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Why do we say, "be inscribed and sealed for a good year"?

by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman

  

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The traditional blessing to be inscribed and sealed for good in the book of life follows the general paradigm of Rosh Hashanah being the Day of Judgment, thus the symbolism of the day entails different aspects of a court case. The Talmud1 states that there are "three books", three possible verdicts for this day: on Rosh Hashanah we are either inscribed in the book of life, the book of death, or the book of pending - which means our judgment is held in abeyance until the final judgment and sealing which transpires on Yom Kippur.2

The entire month of Elul which precedes Rosh Hashanah is intended to be used in preparation for the upcoming court case. Would anyone in “real” life approach an upcoming court case, where one’s very future would be decided, by not dedicating all his efforts to prepare the best defense he could?

Those who are wise use this time to ready their defense and to actually self judge themselves, thus mitigating greatly the need for Divine judgment on Rosh Hashanah. It is a time for deep introspection and commitment to implement changes in our lives. We are taught that repentance, intense prayer and acts of charity and kindness can change an evil decree. 

As in any court case the decision of innocent or guilty is followed by a short period before sentencing is announced. Similarly, although the judgment begins on Rosh Hashanah one (usually) has until Yom Kippur to secure a favorable verdict

Similar to the grant of appeal, we are taught that we actually have till Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot, to appeal to God, the Judge, and impress upon Him our sincere desire to change before the judgment is sealed.

Footnotes

  • 1. Rosh Hashana 16b
  • 2. It is interesting to note that the constellation for the month of Rosh Hashanah is Libra which is represented by scales of justice.

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Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » About

Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.