Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur

For the week ending 20 September 2014 / 25 Elul 5774

Rosh Hashanah - Life in the Balance

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Liana

Dear Rabbi,

I see the astrological sign for Tishrei is Libra. Would you please explain the significance of this and if it has anything to do with the month itself? Thanks.

Dear Liana,

You are correct, and Libra in Hebrew is “moznayim” which mean balancing scales, and it has everything to do with the fact that the judgment of individuals, countries and the entire world is in the balance during this month Tishrei in which occurs Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Talmud teaches and Rambam states that every person has both merits and transgressions. If one’s merits are greater, he is considered righteous – a tzaddik. If his sins are greater, he is considered wicked – a rasha. If they are equal, he is in the middle – a beinoni.

The same is true for a country or people. If the collective merits of its members are greater, it is considered meritorious; if the collective misdeeds are greater, it is considered wicked; if they are half-half the country’s fate is in the balance. The same is also true for the entire world.

If a person, county or the world is deemed to be righteous, G-d decrees life and abundance for them. If they are deemed to be wicked, G-d decrees suffering or even destruction upon them. For an individual, this is as in the verse, “I have smitten you with chastisement because of the enormity of your sins” (Jer. 30:14). Regarding a people or nation the verse states, “Since the outcry of sin from Sodom and Amorah has become great, I will wreak destruction upon them” (Gen. 18:20). Similarly, in the generation of the Flood, when “G-d saw that the evil of mankind was great” (Gen. 6:5), He inundated the entire world.

Of course, this judgment is not only quantitative, but also qualitative. Therefore, there are some individual acts whose merit is much weightier than many sins. Conversely, there are individual sins that outweigh many good deeds. In this way, the judgment is very similar to the scales where not only the number of objects in each scale affects the balance, but also the relative weight of each object. The balance is dependent solely upon the judgment of G-d who is all-knowing and only He can determine the relative values of merit and sin.

Therefore, each person should think during the entire year, and particularly during the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as if he, his country and people, and the entire world are partially meritorious and partially guilty and that the judgment of all is hanging in the balance. If he commits one sin, he is capable of tipping the scale of transgression for himself and others, causing their destruction and his. Likewise, the performance of just one mitzvah can tip the scale of merit for himself and the entire world, bringing salvation and deliverance for all!

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