--or because you didn't feel well that day, or because Mommy had given you some errand to run. If the work was too tough, you could complain, perhaps even break down in tears if that was age-appropriate, or just attempt to engage Dad in a conversation about the state of the chickens today.

Within a week, the classroom was in total disarray. That's when Dad set down the law. One morning, he walked in with a stern face and announced, "From now on, no more 'Daddy this,' 'Daddy that!' From now on, in this classroom, I am not Daddy. I am Teacher!"

And as Teacher, boy was Daddy tough. There were punishments and penalties for the slightest infractions. No one could leave the room without an airtight excuse. The atmosphere of the classroom became stifling, like a playground become dungeon.

Finally, on only day three of this exercise, one small child broke down in tears. Father may have played a good part as stern teacher, but he was still father at heart. He couldn't bear to look at one of his smallest children crying. Looking down at the table to conceal his chagrin, he brusquely called the child over.

"Why are you crying?" he asked.

Between his sobs, the child answered, "I want to ask my daddy..."

"Yes?"

"I mean my teacher..."

"Yes?"

"...so I can ask my daddy..."

"Right."

"...that my daddy should ask the teacher..."

"So what is it?!"

"...that my teacher shouldn't be so hard with us any more!!"

And so we plead on Rosh Hashanah, Avinu Malkenu—our Father, our King. We know who You are, behind that stern mask, feigning objective judgment upon Your throne. You are the Ruler of All That Is, but You are also our Father, and a compassionate loving Father at that. Come here with us, hold our hands, see everything from our view down here. Feel our troubles and the pangs of our hearts as only a father can do. And then get involved with Your world and bless us with a sweet and goodly year.

Perhaps you read the Daily Dose from a few days ago:

Rosh Hashanah, the Baal Shem Tov taught, is a game of hide and seek. G‑d hides, we seek.

But where can G‑d hide? Wherever you go, there He is. As the Zohar says, "There is no place void of Him."

So perhaps what the Baal Shem Tov meant is more like peek-a-boo—when the parent hides behind his or her own fingers. So too, G‑d hides Himself within the guise of an awesome, indifferent king, judging His subjects strictly by the book until the most sublime angels shiver in dread.

And we seek. We seek the father behind the stern voice. We are the small child who climbs into the king's arms, tears off the mask and exclaims, "Daddy!"

Which is just what He was waiting for.

As a child we learn a vital lesson from peek-a-boo, something that later will seem so obvious we can't imagine we ever had to learn it: We learn that even when something cannot be seen, it could still be there. That is the same lesson He is teaching us on Rosh Hashanah: Even when father is gone and an indifferent king has taken his place, nevertheless it is still father; our bond with Him is still there.

He hides so that we will look for Him. He hides so that we will call Him Father, so that even in His role as Creator and Master of the Universe we will see that bond we have with Him. And that is how that relationship is renewed.

Wishing you a good and sweet year,

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 .
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David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel October 6, 2016

Implication of the Internet In response to M. Diane, it would appear with the growth and development of the internet that the amount of information needed by Heaven about our lives and their various successes and failures etc., has grown 100 fold! Presumably there are sufficient new angels to monitor all of this data. As Hillier Belok wrote:
"I think perhaps the Devil grins,
As seas of ink I scatter,
Dear L-rd forgive my literary sins,
The other kind don't matter!"
not that I agree with him, but there is an element of truth there. May I wish you all well over the Fast and Hatima Tova.
Reply

M. Diane Flushing, NY October 2, 2016

Have a sweet New Year Rabbi... and i'm afraid we are going to find out that it is not a big ledger book that they have with all our shortcomings and sins in it. I bet (although I'm am not a gambling woman) that what they have is a keystroke device for our computer brains in order to capture every single thing we said, did and intended. And you know how we sometimes write or type something and then before we send it we read it again and decide better against saying it although we really want to? No doubt they'll have all of that recorded as well, so we won't be able to wiggle out of what our true intentions really were at the time we said, wrote or did something. Oh brother, rabbi, if that is the case, it is not going to be an easy time. Well, we can start to try harder to be better and better starting right now. Reply

Anonymous September 15, 2015

my thoughts Tzvi,

Good yontuff!

I found this article doing a search with the question "why do I feel guilty not celebrating Rosh Hashanna".

I thank you for your insight, it was helpful. I still feel bad that I slept in this morning when I was planning to go to synagouge.

I enjoyed dinner last evening with friends, and enjoyed the second night watching a movie.

Assuming I get up in the morning, I am looking forward to making an appearance at synagogue tomorrow and then coming home to relax waiting till the end of the holiday so I can get back to work and hope that this will be a great year for all of us. Reply

suzi orlando September 29, 2014

To Michelle Pacific Rosh Hashana and feeling alone I know it was a year ago and I regret not responding to you at the time. I just did not know what to say. What I felt was the same despair and I tried to find something positive, or uplifting, and I could not. I hope you feel differently, and are in a more positive light. I don't really believe G-D doesn't like us due to past/present mistakes, but I do still feel disconnected, lonely, and guilty, that I can't shake feeling this way.
I just lost my beloved cat, she had to go to sleep. No meds., x-rays, blood tests, could help. I even force fed her in order to keep her strong enough to have her little nose flushed. She would have starved herself to death, but she was able to have another normal week, with me. I knew that week was G-D'S gift of allowing me another week, and to know in my heart and head, that I had to accept she was not able to stay with me any longer. I am grateful to G-D, and prayed profusely to help her, when she came home, I thanked him endlessly. I still do. Reply

Anonymous September 25, 2014

Thank you! Thank you for this...I found it to be just what I needed. :o) Reply

nancy el texas September 22, 2014

singular nature of G-d the nature of G-d is singular. he is of one mind, one heart. it is tempting to interpret him through our limited vision but not necessary. why not say that the way we celebrate Rosh Hoshana has come down to us through the ages and is not the direct vision of G-d? fear is a good thing as it warns us that danger is near.
i welcome the chance to confess my wrongs and to make things right. i enjoy the visit from family members and the chance to show them my love by making a joyful holy day for them.. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel September 19, 2014

Yom Kippur Blues This story is more than an analogy. As a sensitive child I was explained by a profound Rabbi the situation of inscription in the books of redemption and purgatory and as a result I became very nervous every year at about this time until Yom Kippur had passed.

This fear affected me much of my life. It is only now, having worked as treasurer on a synagogue committee and found how "casual" the members are, that I began to loose my trust in the Rabbi's words and my attitude to some of these religious authorities . I no longer pray in a synagogue, but mostly at home. And my fear of being inscribed in the wrong book (from my point of view) has evaporated.

Certainly we should ask forgiveness; but with strong faith in the Almighty there is no need to be afraid, even if during the year we have failed to meet His specification for living a good life. Indeed if I am inscribed in any book at all I shall be content that somewhere somebody is taking some notice of what I do. Reply

Anonymous San Diego, CA September 17, 2014

Finally, I get it I read this a year ago and understood it in bits and pieces, refracted through the lens of my own fragmented heart and mind. This year, the message comes through clearly, like a sunbeam straight to my heart (and mind... are they always so different?). Thank you. Reply

James sc September 17, 2014

Almost had it... I liked the beginning of your story but when the "playground became a dungeon" the story began to lose the potential to help individuals understand the truth.

You correctly illustrated that the children in the story took advantage of the patience and tenderness of their father with bad behavior of all sorts. But instead of relaying that the father's reaction was just and righteous you instead painted the children as suffering under the cruel hand of oppression who meekly sought the tender and patient father who had suddenly and without cause vanished. It is our own rejection of the kindness, patience, and tender mercy of our Father that brings about any stern correction. The fact that it took three days of rebellion for the father to institute measures to reign in his children shows his long-suffering nature. Rosh Hashanah isn't Father suddenly vanishing without cause, it is our own rejection of his teachings that bring about the feeling of dread. Repent and all will be well. Reply

Marion Brooklyn,Ny September 12, 2013

I truly appreciate your analogy of the father and teacher relationship with his children. If this is how our relationship works with G-d , then we only need to serve with all our heart. In doing so we have nothing to fear, for the Father who is hiding behind the guise of an awesome indifferent king is capable of judging us fairly. Remember His Love for us far exceeds the love that our human parents have for us. I am comforted to know and believe that as our Father He will be merciful to us . we should not be worried about the outcome for Rosh Hashana; because as a nation we are given all the commandments, Laws, Statues, Judgements that we should live by. It is incumbent upon all Jews to follow them. We only can be judged based upon what is given to us and what we make of them. Thank you very much for a brilliant writing. Have a great new year and may all Jews be inscribed in the Book of Life. Shalom. Reply

Michele Pacific Northwest September 4, 2013

To Suzi in Orlando This might not help, but I wanted you to know that I am a kindred spirit and feel, and have felt most of my life, exactly the same way you do. I feel like HaShem, Heavenly Father, Most High G-d, loves everyone BUT me... somehow I am foresaken for past sins, past poor choices, past mistakes, made when I didn't know better, and for simply being born who I am. I want HIS love, warmth and acceptance, too, and it feels SO far away. This day saddens me and does not fill me hope for myself. Reply

