The High Holidays present us with a paradox. On the one hand, we stand before the heavenly court in judgment, unsure of our verdict, anxious about our fate for the coming year. On the other hand, we celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the day before Yom Kippur with joyous feasting in a festive atmosphere. How do we reconcile this paradox?
The traditional answer is that we, the Jewish People, are confident that God will have mercy on us and rule leniently in our case, as He promised our forefathers He would. Therefore, we can rejoice even as we are judged.
I’d like to offer another way of reconciling our paradoxical situation. Although we know that we are being judged and that we face the possibility of being found guilty, at the moment we are still considered innocent. As long as we still have the possibility of acquittal, we can enjoy our freedom and celebrate.
Often, in life, there are challenges and obstacles that loom in our future that we may one day have to confront. Some of these challenges will definitely confront us, such as old age and death, and others may never actually come to pass. However, if we spend our time focusing on these future events, we will definitely feel sad, anxious, and depressed now. What a waste, to worry and destroy ourselves for something that might not even happen! Why not be happy with our current situation and worry about the future when, and if, it actually happens?
This is the message of the High Holiday paradox. We can rejoice and celebrate, even though we know that we might be judged unfavorably in the future. God is telling us to not spend our days worrying about an uncertain future, but to live every moment of our present in joy and happiness, while we pray for forgiveness and mercy.
May Hashem judge us mercifully and grant us forgiveness, and may He bless us all with health, happiness, and success, and seal us in the book of life.