HaYom Harat Olam / On this Day, the World Came into Being

What do birthdays have to do with judgment? Rosh Hashanah is understood by this prayer to be the birthday of the world. The text is recited after each set of shofar blasts during the Rosh Hashanah musaf (additional) service. The prayer connects Rosh Hashanah to the creation of the world and asks for fair and compassionate judgment.

(יז) הַיּוֹם הֲרַת עוֹלָם. הַיּוֹם יַעֲמִיד בַּמִּשְׁפָּט כָּל יְצוּרֵי עוֹלָמִים. אִם כְּבָנִים. אִם כַּעֲבָדִים. אִם כְּבָנִים רַחֲמֵֽנוּ כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל בָּנִים. וְאִם כַּעֲבָדִים עֵינֵֽינוּ לְךָ תְלוּיוֹת. עַד שֶׁתְּחָנֵּֽנוּ וְתוֹצִיא כָאוֹר מִשְׁפָּטֵֽנוּ אָיּוֹם קָדוֹשׁ:

(17) On this day, the world came into being; On this day, He makes stand in judgment— all the creatures of the worlds— whether as children, or as servants; if as children, have compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children! If as servants, our eyes are fixed on You until You favor us, and bring forth our judgment as the light, Revered and Holy One!

Reflect:

  • Why do you think a birthday might be a good (or bad!) time for judgment?
  • If you were judging the world on its birthday, what would you be pleased about? What would you want the world to improve upon?

  • The prayer sets up two models for our relationship with the Divine - one as servants, and the other as children. How are those models different? How would you want to be judged?

  • A modern version of Hayom Harat Olam is below. How does this melody express the emotions of the prayer?