It is well known, even amongst non-Jews, that Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year. Yet if one looks at the Biblical text there is absolutely nothing that would indicate such. Rather the holiday we call Rosh Hashanah is referred to as yom teruah , a day of blowing and occurs on the first of the seventh month. Hardly a new year. Furthermore it is totally unclear what this holiday is all about as there are no historical events linked to this date. Even the commonly accepted notion that Rosh Hashanah marks the creation of the world, or more accurately of man, is subject to Talmudic debate with Rav Yehoshua of the view (Rosh Hashanah 12a) that the world was actually created in Nissan, the month of spring, and the month is which the Jewish nation would begin its historical mission. The mishna actually discusses four new years with the first of tishrei being the most prominent as all living creatures pass before Him like sheep. No mention of creation, however.
While it is most logical that we be judged on the anniversary of our creation this is not specifically mentioned in the Torah. Apparently our Sages were not overly interested in when the world was created. It is spiritual creation, man's ethical makeup not physical reality that interested them. Thus we read about Abraham and not Adam on Rosh Hashanah.
Creation reached a new level with Abraham, one that previous people were unable to attain. Our Sages (Rosh Hashanah 11b) however, noted other events that occurred on Rosh Hashanah. Our barren Biblical women Sarah, Rachel and Channah, all of whom we read about on Rosh Hashanah conceived on this night. This was the original yom hazicharon , the day of G-d remembering His covenant with Abraham. Yet our Sages relate another Biblical event to Rosh Hashanah, that of the release of Joseph from prison in Egypt . Clearly our Sages had a deeper message than dates on the calendar; there is no reason to believe that Joseph even knew about Rosh Hashanah.
Like many of us, our Biblical role models had many family challenges, to say the least. The Torah, understanding that we learn from not just the triumphs, but the trials and tribulations of our mentors, is brutally honest in describing these difficulties. Our Sages and commentaries felt little compunction in criticizing the actions of our founding fathers and mothers where they felt it was necessary. Real life with real problems and real mistakes, of even the greatest of people is the best teacher. If we learn Torah properly we will not have to repeat those mistakes. Thus on Rosh Hashanah, when our life hangs in the balance, we read about the real issues faced by our Biblical heroes. The differing assessments of Abraham and Sarah in regard to the raising of their children; the difficulties that two righteous women, Pnina and Chana have with each other due to the sharing of a husband. Such difficulties also beset Leah and Rachel, alluded to in the HafTorah of the second day.
Rosh Hashanah is about renewing our relationship with G-d. That can only be done if we have reconciled with our fellow man especially within our family. It is Yosef who represents this reconciliation. In all prior generations the families were forever torn asunder. Abraham and Lot can not share the land together and go their separate ways. Lot along with Yishmoel and Eisa , were the founders of nations that would eventually persecute us. Even Abraham had to leave his family to found this great nation of ours. It was Joseph, and only Joseph, who managed to unite the brothers ensuring that all the children of Yaakov would remain as Jews.
Imagine what a lesser person than Joseph. might have done in a similar situation . While Joseph made his brothers "sweat" quite a bit - this was the only way to discover whether they would abandon their youngest brother - ultimately he cared and nurtured them as they arrived in a foreign land. His rise to power and the long trail to strengthening his family, begun, our Sages symbolically declare, on Rosh Hashanah. Joseph managed to do what so many of us find so very difficult - to forgive.
Rosh Hashanah inaugurates the ten days of repentance - days in which we must not only seek forgiveness but seek to grant it. It is only Joseph who merited being described by the appellation of tzadik, the righteous one. It is the tzadik who leads the way to reconciliation. "V'amech kulam tzadikim, and your people are all righteous" (Isaiah 60:21). May we merit to walk in the path of Joseph doing our best to bring Jews closer together. Shanna Tova.