On the day of Rosh Hashanah we will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur it will be sealed. So why don’t we fast or repent more on Rosh Hashanah and celebrate Yom Kippur because the judgement is sealed? Why does the joy comes before the affliction?
The people in the days of Nechemia had the same question:
וַיֹּאמֶר נְחֶמְיָה הוּא הַתִּרְשָׁתָא וְעֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן הַסֹּפֵר וְהַלְוִיִּם הַמְּבִינִים אֶת הָעָם לְכָל הָעָם הַיּוֹם קָדֹשׁ הוּא לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אַל תִּתְאַבְּלוּ וְאַל תִּבְכּוּ כִּי בוֹכִים כָּל הָעָם כְּשָׁמְעָם אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה.
וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם לְכוּ אִכְלוּ מַשְׁמַנִּים וּשְׁתוּ מַמְתַקִּים וְשִׁלְחוּ מָנוֹת לְאֵין נָכוֹן לוֹ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ הַיּוֹם לַאֲדֹנֵינוּ וְאַל תֵּעָצֵבוּ כִּי חֶדְוַת יְהוָה הִיא מָעֻזְּכֶם.
Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were explaining to the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God: you must not mourn or weep,” for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.
He further said to them, “Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord. Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.”
Nechemia's answer seems to be that yes, by ourselves we fall short (melech evyon), but by annulling ourselves to and rejoicing in Hashem we acquire eternity (aval melech elyon...).
On Yom Kippur, we fast, but joyously, as the purity we gained through this self-annulment on Rosh Hashanah, percolates into our own lives.
I think the main question here is: “Why does Rosh HaShanah come before (precedes) Yom Kippur?”. Many answers to this one, but not many that grasp what you might ask: “why joy first and then affliction, and not the other way around?”.
First we should cleanse ourselves, purge our sins, and then celebrate New Year right? The emotional logic seems compelling; repentance is what enables us to begin anew!...
In my respond I for sure accept the emotional logic is compelling, but I hope to be able to explain to you the spiritual intent that underpins the Yamim Noraim (days of Awe).
This is what a Rabbi wrote about the matter.
“For us with Jewish faith, repentance begins in gratitude!
First we must value what is, and estimate the true worth of the gifts we have been given. Rosh HaShanah comes to encourage us to appreciate the world - hayom harat olam - on this day all of creation was called into being. Once we are grateful for what is, we can honestly evaluate whether we have helped creation attain perfection, or hindered it through our misdeeds.
The High Holidays are not only about our sins - they are about our blessings. We have been given a marvelous world and we celebrate that on Rosh HaShanah. On Yom Kippur we think about how, in the year to come, we can enhance the sanctity of the many gifts we have been given.”
Another Rabbi explained it this way:
“Why does forgiveness (Yom Kippur) come before judgment (Rosh HaShanah)?
You can't really forgive before you judge. First you need to determine what needs to be forgiven, only then can you consider true forgiveness.
Furthermore, if we are forgiven in advance, we don't need to be judged. All is already good. But all is not really good, for forgiveness that comes without remorse of the past and resolve for the future doesn't really fix the problem.
If forgiveness was automatic and simple, we would never improve. Thus first we are judged. And judgment makes us think long and hard about our wrongdoings.And (with the conscience) knowing that we have done something wrong we try to improve ourselves and ask for forgiveness.”
In my own words: we first look at what G-d has been given us, thats a lot to rejoice about, and at the same time we can see our shortcomings, for how did we pay our gratitude? What have we done in return? And that’s were the second part comes in. We can see what we might be judged for, we start to repent, and ask for forgiveness.