Put those party hats away! Getting the year started is serious business!
New Year's day is for us Jews not a time for frivolous rejoicing, but rather a solemn day of prayer. It is the Day of Memorial when all creatures of the earth are remembered by the Creator and judged according to their merits.
Yet, solemn and awe-inspiring though this day is, we know that the Supreme judge of the universe is kind and merciful. He is not out to punish us, but merely wants us to follow the laws and regulations He laid down for us for our own good. He has made this Day of Judgment a day of forgiveness and mercy.
Rosh Hashanah does not find us unprepared. In the month of Elul the approach of Rosh Hashanah was heralded by the daily sounding of the shofar in the synagogue (except Saturdays). During the month of Elul the Jew is particularly careful in the observance of the religious precepts --he takes more time for his prayers, he finds himself overflowing with charity and lovingkindness, and resolutely determines to cast away his evil ways and habits of the past.
And a wonderful feeling grips the heart of the true repenter, as if a magic hand has removed the heavy burden that has been weighing upon it in the past. It is the feeling of being able to begin life anew, like a newly born innocent child, with no blemish on his record.
Such is the feeling that the Jew brings with him into the synagogue on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. He finds himself close to G-d, with his prayers pouring out from the very depth of his heart.