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By Larry Fine
Contrary to some opinions, Rosh Hashanah is not the day that G-d created the world, but rather it is the day on which He created man. This was on the sixth day from the beginning of the creation of the universe and world as we know it.
Man is actually the last in a six-day string of creations culminating with the creation of the first man Adam. Even though he was created last of all creations, in some small manner he has the ability to achieve even greater heights than the angels, as I am going to proceed to explain.
If we look into the creation, we see that in the beginning, after the creation of light and space, the mineral aspect of the world was created first, the ground, the water, the air. The next aspect of creation was the plant life, the grass, the herbs, and trees. After these came the animal life, including the birds and fishes. After all of this was in existence, man was created - the only of the creation that possessed the power of speech. He was created last to rule over the world and to use the world for his purposes and in doing so, to elevate the world in the service of G-d.
Although man may use the world and its products for his pleasure, man was not created with the purpose of eating, drinking and making merry. Man distinguishes himself from the beasts by using his intellect and privileged position in the world to make the world a better place. Making the world a better place does not necessarily mean another game-boy type of gadget but rather to take the physical and use it for the spiritual. As an example, when man uses the Internet to view pornography he has used the world for debased purpose and together with the Internet, he has sunk down into depravity. However when he uses the Internet as a medium to draw closer to G-d, through learning, then he elevates the physical world together with himself in fulfilling his divine role in the world.
Rosh Hashanah is that time of the year when we stop and consider our progress in fulfilling our divine role. How have we handled our obligations that G-d has given us? It is a time of introspection and reflection on our sum total action from the past twelve months. Have we been successful or have we failed? Have we used our world to achieve spirituality or have we become obsessed with materialism? Are we closer to G-d or further than we were last year?
Being human it is impossible that we should succeed in everything - there exists no mortal man who does only good and not sin. Therefore G-d in His goodness gives us the Ten Days of Return, the period starting with Rosh Hashanah and culminating with Yom Kippur that we repent for those actions, words or even thoughts which were sinful.
G-d being all wise and knowing knows where, how and when we sinned. Before Him there can be no concealment. He desires that we acknowledge our mistakes and, in doing so, dedicate ourselves to overcoming future failings. Although we can never be totally free of sin, we can raise the level to which we fall - from gross physical sin to a finer sin that is more of a spiritual nature, such as that of Moses' and his brother Aaron's sin that was so fine that most people cannot understand the sin involved.
Through G-d's ultimate goodness we can have our sins annulled and we can continue with a fresh new slate for the New Year. To those who choose to honestly identify their sins and repent in truth, G-d's forgiveness is granted, insuring them of a truly great beginning to the New Year. Let us all take the advantage that G-d has given and draw closer to him in this coming year.
from the September-October 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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