I just had somebody over to take a look at my roof which needs repair before the winter rains. We were discussing which type of house work requires reporting to the government and which does not. Basically, any additional roofing on your property requires reporting, and additional property tax every year. So, if I put up a 9 square meter shed on my own property, I need permission and to pay for it. Being that there are such rules, the government does its best to catch people and make getting permission difficult, and the people, being Israeli, do their best to bypass the red tape and not be caught. And whenever you do something that requires permission, it's better to do and get caught than ask beforehand. You'll have less of a headache and get whatever you need done on time.
Being that this person does a lot of work within our community, he gave me a few examples of what people did. One family has a business in their home, selling chicken and meat. It's the only place in the city you can go to buy with a strong hechsher. Over the years, it has thankfully grown, and in his "backyard" or "courtyard" (we don't have backyards like the States, it's hard to explain), he put up temporary structures to house his "store." The store itself is completely legal as a business, however, he told me, the city doesn't know it exists. When I asked him how would the city know, he told me that they use drones to go around and see which property has been doing construction and doesn't match what they have on file. So, what did this person do to bypass that problem? He covered the roofs of these structures with artificial grass. So when the drones fly over, they simply see grass! I love Israelis!
Rav Shimshon Pincus asks a very interesting question which leads us to a different, and better, understanding of Rosh Hashanah.
The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 17b) writes, "What if the Jewish people were found completely evil on Rosh Hashanah, and it was decreed that they will have meager rain, but in the end they changed their ways? To add more rain for them is not possible, because the decree was already made. Instead, Hashem brings the rains down when they are needed, and on the areas where they are needed. What if the Jewish people were found completely righteous on Rosh Hashanah, and it was decreed that they would have abundant rain, but in the end they changed their ways? To take rain away from them is not possible, because the decree was already made. Instead, Hashem brings the rains down at the wrong times, and on the areas where they are not needed."
Then there is another Gemara (Beitza 16a), "All of a person's sustenance is allocated to him between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."
We grow up thinking that Rosh Hashana is a time of judgment over the past year. If we were good, we get rewarded with life for another year. If we were not, we are not. However, if this were true, one, the world would be far less populated, and two, we should have Rosh Hashanah on the last day of the year, not the first.
Also, as we know, reward for mitzvos is not given in this world (for the most part), but rather is given in the World to Come. If so, what exactly is this judgment?
Let's take two people, for example. Both received salaries of 500,000 dollars a year. One is healthy and lives a normal lifestyle that is within his means. The other is not and has to spend most of his time and money on medical procedures. Which one has "life"?
Or let's take two people both receiving 500,000 dollars a year. One gets it because he's some popular speaker and travels around the country a few times a year to speak. The other has to work day and night with very little rest to make it. Both have the same amount of money in the end, but which one has "life"?
Rosh Hashanah is not a time of judgement over the past year and does not determine which reward or punishment we get for the next. When we are asking for "life," we are asking for a life where we can focus on the important things. When a Ben Torah asks for income, for example, he's asking for enough income to support his family, educate his children, see that his wife is happy, and that he can use as much time as he can in Torah and mitzvos, instead of having to run around all day trying to make ends meet.
Hashem can give income in many different ways. As we saw in the first Gemara mentioned above, we can be given plenty of rain, but it might be put to waste. Or it could be given at the last minute, when the farmer was stressed and worried throughout the winter that he didn't have any rain. Yes, in the end he got it, but he had a very worrying and stressful year awaiting it.
So, that is the "life" we are asking for on Rosh Hashanah. Not just a life of living and breathing, but rather a life where one can minimize his worries in this world in order to properly use his time and energy in investing in the next.
With that, I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos, Rosh Hashana, and a healthy year full of life.