Rosh Hashana as a Day of Judgment 2

  • Two 40-50 minute classes
  • Grades: 7-8
  • Lesson Plan

Students engage in independent text-study to learn about Rosh Hashana as a day of judgment.


1. Go through worksheet with students. Read each source together before reviewing the answers.

2. Answers to question 1 – students may quote from the text. a) Pesach – produce/harvest b) Shavuot – fruits of the trees c) Rosh Hashana – people d) Sukkot – water

3. Answer to question 2 – This is an open question designed to encourage critical thinking. There is no “correct” answer here. Possibilities may include: God gives us a number of times in the year to develop a relationship with Him via prayer; the judgment days are connected to the the agricultural time of the year – this gives them extra meaning.

4. Answer to question 3 – a) Like sheep that are counted for the purposes of Maaser b) Like the king’s soldiers. Discuss the imagery. A sheep is meek and submissive, while a soldier is strong and proud. Both are images of Am Yisrael on the Day of Judgment.

5. Answer to question 4 – This is again an open question to encourage students to think critically. Some possibilities: Godwants us to improve our ways and our service to Him. Rosh Hashana gives us the opportunity to do so; If we would not be judged we would not keep the commandments. The fear of judgment makes us do the right thing.

6. Answer to question 5 – R’ Meir: The whole world’s judgment is on Rosh Hashana while the decree is on Yom Kippur. R’ Yehuda, on the other hand, maintains that while the whole world’s judgment is on Rosh Hashana, each decree is on a different day – Pesach, Sukkot, etc.

7. Answer to question 6 – R’ Yossi says that man is judged every day. R’ Natan says that man is judged every hour. They do not necessarily contradict. Both agree that the judgment process is an ongoing, continual one rather than an annual event. The teacher may want to discuss which opinion the students appreciate most and why.

8. Answer to question 7 – The three books opened on Rosh Hashana are: a) those of the tzaddikim, those of the reshaim, and those of the beinunim (neither tzaddikim or reshaim.

9. Answer to question 8 – This is a difficult and important question that people ask themselves regularly, so it is worth exploring. There are various answers to this question. Tosaphot (16b) suggests that what is being referred to is Olam Habah (the next world)- not to the judgment in this world “Venechtamin” understands th. Another answer – it is very hard for us to judge who is a tzaddik or a rasha. Sometimes one mitzvah done by a rasha can turn judgment in his favor.

10. Answer to question 9 – There are various opinions. Some say that Rosh Hashana is judgment for the coming year of life, while after a person dies the judgment is for the next world. Rambam’s opinion is explained below.

11.Answer to question 10 – The Rambam considers a tzadik to be a person whose merits are greater than his sins. A Rasha is one whose sins are greater than his merits. It is important to emphasize that the judgment is not necessarily numerical. Sometimes one mitzvah by a rasha has the significance of many mitzvoth by a tzaddik.

12.Answer to question 11 – According to the Rambam, the judgment of Rosh Hashana is for the coming year based on his mitzvot and aveirot (sins) of the following year. After a person dies a person’s merits and sins are also reckoned.

13.Answer to question 12 – The author describes Rosh Hashana as a fearful day when God sits in judgment. The Shofar is blown and angels rush and proclaim the day of judgment. Every living creature comes before God like “Benei Maron” –and He counts them individually like sheep.

14. Answer to question 13 – Students will have to research this on their own. The answer can be found online, in sefer Hatodaa or the Artscroll Machzor p. 480. It was written by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany about one thousand years ago. 15.Answer to question 14 – This is an open-ended question. The teacher may want to play a recording of Netana Tokef . It is available on the top of this page –