Rosh HaShanah – The Beginning of Creation

Rosh Hashanah 5578

Zeh HaYom Techilat Ma’asecha

By The Holy Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch

Translated by Rabbi Shimon Markel

The Zichronot prayer on Rosh HaShanah states,[1] “This day is the beginning of Your works, a remembrance to the first day.”  Now, we must understand why it is that Rosh HaShanah is called by the term “the beginning of Your works, a remembrance to the first day,” when in fact every year there is a renewal of vitality.  This is a renewal of the vitality of the souls as is stated,[2] “They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness,” wherein there is a renewal of the two aspects of faith.  Additionally, there is a renewal of the Torah and the creation from Cause to effect as is stated that “they are three knots,” and as explained in previous discourses at length.

We must also understand the statement of the sages of blessed memory regarding the verse,[3] “Seek Hashem while He may be found, call upon Him when He is near,” about which they said, [4] “This refers to the ten days of repentance.”  However, is there not a Heavenly voice which calls out daily,[5] “Return, backsliding children etc?”

To understand the above we must preface with an explanation of the verse,[6] “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day when it is past.”  The explanation of this matter is that what occurs in a thousand years below is merely like a single day Above.  For, the[7] “six thousand years of the existence of this world” correspond only to six days Above in G-dliness.  In other words, the first millennium of creation is from the attribute of Chessed-kindness of the Holy One blessed is He, as the sages stated,[8] “The generation of Enoch were sustained by the kindness of the Holy One blessed is He, for although they were idolaters He bestowed upon them every manner of goodness.”  This is because the first millennium is from the attribute of Chessed-kindness.  Therefore, everything that is included in this first millennium, including past, present and future, are Above all included in a single day, which corresponds to the attribute of Chessed-kindness.

This may be understood by means of analogy, by comparing this to thought and speech.  That is to say, that which one can think in a single glance of his mind’s eyes may take considerable time to express in speech.  For instance, if one desires to build a building, he contemplates the manner in which he will build the roof, and the manner in which he will design the windows.  Now, when he considers in his thoughts the manner in which he will build the roof, he pictures this with a single glance.  However, when he must express this in speech there will be a multitude of particular details.

Similarly, it is understood that Above in G-dliness the entire millennium of Chessed-kindness is like a single glance of thought.  The same is true of the attribute of Gevurah-judgment, that is, the aspect of “HaShem is king, was king and will be king,” are all included in a single glance etc.

These are called by the names, Havayeh and Elokim.  That is, the aspect of thought is called Havayeh while speech refers to the aspect of Elokim.  For, speech is the aspect of the power of the actor within the acted upon, (Koach HaPo’el B’nifal) like the verse,[9] “by the word of Hashem the heavens were made.”  Everything that is within the aspect of Elokim, is within the parameters of ASha”N (Olam-world, Shanah-year, Nefesh-soul).  Olam-world refers to the being of the thing itself, Nefesh-soul refers to the vitality of the thing, and Shanah-year refers to the time span of its existence.  In the name Havayeh however, these are all contained in a single glance of thought.

Now, this thought is called by the term Machshava Meyuchedet – a specific thought.  This is like the aforementioned analogy of the building, wherein there is a specific thought for the roof, and there is a specific thought for the windows.  Similarly Above in G-dliness, there are six permutations of the name Havayeh which correspond to the six millennia of the world.

There is also a general thought which includes all six specific thoughts as one, just as in the analogy of the building there is a general thought which includes all of the specifics of the roof and windows as one.  That is the thought of his desire to build this particular building.  Likewise, Above in G-dliness there is a general thought which includes all of the specifics, as it states,[10] “He gazes and sees until the end of all generations with a single glance.”  In other words, from the beginning of the first millennium of Chessed-kindness until the end of the sixth millennium of Yesod-foundation, are all included in this thought with a single glance.

This all inclusive thought is called by the term Sovev HaKlalli – the general encompassing light, while the thought which includes each millennium is called by the term Sovev HaPrati – the specific encompassing light.  This thought, however, includes all six millennia and is therefore called the general encompassing light.

Now, according to the above, the difference between the renewal that takes place daily and the renewal of Rosh HaShanah is that the daily renewal is a specific renewal from the general source.  In other words, there are three hundred and sixty five days in the year, and each day there is a renewal of vitality from the general vitality that is drawn forth on the Rosh HaShanah of that year, which includes the vitality for the entire year.  The year is then divided into twelve months (within which there is a specific renewal), and the months are divided into thirty days (within which there is a more specific renewal).  Similarly the days themselves are divided into twenty four hours, twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night.  The twelve hours of day correspond to the twelve permutations of Havayeh and the twelve hours of night correspond to the twelve permutations of Adonay (each of which represent a specific renewal of vitality from their general source).

