What is the proper frame of mind with which to approach the Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur?
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are both holidays that fit the Talmudic criteria to recite Hallel (Arakhin 10b); however, the joyous prayer is deemed inappropriate for the time of judgement. Rabbi Abahu relates, “The ministering angels said before the Holy One, Blessed be he, ‘Master of the universe! Why does Israel not sing before You on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?’ He said to them, ‘Is it possible that the King would sit on the throne of judgment, with the books of life and death open before Him, and Israel would sing?’”
This passage portrays the days as terrifyingly somber, but a TorahTutors student learned from the Mishna Berura (584 s.k. 1) of another side to the story: “Even though we are confident that we will be declared innocent, nevertheless, one has to feel fear and trembling because of the judgment – and through this, he will be remembered for good.”
Ironically, the Mishna Berura’s last line seems to suggest that by virtue of taking these Days of Awe seriously, we need not worry about them so much.
May all of our students, teachers, and friends be remembered and sealed for good this holiday season.
Gmar chatimah tovah!