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From the Zohar (p.226b)

On Rosh Hashanah the whole world passes in front of Him and each person is judged according to his actions. We have learnt that Rosh Hashanah is the New Year for the king, and who is the king associated with New Year? It is Yitzchak (Gevurah) who is call "Head" because he is one of the heads of the King - in the place called Year.

(Yitzchak on the left side of the tree of the sephirot, represents the sphira-attribute of gevura or "fear/awe", and is elevated from the lower level of Zeir Anpin - the emotions - to consciousness as Binah/ understanding. The other "head" of the seven emotional attributes, on the right side of the tree, Chesed is elevated to consciousness as the sphira of Chochma - wisdom. The elevation of awe to understanding the implications of being before the King in judgement takes place at the time specifically appropriate for that, namely New Year).

Because judgement, which is from the side of Yitzchak, reigns at Rosh Hashanah, it is the time when all people are judged. Each receives their deserved portion (thus setting the pattern for the whole year to come because the interactions over the course of the year will result in each receiving reward or punishment as has been decided on Rosh Hashanah). On the festival of Succoth the world is judged in regard to water (associated with the sphira of Chesed). This is the beginning of the expression of the right side of the King, and is the reason why the joy of blessing of water is felt by all who have been judged favorably. At the time when the water offering was made on the altar in the Temple this joy was pervasive because water symbolizes chesed, the kindness of being forgiven.

There are four specific times the world is judged. Rabbi Yossi said that when you think about these times they could all be summed up in the symbolism associated with the names Avraham, Yitzchak, Jacob and King David. These represent the four times people receive judgement, on the days when the four sephirot represented by those names (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet and Malchut) reign in the world - namely Succoth, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach and Shavuoth. Every single day the books are open and all of the deeds of mankind are recorded but no one is conscious of this and none bend their inner ear to listen to the lessons each day brings. The Torah gives evidence every day and her voice calls out strongly, "Whoever is susceptible to temptation let him study me, whoever is lacking the ability to meditate in his heart about reward and punishment, Torah and mitzvot, study me!" (Prov. 9:3). But no one is aware enough to pay attention to the voice of the announcer.

(Translated by Shmuel-Simcha Triester, Ascent of Safed)


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