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Conception Of The Year

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 21/9/2019

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Conception Of The Year

Why is it that on Rosh Hashana we are judged for the entire year?[1]


When a child is being conceived, his entire genetic make-up is being put in place. After this point he is locked into his physical genetic coding.[2] Similarly, in a court case, it is easier to be exonerated during the case rather than having the verdict changed afterwards.


Rosh Hashana is the conception of the year and as the Gemara states one’s sustenance is set from Rosh Hashana.[3] So, on Rosh Hashana we are judged for the entire year,[4] since it is the point of conception. With this we can explain טוב אחרית דבר מראשיתו[5]- a good end is dependent on its beginning.


To what can this be compared? To one who has a cut in his foot while another has a cut in his head. It is obviously more severe in the head. This is why people are very careful with how they behave on ראש השנה as it is the head.[6]


There was a child who once caught a cold and died five days later. The people were in shock that a child could die from a cold in five days. R’ Chaim Shmulevitz, however, had a different take as he said that the child didn’t catch a cold five days ago rather he caught the cold on Rosh Hashana.[7]


The Pasuk says מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה; from the beginning of the year until year’s end.[8] מרשית is composed of the same letters as מתשרי, meaning from Rosh Hashana which is the beginning of the year, as everything until אחרית שנה is from there.


Upon the death of R’ Reuven Bauman, who swam out into the ocean in Virginia to rescue a student and then drowned in July 2019, R’ Chaim Kanievsky commented, “Last Rosh Hashana it was decided that Reuven’s time was up.[9] But Hashem gave Reuven the zechus not just to move on…but to make his last act a tremendous Mitzva.”
R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance. 

[1] The Mishna (Rosh Hashana 16a) states כל באי עולם עוברין לפניו כבני מרון; on Rosh Hashana all who come to the world pass before Him like בני מרון. This is compared to מעשר בהמה (Rosh Hashana 18a, Rashi s.v. בראש השנה). Just as with מעשר בהמה the animal is marked but he walks around unaware so too people on Rosh Hashana are marked for life, death etc. yet they walk about freely and happily unaware of what the future holds.    

[2] It is interesting that the word תחלה; beginning, is rooted in חל- when things take effect.

[3] Beitza 16a

[4] The Mishna Brura (591:14) says we can be judged for many years from one Rosh Hashana.

[5] Koheles 7:8

[6] We need to make the beginning strong since it affects the future. We see this by Yaakov- whose children were all Tzadikim- where it says כחי וראשית עוני; my strength and initial vigor (Breishis 49:3). Similarly, a baby learns the Torah in the mothers stomach (Nida 30b)- in order to make the beginning strong (Siduro Shel Shabbos, Devarim Achadim).

[7] In this way we can translateתשורי מראש אמנה  (Shir Hashirim 4:8)- believe that everything is sourced from the beginning of Tishrei (Rosh Hashana).

[8] Devarim 11:12

[9] This idea that when an occurrence happens during the year it is from Rosh Hashana is hinted to in תקעו בחדש שופר בכסה- which refers to Rosh Hashana (Beitza 16a)- as בכסה is related to כסוי; to cover because everything is contained within Rosh Hashana.

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