Anonymous Orange County September 3, 2013

Very good That was very good and just touched my heart being a mom and home school teacher to my son it really spoke to me needed to hear that thank yousoo much Baruch Hashem Reply

Suzi Orlando September 2, 2013

FROM SUZI TO WILLIAM, SMITH RIVER, CA Thank you for your comment. Since no question mark, & instead a period, I believe you understand how I feel. Your comment, touched me & made me think; if you who do not know me can understand, maybe it is OK 2 believe G-D will also.
Thank you again, you made a difference, & impacted my life for the better. I am a bit less lonely now. May G-D bless you, especially for your empathy, & display of humanity, 4 a stranger.

Although I don't know people writing, it is a huge source of connection, warmth, & acceptance, to come together as "family." Thank all of you for participating.
I wish you all a sweet, healthy, joyful,& peaceful, year. Recently, someone I love (in Israel) wished me "peace of mind." This is extraordinary, & thoughtful. Living in Israel, he knows the value of those words. Wishing U all the same.

May G-D continue to bless America, and her very much loved, and respected, little sister, Israel. She is, always has been, and always will be an essential part of me. Reply

Dmitry MA August 30, 2013

Great answer but... I think this is a very good answer, Yes, He is the Judge, the Teacher and the loving Father. At the same time this answer may be misleading, as the images employed are quite anthropomorphic: His Judgment, Teaching, Fatherhood is not *YET* in the sense we human can grasp. Shabat Shalom. Reply

Gary Tolchinsky New York August 30, 2013

Response to Comment #25 Thanks so much for offering your thoughtful and helpful advice--particularly the part about not a worrying ahead of time for something which may not happen). Can't say I'm necessarily blaming G-D; more like some wistful part of me that wishes for spiritual gain without pain! I'm trying to just reach a place of acceptance that this is how the world works, and whether it's pre-life or post-life, hope for the best and trust that G-D is with me no matter what.
Think "acceptance" is the key word here instead of fearing/intellectualizing the legitimate fear of a potentially frightening unknown as an individual and collectively. Thanks again and have a great Shabbat;....Gary Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA August 30, 2013

To Gary in NY regarding fear and pain... First, there are always people with more pain than us, and people who appear to have less pain than us. When we are born, even as babies we have diaper rashes and pains. As we grow, we start having emotional pains as well. One of the challenges of life is to live life. That is, go through whatever horrid circumstances or tragedies which come out way WITHOUT blaming G-d for it, because believe me, if G-d had human emotions, He would stop all wars and all pains. We ascribe human emotions to Him in order to make some sense out of all the nonsense of life. So, we go to physical doctors for physical pains, psychiatrists and psychologists for mental pains, and to Rabbis for a spiritual encouragement and perhaps some little bit of possible insight. Does this help? What is to fear? In fact, when we fear, we take on pain BEFORE it happens. Does that make sense? Reply

Moshe Efrat, srael August 29, 2013

I loved this You delivered the medicine by grinding it well and adding a bit of sweetness to make it pleasant and good to take. Reply

Gary New York August 29, 2013

Dealing with Pressure/Fear...Advice? I'm sometimes overwhelmed by the power of Rosh Hashanah and what's being determined, that I may end up less connected to G-D than if I relaxed more. But how can I relax when there's at least a chance that one could experience some very painful moments this coming year, even from a loving G-d who only wants the best of us. And what about after we die and have to deal with a final judgment, which could be even scarier. The bottom line is that I'm afraid of pain and have a hard time accepting that it's part of being a human being. Any help dealing with this is welcome! Reply

William Smith River CA August 29, 2013

Response to Suzi (Orlando) you touched my heart with this this grief sharing but, how you treasure God. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA August 29, 2013

My answer to this person would not center on children and fathers. My answer would be that the story is an allegory, to remind us that we should not harbor bitterness for wrongs that happened to us during the year and should forgive others in order to free our spirits to continue to love G-d with peace in our hearts. In order for others to forgive, we need to apologize to them to give them a chance to forgive. Since G-d is not human, it has to be an allegory and a lesson in life. The choice of "book of life" can be a metaphor for the condition of being human. So, there is no reason for fear, or thinking that G-d in any way will hate us or kill us for our mistakes. The reason it is said that way, to me, poetically, is that when we hate someone, or when someone victimizes and hates us, it feels like death. Sometimes, that feeling is so intense, people can actually commit suicide over these emotions. So, Rosh Hashona means "Let it go, and start again. Today is a new day, this week is a new week, and this year is a new year.", in my opinion. Love. Reply

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