This being the case, even the yearly renewal is only a specific renewal of one year out of a thousand years, just as one day is only a specific renewal from the general whole of the year.  If so, then even the renewal of Rosh HaShanah is only a specific renewal from the general whole which includes the millennium in its entirety.  Why then is it called “the beginning of Your works, a remembrance to the first day” if it is not a complete renewal?  Even if one were to answer that this renewal is from the general thought which includes all six millennia, this would still not be a completely new renewal.

Rather, the explanation of the matter is that the renewal of Rosh HaShanah is from G-d’s Essence which even transcends being called by the term Sovev HaKlalli – a general encompassing light.  This may be understood by the well known fact that Rosh HaShanah is known as Yom HaDin – The Day of Judgment.  This accords with what is explained in Pri Etz Chaim[11] that the first day of Rosh HaShanah is a day of Dina Kashia – Harsh Judgments.  Now, at first glance this is not understood, for is it not the case that Rosh HaShanah is the aspect of Chessed-kindness?  This is as written[12] that man’s income and sustenance for the entire year are determined and apportioned for him on Rosh HaShanah, and that this decision applies to how much he will earn for the entire year.  The same is true with one’s spiritual sustenance, as it states,[13] “An ordinance for the G-d of Yaakov,” that is to say, there is a decree of how much G-dliness will be drawn for Yaakov.

Now, although the sages of blessed memory stated that[14] “Man is judged every day,” as it states,[15] “They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness,” this judgment of each day only applies to how the physical kindness and sustenance will manifest, and whether it will be obtained easily or with difficulty.  These are termed Chayei Tza’ar – a life of suffering, or Chayei Revach – a life of profit. However, in relation to the sustenance that has been apportioned to him on Rosh Hashanah, there can be no addition or subtraction from this, regardless of whether he toils greatly, and man can only bring change in this through a novel renewal of his deeds.  The same is understood in regard to one’s spiritual sustenance. That is to say, the G-dliness that will be drawn forth to him is apportioned on Rosh HaShanah. However, the manner in which it can manifest, whether in the mind, heart or only in action alone, and additionally the intermediary means by which it will be drawn forth, these are determined on a daily basis.

The explanation of the matter is that everything that a person grasps through intellectual contemplation and explanations that bring close to one’s mind the manner in which G-d creates and vitalizes the world from nothing to something (Yesh MeAyin), this grasp has no comparison whatsoever to the actual creation of something from nothing.  These explanations are only necessary due to the fact that the G-dly soul is garbed within the natural soul which is produced by one’s father and mother, as stated,[16] “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  However, the G-dly soul itself has no need for these explanations whatsoever, for the truth of creation from nothing to something is imbedded in the soul, as it truly is.

Now, these explanations are called by the term Memutza-intermediary, for they are the aspect of garments corresponding to the aspect of the intermediary Nogah garment.  This is similar to the explanation of the verse,[17] “For the blood is the soul.”  That is to say, the soul itself is spiritual while the body is physical, and in order that the body be vitalized by the soul it is necessary for there to be this intermediary of blood.  The food that a person consumes is digested, and the choice elements of the food are converted to blood while the dross is excreted, and the blood is the intermediary within which the life force of the soul is manifest.  Through this analogy it is understood that it is the same way with the garment of Nogah which is the intermediary through which one may grasp and become aroused towards G-dliness.

This is similarly the case with the heartfelt arousal of love and awe of HaShem, which have no comparison or grasp in the true essence of G-dliness but are only the intermediaries through which G-dliness is grasped in this world.  Likewise, with the fulfillment of the Mitzvot in action, like the Mitzvah of the Tallit made of physical wool, or the Mitzvah of Tefillin from physical parchment.  They are intermediaries through which the G-dliness is manifest in this world.  It is regarding these intermediaries that one is judged on a daily basis.  In other words, on Rosh HaShanah the judgment relates to how much G-dliness will be apportioned to be drawn forth to that person during the year, but the manner and intermediary through which it will be drawn forth is determined on a daily basis.  It is regarding this that the sages of blessed memory stated, “Man is judged every day.”

It is for this reason that one day is not similar to the next.  On one day a person may be aroused towards G-dliness in both his mind and his heart, the next day he may be aroused only in his heart but not in his intellect, and at times he may be aroused neither in mind or heart, but only with the subjugation that relates to action alone.  This is dependent upon the judgment which is determined Above (on a daily basis).

