Today’s daf (Beitzah 5a) invokes the halachic principle that כל דבר שבמניין צריך מניין אחר להתירו – ‘any formal halachic decision which has been decided upon by a group of Sages requires a further group of Sages to revoke that decision’. In fact, the Gemara then cites biblical support for this principle from the fact that God commanded the Jewish people to return to their tents after Matan Torah (see Devarim 5:27), having previously commanded the men and women to separate prior to Matan Torah (see Shemot 19:15).
What this teaches us is that once a deliberate decision has been made – either to do something specific or to cease from doing something specific – a further deliberate decision must be made to palpably alter the status quo, meaning that we cannot simply rely on time, or hope, for things to meaningfully and substantially change.
The problem, however, is that this is what so many of us do. We wait for change, and we hope for change. Yet we often ignore the fact that change – and especially meaningful and substantial changes – only comes when we deliberately will them to do so.
Therefore, as we approach Rosh Hashanah and look ahead to the coming year, it is important to remember that what we hope to feature in the coming year is only likely to occur if we make it so and if we will it so, and that for choices to be long lasting, they generally need to be things that we deliberately invite into our lives.
Significantly, though many think that a major message of Rosh Hashanah concerns repentance and focusing on our past, we do not recite the viduy (confession) on Rosh Hashanah, and this prompted HaRav Jakobovits to remark that ‘Shakespeare may assert ‘All’s well that ends well’ [but] Judaism maintains that all is well that begins well… for this reason there is no recital of confession of sins on Rosh Hashanah. Sin has no part in the resolutions for the year ahead. The New Year is not a review; it is, rather, a preview.’
Thus, on Rosh Hashanah we are meant to preview what we hope our coming year will be like. And when we do so, it is important to consider that if we want some aspects of our life to change from last year to this, we must deliberately will them to do so.