Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashanah. The Talmud teaches that during the 10 days between the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur God judges us for our actions in the last year. This is the home stretch to redeem one’s self for if one is judged to not have found favor with God, death awaits them. The liturgy and ancient writing clearly sees this as God holding the people in jeopardy, deciding their fate. We actually ask “who will live and who will die?” The image of God is troubling. On the one hand God is a loving parent, ready to forgive if we truly make repentance, but the other side is a vindictive God that will rain down pain and sorrow for not living up to a standard.
Most of us don't believe this anymore. The words do not ring true. Death and Life are not the results of how well we live up to the mitzvot, the commandments. But that does not mean we can't learn something from this metaphor. The Torah is designed to guide us to build a just community. The yearly reminder to take stock of what we have done over the last year is a worthy audit to do. Perhaps over the next 10 days we can find one way that we can make the world a nicer place for our family, friends, and community. Who knows? Perhaps that is more what the ancients were hoping for, not frightened people acting good for fear of wrath of God, but that we would find a window of time to truly think about whom we are and how we walk in this world. And isn’t that a better way to spend your time?