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Preparing for Trial

Preparing for Trial

What the Supreme Court confirmation hearings can teach us about Rosh Hashana.


Judge John Roberts knows what Rosh Hashana feels like, up close and personal. For him, this entire week has been one long Day of Judgment, as he is mercilessly grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine his suitability for Chief Justice.

In listening to a live broadcast of the Roberts’ hearings, I was both amazed and aghast. The Senators who interrogated him minced no words; they made no pretenses. Every minute detail of the Judge’s life was fair game. Every word he ever uttered or wrote -- whether yesterday or 25 years back -- was up for contention. Moreover, he was subjected to willful distortion of his own words by people who clearly were out to see him stumble.

Yet through it all, Roberts remained calm, cool and collected. Politics aside, most everyone was impressed. He had an answer for every question; a response to every accusation. At the end of the day, Judge John Roberts came out ahead of the game.

Heavenly Court

I could not help but compare the Roberts’ hearings to our own “hearings” which are coming up as the High Holy Days approach. At that time, our entire year will be laid out before the Heavenly Court, subject to a deep, investigative probe to determine our suitability as human beings for the coming year. No action, however small or secret, will escape scrutiny. No word uttered, whether privately or publicly, will be beyond reproach. On Rosh Hashana, every human being is judged and sentenced, and every event that will occur during the coming year was decided on this Rosh Hashana.

The most unsettling part about it is that the proceedings will take place behind “closed doors.” We can never truly know what fate has been decided for us until it plays out the following year. And unlike John Roberts, not all of us are as prepared to answer the questions that the Heavenly Court will likely ask.

There’s a reason that Judge Roberts was so poised. He has prepared for these hearings intensively, reviewing possible questions and formulating answers in his mind for weeks, if not months. Imagine if President Bush had tapped him on the shoulder one day and said “John, in a few hours you’re going to be interrogated in front of the Senate to see if they’ll vote you in as Chief Justice. ‘Hope you’re prepared!”

Month to Prepare

The month of Elul is the time and space that God has given us to prepare our own legal briefs. It’s the time where we can reflect and try to “clean up our act” so that we can swing the judgment in our favor. Even more, God throws in an extra bonus. Not only does He give us a “heads-up” about the upcoming days of awe, He also gives us an extra spiritual boost. The Hebrew word “Elul” is an acronym for Ani L’dodi v’dodi Li -- “I am [close] to my beloved and my beloved is [close] to me.” God makes Himself especially available to all those who seek Him out during this time period. All we need to do is open our hearts to doing His will, and He’ll take care of the rest.

The fundamental difference between the Heavenly courts, and an earthly, corporeal trial, of course, is that God, our Judge, has no political bias and no desire to see us fail. On the contrary, He wants us to be signed and sealed for the coming year with a good life, good health, and every blessing imaginable. Not only is God the Judge, He is our Father. And what father would not want his child to emerge triumphant from the court case?

It would serve us well to use this opportunity to prepare ourselves for our upcoming “hearing.” And may we all be blessed with a wonderful year ahead.


August 6, 2011

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