“On Rosh Hashanah we plead with God to go on running the world’s business and be our King.
Our little self-examinations and personal soul-searching are not for Rosh Hashanah.
We have the whole month of Elul, which comes before Rosh Hashanah, to devote to repentance and to return to God.
Rosh Hashanah involves something else.
Having finished the world’s annual stock taking, we are ready, through forgetting and remembrance, to start a new page of history and welcome God.
This is why most of the holiday rituals, including the shofar blasts, are designed to solemnly proclaim the arrival of the King and make way for Him.
This is the meaning of Psalm 24, which is recited often on Rosh Hashanah:
‘O gate, lift up your heads! Up high you everlasting doors, so that the King of glory may come in.’
This is exactly what we do on Rosh Hashanah.
We open the gates of the year, so that God may enter.
To do so, everything needs to be in its place, the world must be worthy of receiving God.
This is the meaning of our collective presence at the synagogue.
By going there on Rosh Hashanah, Jews say:
‘Last year was more or less all right, we behaved more or less acceptably.
But we want to continue.
Grant us one more year.’
In a way, the children of Israel go to the synagogue to reiterate their pledge of allegiance to their King and, beyond their shortcomings and expectations, to express the sole wish that God will, in turn, accept the crown from His people.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From “The Days of Awe,” p. 30-31, in The Seven Lights on the Major Jewish Festivals by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz