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Rosh Hashanah

Those are the Questions?

By Rabbi Label Lam

1-Did you do business honestly? 2-Did you fix times for Torah? 3-Were you involved with being fruitful and multiplying? 4-Were you anxiously anticipating the redemption? 5-Were you intellectually employed in pursuit of wisdom and understanding a thing within a thing? 6-Did you have “Fear of Heaven”? (Tractate Shabbos 31A)

These are six questions, the Talmud tells us we are all to face after 120 years. The Maharal explains that these six questions are an initial entrance exam to discover whether we were dominated by the material or the spiritual aspect of our personalities. Were we in fact physical creatures having an occasional spiritual experience or were we spiritual beings in physical forms? He gives a thumbnail description of what is actually being determined by each of the questions as they climb in order of importance. For Example:

1-Honesty in Business: Was the person a giver or a taker. Was the animal part of us which is selfish and feels separate the mover and shaker of our lives? Or was the transcendent and caring part under control? Were we panicked and greedy in our relationships or were we capable of being calm and generous.

2-Fixing times for Torah: Was the person materially-oriented or guided by principle? Fixing times for Torah implies mastery over the clock and the calendar. Being haphazard in learning is to drift and risk living reactively to the matter and mood of the moment.

3-Being fruitful and multiplying: Was the person an isolate-individualist or fundamentally communal? Did we live just for ourselves, indulgent our needs and wants or did we understand our mission here to be for the sake of making a difference for others?

4-Anticipating the redemption: Was the person unrealized or actualized potential? When some native good is unused over time one feels trapped and grows cynical about him-self and subsequently the rest of the world, perceiving it to be a forever stuck and unfixable place. The moment, however, we make even the slightest real step of improvement then there is the opposite tendency to project a sense of hope and possibility upon the universe. The world is not fat! It has not yet learned the secret of proper diet and exercise! So we grow in hope and expect ever more the redemption as we know through our own experience positive change is possible.

5-Developing intellect in pursuance of wisdom: Was the person striving to perfect their perception of reality or not? The human intellect is the most uniquely profound piece of matter in the universe. It is the prize of all prizes to possess. When it is dedicated to and saturated with The Divine Mind called Torah Wisdom then the person is lifted beyond the daily dust of existence and is tinged with a deeply tuned-in quality akin to perfection.

6-Fear of Heaven: Was the person living with a daily awareness that he is a piece of creation absolutely dependant upon A Creator? Does he realize that he has no existence or stance in reality without that Creator? Perhaps, the person, G-d forbid, lived with a fanciful illusion that he created himself, designed his talents, and molded his circumstances and he therefore has no need to express a molecule gratitude for a lifetime of blessings. (#6 is the key to the first 5)

It is certainly worthwhile to have in advance some insight into the screening process that measures our real level of success when we reach that ultimate Day of Judgment. It may also help us to prioritize as we gear up for a Judgment Day that the will impact the whole world for an entire year. How will it be? How will we be? Those are the questions!

Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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