We learn why Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days, and that when people are coming to be judged Yisrael comes in first. It is important that we know the meaning of the blowing of the Shofar that arouses leniency and mercy.
Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the "Jewish New Year." Traditionally, it is also a time of judgment, when the Creator takes a reckoning of our deeds during the previous year. But according to Kabbalah, both these depictions of Rosh Hashanah are inaccurate. Kabbalah teaches that the Force we call God does not preside over a heavenly court, deciding who will be forgiven and who will be punished. And Rosh Hashanah actually occurs in the seventh month of the Hebrew Calendar, so it does not signify a new year.
Science offers us some insight into the true significance of Rosh Hashanah. A principle of physics states that for every action there is an equal reaction. Rosh Hashanah is also built upon this foundation - the universal law of cause and effect. Though we may not be aware of it, when we behave in a contemptuous, uncivil, or rude manner, we arouse negative forces. When we cheat, lie, steal, insult, embarrass, or harm other people, a negative energy force is brought into existence. These negative forces are the unseen cause behind all the things that just "happen" to go wrong in our lives, be it illness, emotional pain, or financial adversity.
Rosh Hashanah is our opportunity to confront the negative energy aroused through the wrongful acts we have committed during the preceding year. At this special time, the spiritual cycle of the universe is structured so that the consequences of our careless misdeeds, intolerant behavior, and hurtful words return to us. These repercussions of our own actions stand in judgment before us. The court of Cause and Effect stands in session.
Moreover, this self-confrontation is not exclusive to the children of Yisrael. According to the Zohar, the experience of cause and effect is shared by all mankind. Put in simple terms, Kabbalah teaches that reality is like a mirror. Look into a mirror and smile, and the image smiles back. If one curses at the mirror, the image curses back. When we perform a negative act in our world, the cosmic mirror - our universe - reflects that negative energy. The Creator never stands in judgment of us, and we are never required to stand in judgment in front of the Creator.
Crime and punishment
There is only one Force, one energy source for the entire cosmos, just as there is but one electrical force flowing through your home. This Force is good, positive, and infinitely compassionate. Consider this: Electricity enriches human life by providing power for an entire nation. But this same force can also be used destructively. Placing one's finger into a light socket will cause electrocution. But the nature of the electricity never changed, and it would be senseless to say that the electricity "punished" you.
In the same way, the Creator never punishes us. We ourselves have chosen to place our finger in the socket through wrongful conduct. We always have the free choice of how we react to life's challenges. Even when we know something is wrong, we sometimes choose to do it anyway. And when we know something is right, we may forsake it for a negative option. The choice is always ours.
Crimes and misdemeanors
Negative activity and sin can materialize in ways both large and small. Consider the sins of murder, evil speech, and adultery:
We can kill someone physically, or we may also kill someone emotionally and spiritually. We can assassinate a person's body, or we may also assassinate a person's character. We can destroy someone's relationships, or we may also ruin their livelihood. Kabbalah teaches that the sin of "spilling blood" is not limited to physical violence. Spilling blood can refer to the shame and embarrassment we may cause to others, forcing the blood to rush to their faces out of humiliation.
According to Kabbalah, any form of malicious speech - even about someone we have never met - is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit. Speech has tremendous powers. When we speak badly of others, we not only damage their lives - we also damage ourselves and even the entire world. At Rosh Hashanah, our damaging words come back to haunt us. Evil speech, therefore, is a no-win situation. According to the wisdom of the sages, people should be more concerned with what comes out of their mouths than what goes into their mouths.
The concept of adultery is not limited to extramarital affairs. One can also covet another person's business, children, or material possessions. Envy and adultery occur when we fail fully to appreciate all that we have. And this lack of appreciation occurs when we gain our possessions through egocentric, destructive behavior.
Requesting a pardon
Now that we understand that there are real repercussions associated with our negative behavior, we may be tempted to ask for a pardon, or seek exoneration through ignorance of the law of cause and effect. But ignorance of the law is no excuse, and natural laws of the universe cannot be violated without consequences. You cannot plead ignorance of the force of gravity while you are plunging a thousand feet toward the ground. However, it is also a spiritual law of the universe that when a person achieves a remarkable change in his or her own nature, the universe must respond and reflect that miraculous energy back to him. He can then use that energy to alter his destiny and deflect judgments. The first thing we must do in order to bring about change is to admit that we are guilty. Accept responsibility. Become accountable for our actions (that, perhaps, is the hardest thing to do). Then, with all our heart and soul, we make every attempt to change our ways during the time frame of Rosh Hashanah.
This internal change begins with a mighty and majestic blast of a horn!
The secret of the Shofar
Most people associate the blowing of the Shofar with tradition. It is viewed as ceremonial activity. A symbolic act of commemoration. However, symbolism and traditional rituals offer no practical benefit to our daily lives, according to the Kabbalist.
BECAUSE WE HAVE REMAINED IGNORANT AS TO THE TRUE PURPOSE OF THE SHOFAR, ITS EFFECT IN OUR LIVES, THROUGHOUT HISTORY, HAS BEEN NEGLIGIBLE. TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF PAIN AND SUFFERING ARE EVIDENCE OF THAT HARSH TRUTH. The Shofar's power can only be expressed when knowledge of its true purpose is instilled within our consciousness. Knowing why we sound the Shofar is the electrical current that turns it on. THE SOUND EMANATING FROM THE HORN OPERATES LIKE A SPIRITUAL LASER BEAM THAT DISSOLVES ALL THE BLOCKAGES OF NEGATIVE ENERGY THAT WE'VE CREATED. THE MYSTICAL SOUND ALSO ACTS AS A CLEANSING AGENT THAT PERMEATES EVERY CRACK AND CREVICE IN OUR BEING, REMOVING NEGATIVE RESIDUES AND PURIFYING OUR SOUL. ONCE THESE BLOCKAGES ARE REMOVED, THE JUDGMENTS HAVE LOST THEIR TARGETS. THE EVIDENCE IS DESTROYED. The "prosecuting attorney," the Accuser Satan, stands before the "court" - universal law of cause and effect - without a shred of evidence. Case dismissed! Here we ignite the sounds and secrets of the Shofar. The negative energy created by the sins of man is dissolved away and all judgments are annulled.