This being the case, Rosh Hashanah itself is an aspect of Chessed-kindness, and it is therefore not understood why it is called the “Day of Judgment.”  Rather, the explanation of this matter is that Rosh HaShanah is an aspect of ascension (Ha’Ala’ah), and as such is called “Yom HaZikaron – The Day of Remembrance.”  This is as stated,[18] “Who is not counted on this day?” That is to say, the vitality of all physical creations, inanimate, plant life, animals and humans, including the life force of the seventy ministers (angels) of the nations and all of Torah and Mitzvot are in an aspect of ascension on Rosh HaShanah.  This ascension is to His very Essence, and it is for this reason that it is called “Yom HaDin – The Day of Judgment.”  For, at this stage it is not yet known how or what will be drawn forth from His Essence.  The Chessed – kindness relates to the drawing forth from His Essence, for in truth there is subsequently drawn forth vitality to all creations, as it states,[19] “He apportions life to all the living,” and as the sages stated, “the sustenance of man is apportioned to him on Rosh HaShanah,” both one’s spiritual sustenance and physical sustenance as discussed above.

From this we may understand the answer to the aforementioned question.  That is, because the ascension of Rosh HaShanah is to the Essence of G-d Himself, therefore the issuance of vitality is also from this very same source to which there was ascension.  As such, the renewal of Rosh HaShanah is truly a novel and essential renewal, and it is for this reason that it states, “This day is the beginning of Your works, a remembrance to the first day.” In other words, just as the first day was from His Essence, so every Rosh Hashanah is a renewal from His Essence (and not just from the general encompassing thought).  This will suffice those of understanding.

We must now understand the difference between repentance (Teshuvah) throughout the year, wherein the Heavenly voice proclaims, “Return, backsliding children,” and the repentance of the ten days of repentance (Aseret Yemei HaTeshuvah) about which the verse states, “Seek Hashem while He may be found, call upon Him when He is near.”  To grasp this it must be understood that there are two aspects called, Ohr Pnimi-pervading lights, and Ohr Makif-encompassing lights.  In the terminology of Kabbalah and the Zohar these are known by the terms, “Memaleh Kol Almin – He pervades all worlds” and “Sovev Kol Almin – He encompasses (or transcends) all worlds.”

Throughout the year one must ascend from level to level starting with pervading lights, and only subsequently arriving at the encompassing lights.  This may be further understood by what is known regarding the two types of love of G-d known as “Ahavat Olam – eternal love”[20] and “Ahavah Rabba – great love.”  Ahavat Olam – eternal love, is an aspect of pervading lights, in that the love becomes settled within the vessel of the mind and heart.  This love is what is referred to in the Shema recital as “you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.”  This type of love becomes roused through Hitbonenut contemplative meditation in how G-d pervades all worlds, which refers to the aspects of G-dliness that manifest within the creatures to enliven them.

Ahavah Rabba – great love, on the other hand, is the love that transcends the limited capacities of the mind and heart.  This love is aroused through contemplative Hitbonenut meditation in how G-d so completely transcends the worlds.  This love arouses a great yearning in one’s heart to cleave to Him, yet it does not become settled within the heart, for it is a radiance from the encompassing lights.  Now, it is necessary that one ascend in gradation from level to level, starting with the drawing forth of the pervading lights, and only subsequently the encompassing lights.  For, it is impossible to reach the level of Ahava Rabba – great love, which is the level in the Shema prayer referred to as loving G-d with “all your being,” except through first accomplishing the levels of “with all your heart and all your soul.”

The same is true is in regard to the matter of Torah and Mitzvot (commandments).  For, as known, the Torah is referred to as the sustenance of the soul, as it states,[21] “Your Torah is in my innards.”  Just as when one consumes food it enters his body and is converted to actual vitality, even though it is not known how exactly the food enlivens, it is nevertheless certain that when one eats he is vitalized by this.  In the same way regarding the Torah it is written,[22] “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has enlivened me.”  That is, through the study of Torah the soul is sustained.  In other words, through contemplation in G-dliness one is aroused, whether in their heart or in action, to desist from the negative commandments as is written,[23] “When you lie down it shall watch over you,” as well as being aroused in a strengthening in the fulfillment of the positive commandments.  In contrast, if he is lazy in regard to his Torah study and contemplation, then he will not be aroused in the same way, whereas if he does desire to toil in Torah, then the Torah that he studies actually strengthens him and gives him vitality, “for Your word has enlivened me.”  It is for this reason that Torah is called sustenance, and corresponds therefore to the pervading lights.

