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.


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..."


"I mean my teacher..."


" I can ask my daddy..."


"...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,