The Light that Brings Salvation
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
From the first day of the month of Elul through Shemini Atzeret we recite Psalm 27 twice daily. The Psalm begins “Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation…” Our sages in the Midrash explain that the words ‘my light’ refer to Rosh Hashanah and that the words ‘my salvation’ refer to Yom Kippur. What does Rosh Hashanah have to do with light? What does Yom Kippur have to do with salvation?
Let us pose two additional questions and then suggest a solution for all four questions. 1) Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment and Yom Kippur is the day of forgiveness and atonement. Why do we celebrate Rosh Hashanah before Yom Kippur? Surely it would make more sense to ask for forgiveness and atone for one’s sins before the day of judgment? 2) Why is it that the prayer service on Rosh Hashanah makes no mention of repentance? Surely we should admit our transgressions and beg forgiveness on the day of judgment.
Our Rabbis explain that on Rosh Hashanah we are not merely being judged based on our actions of the past year. On Rosh Hashanah we are judged on whom we want to be. The question being asked of us is: what is your life mission statement? Our mission statement is our flashlight! It is what gives us clarity of purpose, direction, and meaning. On Rosh Hashanah, God in His great kindness provides the light of illumination to assist us in clarifying our own mission statements. What is really important in life? What really matters to us? These answers form our life mission statement. God assesses and judges each individual’s life mission statement on Rosh Hashanah. Our prayer liturgy does not focus on sin because our focus is on our ideal, sublime mission and not on our practical shortcomings.
Revisiting an organization’s/business’ mission statement is a prerequisite for improvement and correction. Reuniting with the inspiration of the mission allows one to clearly identify areas of weakness or redundancy. This process often results in the realization that non core areas are being allocated far more time and resources than is necessary. In some cases, the realization may be that the organization/business is pursuing a direction that is totally inconsistent with its mission statement. The mission statement is the flashlight that enables improvement and course correction.
Similarly, in our personal lives, course correction and improvement is most effective when revisiting our life mission statements. Only with our mission statement flashlight can we see where we have strayed from our life purpose. Rosh Hashanah (the light) is a prerequisite for our salvation, which is accomplished through repentance on Yom Kippur. Friends, let us spend Rosh Hashanah formulating our mission statements (light), let us cast our newfound flashlights upon our lives between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and then course correct on Yom Kippur (our salvation).