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Yom HaDin 5779: What is Hashem Judging?

By Rabbi Tzvi Goode

Posted on 09/05/18

Rosh HaShanah is all but upon us, and we feel the approaching Din in our hearts and minds. Divine Judgment will provide for each of us and those we love the answer to those critical questions “Who shall live and who shall die,” "Who will be healthy and who will be struck with illness," “Who will breeze through the year and who will struggle to get by."


And while the answers to these questions are unknown to us, Hashem's calculus to determine what will be is obvious. The Mishna in Rosh HaShannah 16a tells us that “B’rosh HaShannah Kol Baei Olam Ovrin l’fanav k’bnei Maron" sh’ne’emar "hayotzair yachad libam hamayvin es kol maasayhem” (Tehillim 33:15). "On Rosh Hashana, everyone will pass before The Judge like sheep, as it says He (Hashem) who fashioned their hearts together and understands all of their actions."


It is clear from Chazal that Hashem judges our actions. What would be the presumption that Hashem judges anything but our actions? What else would He judge? Would it be that we had known of no other judgment than The Divine, these would be an excellent questions. But unfortunately, we have plenty of experience with another, often more insidious type of judgment.


That other judgment to which I refer is the judgment of our Being- who we are. For many of us, since our earliest awareness our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and just about everyone else has not only been judging what we do but who we are. It is human nature to effortlessly blur that fine line between what I do (Actions) and what I am (Being).


For many of us, those negative judgments by others whom we have unwittingly authorized as our judges from infancy onwards have unconsciously become the core beliefs we carry through life. Among so many other consequences, these erroneous core beliefs often become manifest in a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem.


But if that weren't bad enough, there is an even more profound problem. Put aside for a moment the accuracy or inaccuracy of these judgments. The underlying presumption that our Being is subject to another's opinion is not only wholly erroneous and incessantly damaging, but robs us of the wellsprings of inner strengths so critical to a happy and successful life.


It is essential to understand that my Being and my Actions are not the same. Granted that my actions will profoundly impact what will become of my Being, but they are and always have been distinct.


As we all know, our true Inner Being is the Neshama (The Soul). This Neshama was created pure and perfect, and only afterward was it sent into this world. While Divine Judgement illustrates that our Neshama's eternal destiny is contingent upon our actions, the Neshama itself remains protected, pure and wholesome unaffected by those same actions.


A corollary of the Neshama being unaffected regardless of what I do or don't do is that the Neshama isn't subject to judgment either. As the Mishna says, it is our actions that Hashem will judge and consequently either reward or punish. Understanding that the Neshama remains protected, pure, and pristine is critical to realizing the full potential of Tshuva.


Unfortunately, many of us who have gone through life with an incorrect and unconscious perception of who we are has been the source of untold psychological suffering. But aside from that pain, this false perception has shackled us in the chains of negative self-judgment and self-deprecation that inhibits our ability to make the substantive changes of which we are fully capable.


Once we acknowledge and internalize that as much disappointment, failure, and pain that we have experienced in our lives, nonetheless our pure and holy Neshamos have remained unscathed and vibrant, we become liberated to do what previously seemed impossible.


When we begin to draw upon the beauty and power in our Neshama which has remained intact despite everything we have done and have been through, we are not only empowered to fix what is what is wrong, but incentivized as well as we come to realize how incongruous our failures are with the greatness of our Core Being. 


Just as Hashem does not need to judge our Being, we do not need to judge it either. We need to let go of our self-judgment so that we can begin to do Tshuva refocused and reinvigorated. Such a realization can be transformative on the Yom HaDin and beyond.


K'siva v'Chasima Tova, a gut gebentsched yor!