Order in the Court - Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur
Kevin from Johannesburg asked:
I understand that Rosh Hashana is the day of judgment, and Yom Kippur is the day of repentance and forgivness. Shouldn't Yom Kippur be first? Wouldn't we be better off doing Teshuva (repentance) before Rosh Hashana, and go into Rosh Hashana to be judged, already having been forgiven?
On Yom Kippur, Hashem showers the world with forgiveness: But just like a shower, if you want the cleansing effect, you have to get into the water!
'Getting into' Yom Kippur, however, is easier said than done. We earthlings relate to things that are tangible, i.e., french fries and phone bills. Spiritual matters - Mitzvot, Olam Haba (the world to come), repentance, etc. - are harder for us to get excited about.
Therefore, we have Rosh Hashana first. On Rosh Hashana all our physical needs are determined - Will we live or will we die? Will we have money for the phone bill? Once we begin thinking about these issues, asking Hashem for a year of health and wealth, we can then hopefully go one step further, asking Hashem to enlighten us, forgive us, and to help us towards Teshuvah (returning to the way of Torah).
- Kochvei Ohr, Ma'amar 83.