The time before Rosh Hashanah is a period of intensive soul searching with much advice and guidance as to what this entails. It is important to take advantage of this time, for on Rosh Hashanah we receive our allocation of spiritual and physical resources for the coming year (both individually and collectively). The great CEO (Chief Executive Officer) in the sky gives each one of us a budget of “lights” based on our past performance, and our proposals for the coming year.

We should come to Rosh Hashanah with a proposal in hand

In general, at least from the perspective of Chassidut, the main work for this time (as opposed to the more intensive repentance period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) is to formulate our goals, visions, and resolutions for the coming year. We should come to Rosh Hashanah with a proposal in hand. It is as if we are saying, “Master and Creator, it is worth investing in my life, because this is what I’m going to accomplish for You this year. The ROI (Return on Investment) is unquestionably worth your while. This is the contribution I intend to make towards Your global project of rectifying the world. I’m going to improve and develop my individual and personal space in the following ways (XYZ), and I’m going to contribute to the Jewish people and the planet in the following ways (XYZ). A small investment of blessings on your part will pay off in a bounty of service and direction on my part. You will not regret your venture.”

In order to assist us with this important work, we are told that G‑d leaves his fortified, bureaucratically protected palace, and is available in the field. Kind of like during the holiday of Sukkot when the President of Israel has an open house, and anyone can approach and have a moment of consultation with the Head of State. Any other time of year, a person is screened by many layers of bureaucracy.

However, it’s not only that G‑d is more accessible to us, says Rabbi Tsadok of Lublin, the reverse is also true. We are also more accessible to our Creator, in the sense that our souls and psyches are more receptive to the flow of communication emanating from Above.

He explains as follows: Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of G‑d’s vision of perfection for the universe and for each of its individual inhabitants. And each year at this time, He reformulates a new, mini-vision of the highest that is possible for us this coming year. And yet, according to Kabbalah, our original Genesis did not happen smoothly. There were actually seven universes created and destroyed before our own. These shattered worlds were the deliberate means by which G‑d fashioned the raw materials from which our world was designed. According to Kabbalah, we are the resurrected shards of these fallen worlds. And so, says Rabbi Tsadok, this entire cycle repeats itself each year in Elul (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah). G‑d is again forging raw materials for the new vision that will be born for us this coming year.

The more thoughtful the vision, the more likely it is to accurately reflect the Creator's vision

This creative churning that takes place within Divinity during this time is intimately sensed by our souls down here below. We are given hints by G‑d regarding what we should pray for, both in a positive and negative sense, by awakening in us specific yearnings and fears. Rabbi Tsadok instructs us to pay careful attention to the stream of thoughts, concerns and longings that pass through our hearts and minds at this time. In this month, they reflect G‑d’s whisperings and messages to our soul much more than usual.

The work of Rosh Hashanah preparation, says Rabbi Tsadok, is to take these Heavenly hints and weave them into a prayer vision for the coming year that we verbalize through prayer on Rosh Hashanah. It should not only express our longings, says Rabbi Tsadok, but should also include the positive counterparts to our fears. Especially during the pre-New Year period, G‑d may communicate what He wants us to pray for by causing fears to arise within us. This is actually an indicator of He wants us to pray for - the positive antidote to that specific trouble. For example, a fear of financial collapse would signal that G‑d wants us to pray specifically for a prosperous year. A fear of illness means that we should pray for a year of health, etc.

And this is the purpose of this time: to create a list of prayers and resolutions that reflect our specific hopes for ourselves, our loved ones, our people, the Holy Land, and planet this coming year. The more thoughtful the vision, the more likely it is to accurately reflect the Creator’s vision and the more powerful an impact it will have on our year.

So I want to bless us, as individuals and a community, that we open our hearts and our minds to G‑d’s communications with us and that we catch His hints and turn them into holy prayers that pierce the firmaments and sweeten the harsh decrees at their root. May the combined power of our prayers and visions transform our lives in ways that are only positive. And may they create a vessel of vision and yearning that is great enough to embrace our individual and collective destinies, and pull redemption into the world now.