In commenting on the verse, “Seek the L‑rd while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near,”1 our Rabbis note:2 “These are the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.” These days are commonly referred to as the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance.

This comment of our Sages needs to be clarified: “These are the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur” implies that Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are not part of the ten-day count.3

However, the beginning of the statement, “These are the ten days...” clearly indicates that the two days of Rosh HaShanah and the one day of Yom Kippur are indeed included in these ten days, inasmuch as there are only seven days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur thus possess aspects of penitence that are uniquely their own and are not the aspect of teshuvah, for which reason they are not included in these ten days. However, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur also possess aspects that are common to all the ten days, the aspect of teshuvah, thus causing them to be included within the Ten Days of Repentance.

Rosh HaShanah contains an added aspect: “The mitzvah of the day is the sounding of the shofar.”4 That is to say, not only does Rosh HaShanah contain characteristics that are exclusive to the theme and conception of Rosh HaShanah alone, and not only does Rosh HaShanah include shared features common to all the Ten Days of Repentance, but it also possesses its own mitzvah of the day” — sounding the shofar.

What is the relationship between the three aspects of Rosh HaShanah? How does one spiritually proceed from one Rosh HaShanah characteristic to another?

Clearly, the fundamental aspect of Rosh HaShanah precedes all else, for it is from this primary aspect that all other features of Rosh HaShanah evolve.

This is followed by the mitzvah of teshuvah. Since teshuvah transcends all other mitzvos (seeing as teshuvah is able to rectify one’s failure to perform all the other mitzvos), it follows that teshuvah precedes the mitzvah of the day — the sounding of the shofar.

But what exactly is the fundamental aspect of Rosh HaShanah? The Gemara explains5 that the fundamental aspect of Rosh HaShanah consists of crowning G‑d as our King. Until that is accomplished, all other aspects of Divine service cannot exist.

This is in keeping with the parable of a wise king who entered a country and the countrymen asked the king to provide them with laws by which to live by. Responded the king: “First accept my kingship and then I shall present you with my decrees.”6

It also follows that teshuvah — the purpose of which is to rectify any shortcomings in the performance of the King’s decrees — can also come about only after accepting G‑d’s Kingship.

In terms of man’s spiritual accomplishments and elevation from level to level, this order also applies:

G‑d’s commandments and decrees are a manifestation of His revealed will. Accordingly, abiding by them results in an attachment to G‑d’s revealed will.

Teshuvah, while superior to G‑d’s revealed will (as it is able to rectify one’s failing to perform this aspect of Divine Will), nevertheless also relates to Divine Will. This is so since repentance only applies to rectifying one’s failure to have properly performed the Divine Will — it does not apply, however, to that essential aspect of Divinity that entirely transcends the entire notion of will and desire.

Accepting G‑d’s reign and dominion, however, (i.e., crowning G‑d as our King) leads to a Jew’s attachment to a level of Divinity that eclipses all other spiritual levels it touches upon the essence of the Jew and serves to connect him to G‑d’s Essence.

This also indicates the significance of the Jewish people, since it is they who are able to attain an absolute degree of unification with G‑d, which in turn enables them to elicit from Him a desire to reign over the world as a whole and the Jewish people in particular.

All this is alluded to by the holiday’s name Rosh HaShanah, “Head of the Year,” rather than “Techilas HaShanah,” the “Beginning of the Year”:7

Rosh HaShanah is termed “head” — rather than “beginning” — because the head possesses the following qualities: a) It is far superior to and (thus) removed from all other parts of the body; b) The head contains and encompasses the life force that animates the rest of the body; c) The head constantly monitors and directs all other parts of the human being.

These three qualities are also found within Rosh HaShanah, the “Head of the Year”:

Just as the head is superior in quality to the rest of the body, so too is the essential aspect of Rosh HaShanah — acceptance of G‑d’s sovereignty and kingdom, a level of service that achieves total unification with G‑d Himself — superior to the spiritual service of the rest of the year.

Just as the head provides life to the rest of the body while retaining its loftiness, so does the teshuvah of Rosh HaShanah have a connection to mitzvos, while retaining its superiority to mitzvos and encompassing them all.

As well, the mitzvah of shofar and our good resolutions on Rosh HaShanah affect the performance of mitzvos the whole year through — exactly as the head directs all other aspects of the body.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1144-1146.