The Mitzvot (commandments) in contrast, are called Levushim – garments, and a garment is an aspect of something that encompasses and is not internal.  For, the Mitzvot do not give the same benefit to him, to enliven him in the same way that Torah does.  Moreover, although it is indeed written,[24] “These are the commandments… which if man shall do, he shall live by them,” this refers to the future to come, but not in the current state.  Therefore, Torah and Mitzvot must likewise be performed in gradation, first Torah study, and subsequently the fulfillment of the commandments.

In the same manner we may understand the repentance that occurs throughout the year, which is also in gradation.  For, there are two aspects in repentance.  There is Teshuvah TaTa’a – lower repentance, and there is Teshuvah Ila’ah – Upper Repentance.  The lower repentance is according to the dictates of one’s intellect and reasoning, that is, he is one who takes stock of his deeds and considers the wastefulness of his days, through which he is caused to be broken and contrite of heart.  Through this he may subsequently reach the upper repentance, which transcends intellect and reason as is known.

In contrast, regarding the ten days of repentance it states, “Seek Hashem while He may be found, call upon Him when He is near.”  That is to say, the person becomes near to Hashem even without the prerequisite arousal from below.  The difference in outcome is that because throughout the year the arousal from above is dependent upon the arousal from below, therefore a person is limited in his capacity and can only achieve arousal from the aspect of G-d which transcends yet relates to the worlds,[25] “He who is exalted above the days of the world,” as discussed elsewhere.  In contrast, because the arousal of Rosh HaShanah and the ten days of repentance is from Above and comes of its own accord, it comes from a level that cannot be reached via arousal from below, which is HaShem’s Essential transcendence.  This is as stated,[26] “He will return and have compassion on us, He will subdue our iniquities,” about which the Zohar comments,[27] “From where will He return? From His exalted and concealed place.”

A further proof for this is that during the ten days of repentance the aspect of the inner essence of the heart of every Jew is aroused towards HaShem, as it states,[28] “To You my heart has said, ‘Seek my innerness,[29] Your innerness my heart shall seek,” which is not the case throughout the rest of the year.  This is because during the ten days of repentance the inner essence of HaShem is revealed, and therefore below, the inner essence of a Jew is also aroused.

Now, although there is also a recital of confessional prayers during this time, this is only in order to prepare the receptacle so that this revelation shall be retained.  Nevertheless, the revelation itself comes of its own accord.  Similarly, while it is true that the Heavenly voice makes its proclamation from Above on a daily basis, “return, backsliding children,” this is only an aspect of arousal, not a revelation.  This is not the case with the ten days of repentance, as it states,[30] “Return us to You, Hashem” from Above, and then automatically (the verse continues) “and we shall return,” as is known.  This will suffice those of understanding.


[1] See Rosh HaShanah Musaf Prayer, Zichronot section.

[2] Lamentations 3:23

[3] Isaiah 55:6

[4] Talmud Bavli, Rosh Hashanah 18a

[5] Jeremiah 3:14 – 3:22;  Zohar Naso 226a

[6] Psalms 90:4

[7] Talmud Bavli, Rosh Hashana 31a

[8] Genesis 4:26; Rambambeginning of Hilchot Avodat Kochavim

[9] Psalms 33:6

[10] Talmud Bavli, Rosh HaShanah 18a

[11] Pri Etz Chaim,Shaar Rosh Hashana, Ch. 1

[12] Talmud Bavli, Beitza 16a; Rosh HaShanah 16a

[13] Psalms 81:5

[14] Talmud Bavli, Beitza 16a; Rosh HaShanah 16a

[15] Lamentations 3:23

[16] Psalms 51:7

[17] Deuteronomy 12:23

[18] Zichronot blessings of Rosh HaShanah

[19] V’Kol MaAminim prayer of Rosh HaShanah

[20] While the word Olam in the verse is translated as “eternal” it also means “worldly” in that it is related to how G-d permeates all worlds, as is now explained.

[21] Psalms 40:9; Tanya Ch. 5

[22] Psalms 119:50

[23] Proverbs 6:22

[24] Leviticus 27:34; 18:5

[25] See daily prayers, blessing of Shma

[26] Micah 7:19

[27] Zohar VaYikra 16a

[28] Psalms 27:8; It is noteworthy that this psalms is recited daily throughout the month of Elul and the days of repentance.

[29] The word used for face is Panay which can also translate as innerness.

[30] Lamentations 5:21

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