The first day of Tishre is the first day of Creation’s completion, and therefore this day has been determined as Rosh Hashanah. In the same way as a person’s head activates his whole body, so Rosh Hashanah determines everything that will happen during the year. The first day of Tishre is not just the first day of the year according to the years of the Jewish calendar, but also its “Head.” Why has the first day of Tishre been ruled as the first of the year, while the counting of the months starts in Nisan, the month that the Torah calls the first month?
The first day of Tishre is the first day of Creation’s completion, “This is the day, the beginning of your deeds, and a commemoration of the first day.” On this day, the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He completed all His creation of the world that continued from the twenty-fifth day of the preceding month, Elul, for six days. On the sixth day, Creation was completed with the creation of Adam and Eve, and that day was Rosh Hashanah.
In the same way that a person’s head activates his body, so Rosh Hashanah determines everything that will happen during the year, as it is said, “the eyes of G-d your L-rd are on it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” – from Rosh Hashanah the year’s end is judged (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 8a).
The Day of Judgment
Preparations for Rosh Hashanah start in the month of Elul, the month of mercy and Selihot, repentance. Especially on the day preceding Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Day of Judgment, many Selihot prayers of repentance are said, in order to enter Rosh Hashanah itself after requesting forgiveness from the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He, and we make new resolutions – to do only good and kindness from now onwards. Thus we enter the Day of Judgment as people who have repented, whom the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He forgives for their sins.
On this day, a person is judged on his deeds and everything that will happen to him throughout the coming year. On this day, the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He assigns a person’s food and needs until the end of the year, and on this day the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He writes down every person’s judgment, who will live and who, G-d forbid, the opposite, “who will rest and who will move, who will have a harmonious life and who will have suffering, who will be poor and who will be rich, who will be cast down and who will be lifted up – and repentance and prayer and charity remove the evil decree” (from the Rosh Hashanah prayers).
Therefore, on this day we multiply our prayers and supplications to the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He, and take on ourselves to give charity, that He should write us and seal us for a good and sweet year.
Yom Tov – A Day of Rest
In the Book of Leviticus (23:24) it is written, “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month you will have a Sabbath.” On Rosh Hashanah, as on every Holy Day of Israel, it is forbidden to do creative work, as it is forbidden to do creative work on Shabbat. On the other hand, for the sake of the festival, creative work for the sake of our body is permitted (mainly eating) on the festival itself. This work is defined in Halachah, Jewish Law, as “work of food for the soul,” as it is said, “but what every soul will eat, that alone he will make for them,” in other words: kneading, baking, slaughtering, and cooking. We may transfer fire: when the fire is lit from an existing flame, and not from a newly-lit flame. It is also permitted on the festival to move things from one domain to another. We must be careful with these laws, and they are detailed in the Shulhan Aruch and in the Abridged Shulhan Aruch, Laws of Yom Tov (98).