If Not Now, When? The Meiri on Rosh Hashana

As Rosh Hashana approaches, I have been thinking about what it means from many different angles.  Rabbi Wieder in a shiur (here) focused on what I have always found to be a fascinating Meiri.  Playing on the dispute in the Gemara  (Rosh Hashana 16a) whether man is judged  hourly, daily or on Rosh Hashana, he claims that really man is judged every day, or at least has the ability to change his situation every day (it is unclear whether he is ruling like R. Yosi who says we are judged every day, or assuming that according to the final position in the Gemara everyone agrees to this fact at some level).  If so, why is Rosh Hashana so important?  He answers that when people are not under time pressure, they procrastinate.  If we did not set aside a time of the year to focus on improving ourselves, it would never happen.  Thus, religion sets aside times of the year to ensure that we feel that sense of urgency and actually do what needs to be done.  It’s not to give God a change to judge, but rather to give us a chance to respond to impending judgement.  To borrow from Hillel – Rosh Hashana is important because it forces us to say “If not now, when?”  This of course doesn’t preclude Rosh Hashana having metaphysical importance – it just highlights that what is most critical is that we internalize the message of Rosh Hashana.

The Meiri can be found here.

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