We come into this year’s Rosh Hashanah a little differently than in years past. Just how should we feel as we begin our tefillos?
With Rosh Hashanah inching closer, I’ve started my well-wishing phone calls to family and friends. So much to wish one another! First, there are the blessings for health, parnassah, and nachas. Wishes for hatzlacha and siyatta diShmaya to carry us through the coming year. Then, there’s the bracha for harchavas hada’as and menuchas hanefesh (how do we even translate that?). It’s the blessing of feeling at peace, of having tranquility of mind and spirit. When we have it, we’re alive. When it’s lacking, we feel dead inside. We could have so much going for us, but when there’s inner turmoil, life is devoid of joy. We’re in a state of constant unease. How can we merit feeling this peace of mind and spirit? On Rosh Hashanah, we learn the secret to attaining this quality that’s becoming rarer and more elusive with every passing day.
We come into Rosh Hashanah with so much on our minds. Where do we begin at all? There’s so much we want for ourselves, our loved ones, for klal Yisrael. On the day when Hashem determines what our coming year will look like, we can’t help but feel the trepidation of the unknown, of the months that lie ahead. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the year that we’re leaving behind, it’s how little we know of what will be, how little we know of what the next moment will bring. On the one hand, that’s a very frightening thought. So I have no control? On the other hand, it’s the most comforting thought of all—the knowledge that lies at the crux of the menuchas hanefesh we desperately seek. And this is the essence of Rosh Hashanah. On the first day of our New Year, we coronate Hakadosh Baruch Hu as our King. When we do so, with trumpets blowing and all, we’re confirming—most importantly to ourselves—that He is the all-knowing Ruler, the One who leads us with the mercy of a Father, the wisdom of an Almighty G-d. And who if not He knows what is good for us?
So yes, our list of requests may be long. Oh, how we want a shidduch for this one, a child for that one, nachas from the family, a refuah for the sick, a steady flow of parnassah, a more connected marriage. Oh, how much we want. All of these wants are real, and Hashem wants to hear them from us too. But for everything we want, there’s one answer: He is the King. When we internalize this message, when we realize in Whose hands we are, no matter what the outcome will be, we will feel comforted. We will have the menuchas hanefesh that we crave. The outcome might not appear exactly the way we envisioned it, and that may be very painful for us, but at the same time, we will feel at peace in the knowledge that we are embraced by a loving Father, held by the King of Kings.
Rosh Hashanah (and every Yom Tov and Shabbos) is not a day on which we express specific personal requests. Instead, we recite the passages Chazal have composed for us in the machzor—words that reiterate the essence of the day, of malchiyos, zichronos, and shofros. In all of these stanzas, we have the opportunity to remind ourselves of the great G-d before Whom we stand, to internalize how powerful and yet merciful and caring of a Father he is. When we hear the shofar’s call, we can use this as a time to beg Hashem to help us feel His kingship now and always. Please, help me always know and feel that I’m in Your embrace, that You’re taking care of me. Help me live with this clarity all year long. Rosh Hashanah is the time to let the reality seep in—that we have a Father who cares for us more than we can ever imagine.
The more we let this knowledge seep in, the more comforted we come away from our prayers. No, we don’t know what the New Year will look like. Only one G-d knows the answer to that. But what we do know is that we are the beloved children of this great King, beloved like an only child, and wherever this year will take us, we will be at peace, basking in His love. May all of us be zocheh to feel this menuchas hanefesh, along with all other brachos, this coming year. And may this be the year of our long-awaited Geulah, when we will feel the sheer, unadulterated joy of reveling in Hashem’s embrace, forever.