Excellent suggestions have been transmitted to us by the holy Tannaim and Amoraim, as well as our greatest masters, that will allow us to be favorably judged in the days of judgement and mercy.
May our prayers be accepted with goodness and benevolence, so that we may merit, at the same time as all the house of Israel, a good and joyous year, a year of blessing and success, of Torah and the fear of Heaven, and an abundance of riches and joy. A year of bodily health and spiritual illumination, a year of redemption and salvation, a year in which Mashiah will arrive, when the Temple will be rebuilt, when the exiles will be returned to Zion in joy, to Jerusalem in an eternal elation, quickly in our days, may it be so. Amen.
1. The last day of the year is considered like the entire year itself. Consequently, on the eves of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper, perform as many mitzvot and good deeds as possible, pray from the depths of the heart, and undertake the study of Torah and repent completely.
2. Approach the days of judgement, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper, with great humility, like a servant before his master - his heart broken and contrite, hoping that we may merit to find grace in the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He. As it is written, “A heart broken and humbled, O G-d, You will not despise.” One should also consider himself as a beggar, as we say in the Selichot “We knock at Your door like beggars,” and also, “How does the servant appease his master, if not by a contrite heart?”
3. When we ask “Remember us for life” we should have the intention that our lives be “for You, G-d of life,” a life of Torah, of mitzvot, and of the fear of Heaven (advice of the Chofetz Chaim z”l).
4. Pray with tears, and a determination that comes from deep inside. Thus it is said, “You will strengthen their heart. You will give them ear.” The Sages also said, “The gates of tears are never closed.” King Hezekiah tearfully prayed from the bottom of his heart, and his death sentence was torn asunder in order to add to him another 15 years of life.
5. Take it upon yourself to “dominate one’s instincts.” As the Sages say, “Whosoever dominates their instincts, we ignore all their faults” (Rosh Hashana 17). And Rabbeinu Yona wrote, “It’s a beautiful door of hope, and this behavior makes it easier for our prayers to be heard with mercy and goodwill.” We find the same idea amongst the Sages: “Rabbi Elazar began to pray and was not heard [on high]. Rabbi Akiva presented himself [through prayer] and was heard [on high]. A heavenly voice was heard saying, ‘It is not because one is greater than the other, but because this one [Rabbi Akiva] goes against his instincts’.”
6. Move away from pride, as it is said, “Whosoever has a haughty heart is an abomination to HASHEM.” The haughty loses all heavenly assistance, and we know that without it he has no chance of fighting against the evil inclination, as the Sages say, “If the Holy One, blessed be He, did not assist man, he would have no chance against him [the evil inclination]....”
7. Conduct yourself with humility and be modest before everyone. This trait ensures that we merit life. As Rabbi Elazar said, “One should always know how to receive in order to live” (Sanhedrin 92), and Rashi explained this to mean “be humble and you will live.” To this the Rav Chaim Shmulevitz z”l cited an expression by the Sages: “a dark house, of which we see not the cracks,” which means “we don’t see the faults of a humble person.”
8. Take it upon yourself to be merciful, for “whosoever is merciful on others, heaven is merciful toward him” (Bava Metzia 85). The Gemara says that “the suffering of Rabbi came upon him because of an accident and left from him because of an accident,” the suffering coming upon him because he showed no pity to a calf being led to the slaughter, and the suffering leaving him because of the pity that he showed to a mouse. The pity he showed led to Heaven having mercy on him by liberating him from his suffering.
9. Take it upon yourself to be generous, as it is written “sin is forgiven through generosity and truth.” And the Sages have said, “We treat a man in the same way that he treats others.” He who is generous, we are generous with him.
10. Take it upon yourself to practice everything that you find in the Torah. As Rabbeinu Yona z”l suggests, “by being firmly resolute, in a moment we merit to step out of the darkness and into the great light.” We find proof of this in the Torah, namely that concerning the Passover sacrifice it is written, “they went and did.” The Sages ask “did they do this right away? No, but as they took it upon themselves to do it, it was accounted to them as if they had done it right away.”
11. Pay attention to not say anything bad about others, nor anything slanderous, and to not listen to such speech. Otherwise one loses one’s share of Torah and mitzvot by having them transferred to those whom we speak ill of (see Chovot HaLevavot [Sha’ar HaKeniah]).
12. Take upon yourself “the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.” As the Sages say “proclaim before me [verses of] kingship, that you should name me King over you - even over yourselves” (Rosh Hashana, from our teacher, the Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu Hacohen z”l Duschnitzer).
13. Do the will of G-d, as it is said “do His Will as your own, and He will do your will as His Will.”
14. Do not cause any pain to the Holy One, blessed be He. The “Maggid” told our teacher, Beit Yossef z”l, “Sins cause, as it were, the Shechinah to suffer.”
15. Take upon yourself the “emergency” program of repentance that our teacher, the Rav Dessler z”l recommended: a) Study the Torah with diligence; b) Study mussar; c) Get used to going against your desires; and d) Perform acts of kindness.
16. Ease the pain, as it were, of the Shechinah, as well as that of Israel, by praying with concentration that the Shechinah and Israel should be delivered from exile. Also, accept all that comes to you with love, for “all that the Compassionate One does is for the good.” In all of Israel’s suffering, it is He who suffers.
17. Take it upon yourself to adhere to the words of the Sages, to their ethical teachings, and to their rebukes. As it is said, “Listen and your soul will live,” and again “To lend an attentive ear to the rebukes of mussar is to merit to live among the Sages.”
18. Be a servant of G-d, as it is said “we are the servants of the Holy One, blessed be He.” This mobilizes us to do the will of the Creator, constantly and at every moment, always and forever.
19. Occupy yourself faithfully with the needs of the community. By this we become someone that the community needs, and we thereby stand a good chance to merit a favorable judgement (advice of Rabbi Eliyahu Hacohen z”l Duschnitzer).
20. Give credit to the community so that the will of G-d may be accomplished. As it is said, “the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to attribute merit to Israel,” and this would mean that the Holy One, blessed be He, would do our will and our wishes for the best!
21. Walk in the ways of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - “You will remember the generosity of the Patriarchs and you bring the Redeemer” - so as to lay hold of the merit of the Patriarchs. We are therefore duty-bound to walk in their ways and to cling to their practices:
a) Our father Abraham is characterized by his commitment to faith, the trial of the fiery furnace, acts of kindness, the chesed of Abraham.
b) Our father Isaac is characterized by his commitment to accomplish the will of G-d: The sacrifice of Isaac.
c) Our father Jacob is characterized by his commitment toward the Torah - “He slept at that place” - while during all the years that he studied at the academy of Shem and Eber, he never slept; he studied the Torah with great rigor, as it is said, “The Torah protects and saves.”
22. Listen to the repetition of the Amida by the Chazzan without talking in the middle. Responding by Amen is considered as if we had prayed twice, and by this we can be assured that our prayers will be answered, as Rabbeinu Yona z”l said in the Iggeret HaTeshuvah. It is a time when our prayers are heard with favor.
23. Cleave to and imitate the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He: Be merciful as He is merciful, and so on. Concerning the thirteen attributes that He has revealed to us, it is said “if you follow this order before Me, I will pardon you....”
Let us pray to G-d that we learn how to accept and accomplish “so we will merit the help of Heaven” to follow the “path of the just,” and G-d will make us arrive to the “doors of teshuvah.” By this merit we can have a good year, a year of redemption, and be firmly inscribed in the book of the righteous, immediately, for a good life and for peace. Amen to this. Amen.