A Jewish Yom Tov is unlike a secular holiday. For the Queen’s Birthday, an arbitrary date is chosen and agreed upon. In Jewish law, there is no accident in the date of a festival. When a Yom Tov is celebrated, there is a spiritual difference.1 At that time, a specific revelation of G‑dliness is available into which the Jew can tune. On Pesach, it is the revelation of the emunah (faith). On Sukkos, it is simchah. Rosh HaShanah has a serious and weighty revelation; that of the initial creation of the world and the revelation of Malchus (kingship).2

When the Alter Rebbe (the first Rebbe of Lubavitch and the author of the Tanya) was imprisoned, his cell was denied light.. It was therefore impossible to distinguish between night and day. Extraordinarily, he demonstrated, that he knew the time whether it was night or day. His jailer asked the Alter Rebbe how he knew. The Alter Rebbe explained that the day was divided into so many units (the Jewish time unit is different the day hours are broken up into certain time zones) and the Alter Rebbe disclosed to him that each one of those time units has a different level of spiritual light; a different revelation of G‑dliness. For him therefore it was not difficult to identify that revelation of G‑dliness which corresponded to a particular time3.

When the Ruziner Rebbe was a little boy his teacher was teaching him the laws of Shabbos. There are laws in relation to what a person should do if he finds himself lost in a desert, unable to identify which day is Shabbos. The young boy told his teacher there was no problem as all he had to do was to look up into the sky and see when Shabbos was coming. The teacher, thinking he was being cheeky, smacked him. His father, then Rebbe, found the boy crying and inquired as to what happened. When the boy told him, the Rebbe explained to the teacher gently to leave the boy his son could in fact see when Shabbos was coming.

Men of great spiritual stature have the capacity to receive this revelation daily. On the festivals however even the average Jew is affected by the revelation of G‑dliness which radiates on that festival. On Rosh HaShanah every Jewish neshomah can tune in to the level of G‑dliness being revealed that day. Many Chassidic stories witness that special skills are unnecessary.

In the shul of The Baal Shem Tov in Europe, a boy entered the synagogue on Rosh HaShanah and, being ignorant of the prayers, just kept saying the Alef-Beis at the front of the Siddur. He was observed crying and laughing and from time to time clapping much to the consternation of the serious congregation. After Rosh HaShanah concluded, the Rebbe announced that the Jewish world in Russia that year was saved because of this boy. The boy had told Hashem that he did not know how to daven, that he did not know how to learn, but that he knew the Alef-Beis. He resolved to spend all day saying the letters and asked Hashem to rearrange them. His davening was accepted as the best davening for the whole of Jewry Rosh HaShanah that year. This is the level of sincerity every Jew can achieve. Every Jew can tune into the revelation of G‑dliness on Rosh HaShanah at his level.

Rosh HaShanah is the day which celebrates the creation of the world; not the first but the sixth day. The world was created on the 25th of Elul,4 six days before the end of the month before. The sixth day of creation, 1st of Tishrei, is Rosh HaShanah, the day on which humanity was created.

We regard this day as the birthday of the world.5 This means that Hashem’s creative process culminated physically on Rosh HaShanah in the creation of humanity. Every Rosh HaShanah that process is being re-enacted for the following year. Exactly the same spiritual forces involved in creating the world, re-happen Rosh HaShanah. We are able to tune into that process and we will learn about that spiritual force together.

Every child knows that Rosh HaShanah is the Day of Judgment.6 A moment’s examination of a decently translated Machzor will evidence that it is replete with the whole notion of the Day of Judgment for the whole world for the ensuing year. To be determined is who will live and who will die, who will be rich and who will be poor, who will be healthy and who will be sick, who will be barren and who will be fruitful, who will be insane and who will be mentally healthy.

Curiously however there is a Gemora which says that Hashem judges us every day,7 indeed every moment. How can both things be true? Is it Judgment for the year, for the day or for the moment? Does that Judgment take place Rosh HaShanah or daily?

Everything physical is a product of something spiritual. All physical matter is a precipitation of its spiritual source. On Rosh HaShanah a spiritual potential is created. Subsequently, there is a process of drawing down that spiritual potential by condensing it into something physical. If a man does not behave as he should or changes direction in some way, the drawing down and condensation of that spirituality into physicality may be frustrated. Conversely, a change for better may increase the conduit for drawing down potential blessing.8

An example of a spiritual force in potential becoming actual is set out in the Talmud: Rabbi Akiva, one of the outstanding personalities of the Gemora, had a daughter who was married at a great wedding in the presence of all the Torah sages of the generation. Upon her birth Astrologers predicted she would die on the night of her wedding. On the night of her wedding, she took her hat pin and inserted it into a hole in the wall, the then customary place for their storage. In the morning a death adder was discovered hanging on the other end of the hat pin, pierced through the brain. She told her father who then inquired as to her actions on the night of her wedding. It should be explained that religious weddings provide a table for the poor where anyone deprived may come and eat. She then explained to her father that on that night the poor people were at their table ignored by everyone. Indeed, no-one was serving them food and they were apparently embarrassed to ask. The bride left her dancing, served their food and cleaned up after them personally. Rabbi Akiva then explained this great secret of Torah. Her activity interfered with that spiritual force even as it was being actualized. Her hat pin wielded by her merit lanced the snake which was the actualized result of this spiritual force.

The spiritual potential for all human condition is created Rosh HaShanah. So it was the first Rosh HaShanah on the sixth day of creation.

But here is the secret. That potential to become a physical actuality can be and is in fact interfered with by Jews. In fact, the capacity to interfered with that spiritual force is absolutely unrestricted. A Jew, though teshuvah,9 can change any decree against other Jews serially and generally. Purim is a good example. Jews were decreed, G‑d forbid, to be annihilated that year. Jews did teshuvah and the decree was abrogated. This principle is so important it bears restating. The destiny of the world, the blessings and the reverse decreed on Rosh HaShanah by Hashem can be affected by Jewish behavior.

As we have by now learned, the purpose of the descent of a neshomah into the body is to learn Torah and do mitzvos. More specifically, the work of the neshomah is to elevate its body and to refine its environment. A man needs to neutralize his Yetzer Hora and refine his physical environs. This is how Jews bring G‑dliness into the world and this is a sacred task. Before the sixth day, there was no man. Before there was man, there was no need for revealed G‑dliness and there was no pathway to bring it down. So what we are doing Rosh HaShanah is enormously important because it is the day on which the whole rest of the year’s spiritual potential is mapped out and how we Jews behave as a nation on Rosh HaShanah is absolutely connected to how the rest of the year develops.10 If Jews are good, we have rain and we have prosperity. If Jews are not good, if Jews fight, slander, steal and shame each other, if their yetzer hora is, G‑d forbid, triumphant, then we have bad years. It is an extraordinary exercise to view world history through the lens of Jewish behavior. The times of exploration, expansion and success and the times of darkness and geographic misery are directly attributable to Jewish avodah (service). If the avodah is strong, we have progressive years for everybody.