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Yisrael Rutman

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year because it is the single most important day of the entire year

Monday, September 18, 2017

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R osh Hashanah literally means “the head of the year.” If it meant the beginning of the year, it would be “Techilas Hashanah,” and if it meant new year, it would be called “Shanah Chadashah.”

Why is Yom Hadin (The Day of Judgment) called the head of the year?

Keep Your Head

The head is the most important part of the body. A person can lose an arm or leg and still go on living; but losing a head is a lot more serious.

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year because it is the single most important day of the entire year. What we do on Rosh Hashanah — our tefillos, hearing shofar, and how we treat one another — determines what kind of year we will have. If we show Hashem that we want to fulfill His mitzvos, we can earn a good, sweet year because Hashem wants to give us the opportunity to follow through on all those things. That’s what it means to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Rosh also refers to Hashem. He is the rosh, or head, of the entire universe. (The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, pg. 203) This means that He is the First, that He existed before anything else, and created everything else.

Middle Ground

Judaism views the world as a hierarchy, a top-to-bottom structure, with Hashem at the top. Below Him are the malachim, Klal Yisrael, the other nations, animals, plants, and the earth.

Interestingly, human beings are in the middle, between the heavens above and the earth below. We ourselves are composed of Heavenly stuff (neshamah) and earthly stuff (guf). We combine the spiritual and physical, and through our Torah and mitzvos we bring down the blessings of life. (Kli Yakar, Haazinu)

Desert Storm

Within the Jewish people there is also a hierarchy. The king is at the top, then the Kohein Gadol, Sanhedrin, Judges, Torah scholars, and the unlearned.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the father of all the prophets, who received the Torah for Klal Yisrael and led them out of Mitzrayim and through the wilderness for 40 years.


But as great as he was, the people weren’t always respectful of his authority. They complained about lack of water, they complained about the mahn, and some blamed their troubles (or what they thought were their troubles) on Moshe, even though he was only following Hashem’s commands.

Korach took matters a dangerous step further. He led a revolt against Moshe Rabbeinu, claiming that he had shown favoritism by appointing his brother Aharon to be Kohein Gadol, and that he was making up mitzvos Hashem hadn’t commanded.

To top it off, Korach challenged the hierarchy. He claimed that all the people had heard the voice of Hashem at Sinai and they too were holy, like Moshe. They were as good as Moshe, so why should he be at the top, instead of any one of them?

This challenge to the authority of their leaders, whom Hashem had chosen, was so serious that Korach and his followers were punished by being swallowed up by the earth. It was a fitting punishment, since the earth is at the bottom of the ladder of creation. They were cast out of the entire scheme of things, lower than the lowest level of creation. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 678)

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