It says in Mesechta Rosh Hashana

"On the New Year, [first of Tishrei] all who have entered the earth pass before Him, one by one, like young sheep, as it says: “He that fashioned the heart of them all, Who understands all their deeds”

"All are judged on New Year and their doom is sealed on the Day or Atonement."

So if your fate is sealed on Yom Kippur then why do we pray or give tzedakah or even do teshuvah and try to change our fate if it is already sealed.

For example in Shemona Esray we pray that the crop should turn out good this year, but what is the point if it has already been decided how much crop or פרנסה one will be receiving.

So why do we pray for all those things if it is already decided on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur

  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10392/…
    – rosends
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 1:41
  • 4
    – sam
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 3:13
  • 1
    because it is your duty
    – michael
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 16:49
  • Sorry, haven't read everything in the thread, but I thought a bad decree can be overturned?
    – SAH
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:52

10 Answers 10


Rosh Hashanah 16a:

Rav Yosef said: Like whom do we hold that we pray nowadays for the sick and ailing?

Like whom? Like Rabbi Yosi! [who says that "a person is judged every day"]

And if you'd rather, I'll answer per Rabbi Yitzchak, who said that "crying out is good for a person, whether before or after the verdict."

Trans. mine, except words "sick and ailing" from halakhah.com


Gemara Rosh Hashana 17b

עיני ה' אלהיך בה עתים לטובה עתים לרעה עתים לטובה כיצד הרי שהיו ישראל רשעים גמורין בראש השנה ופסקו להם גשמים מועטים לסוף חזרו בהן להוסיף עליהן אי אפשר שכבר נגזרה גזרה אלא הקב"ה מורידן בזמנן על הארץ הצריכה להן הכל לפי הארץ עתים לרעה כיצד הרי שהיו ישראל צדיקים גמורין בר"ה ופסקו עליהן גשמים מרובין לסוף חזרו בהן לפחות מהן אי אפשר שכבר נגזרה גזרה אלא הקב"ה מורידן שלא בזמנן על הארץ שאינה צריכה להן

"Hashem's eyes are upon it [Israel]" - sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. How for good? If the Jewish people were completey bad on Rosh Hashan, and it was decreed upon them to have minimal rain, and then they repented, it is impossible to add rain, as the decree was already decreed. Rather, Hashem makes the rain fall in the right time on the land that needs it...

  • I'm not sure if this answers the question directly. The questions asked about prayer, but this gemara is referring to being 'chozer' in level of righteousness. Additionally, this may only be the case for a tzibbur, who have the ability to undo a gzar din, but after something was nigzar on an individual, this Gemara might not apply (this is discussed in the Gemara there and Yevamos 59b). If anything, it sounds like (form the previous daf, 16a) this is a machlokes, and we can only daven each day because we either hold like R. Yosef or R. Yitzchak, but not if we held like the mishna Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 22:06

In Kuntres Umayon, it speaks about that on Rosh Hashana, it can be decreed, for example, that they'll be a lot of rain, and if later you're not deserving, you'll get the rain in the wrong place, or vice versa.

  • +1 although I don't know what Kuntres Umayon is and I think this idea comes from early sources. Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 17:59
  • @YEZ It's written by the Rebbe Rashab. And it probably does come from earlier sources.
    – user613
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 20:41
  • 1
    @user613 seems the earlier source is YEZ other answer below.
    – jim
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 20:59
  • @jim Looks like you're right. I wrote my answer before his, so i didn't see his.
    – user613
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 21:14

It's complicated, but one suggestion among many:

It could be determined on Rosh Hashana that someone will have "a difficult year." However, their daily prayers can affect just how difficult it will prove to be; how well they'll tolerate (and learn and grow from) that difficulty, and in what ways that difficulty will play out.

(Remind me please, there's a Tosfos about why we say "besoch she'ar cholei yisrael" related to this -- maybe my personal fate has been determined, but I can tie it to the greater fate of the people, which is still open. Something like that?)

  • Do you have a source for your first statement (because I could think that everything is judged and sealed by Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
    – user6781
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 10:18
  • 1
    I'm going to "throw a twist" here ... I believe that Yonah said "Vnicham al hara'ah" implying that Hashem "changes his mind". Can't that apply also by davening, increased tshuva, increased mitzvah performance, etc.?
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 14:26
  • הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים is probably relevant here.
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 5:27

Ramban Shaar Gemul inyan din rosh hashana

on Rosh Hashana a person's deeds are weighed and he is written and sealed for zechut (merit) or chova (the opposite) in this world according to what he deserves in this world. and when he dies, his deeds are weighed and he is judged on the portion he deserves in the world of souls.

this is a partial answer as to why we still pray to do teshuva, be forgiven, improve our ways, etc. of the things relevant to the next world.

Another answer which addresses the question as to why we ever pray at all. from the Manoach Halevavos commentary (Chovos Halevavos 3:3)

Manoach Halevavos: If we were not commanded in prayer by the torah and the Rabbinical decrees, we would not know through our understanding what would be the order of the tefila, shacharit (morning), mincha (afternoon), and arvit (evening), and the other times. And even prayer itself, the understanding does not dictate that we should pray to G-d, because the understanding obligates that G-d gives to each creature and each thing in the world the portion fitting for it. And if it is not fitting for it, prayer should not help in this. Furthermore, according to the divine wisdom (Kabala), and the Moray Nevuchim wrote on this (Part 1 ch.5), that G-d does not "change". Hence, the whole matter of prayer seems to the understanding as if there is "change" in G-d, similar to a request which a man begs before a flesh and blood king, to arouse favor and pity in the heart of the king. All this does not apply by G-d. Therefore, he wrote that if the torah did not command this, and that we did not see from the torah that prayer does help, regarding the prayer of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, and others, and that our Sages did not institute its order, we would not know at all through the understanding neither its order not its matter. The reason we have been commanded in it is hidden, it is among the hidden precepts of the torah. It has great benefits to arouse a person to awareness of G-d's existence, and His almighty power, and that it is proper to serve Him, and many other fundamentals and good traits which are aroused through prayer. In kabala it is known that by a hitorerut (stimulus) from below, one causes a hitorerut (stimulus) above


My rabbi when asked this question used to give a parable if a large company eg. Amazon. Yomim noraim is like when they send the products on big lorries to the warehouse. From there you can break it down further. For example Rosh Chodesh is sending the product from the warehouse to a local post office. Then every days tefillah is like the delivery man bringing the parcel to your door. To clarify, you can be allocated a certain amount on Rosh hashona and without prayer during the year not recieve it.


Sealed can mean very hard to change, not impossible to change.

In addition, the exact manifestation of the decree can be changed. For example, someone who was decreed to die can become impoverished instead, as עני חשוב כמת - a pauper is considered like a dead person. Or, alternatively, someone decreed to get great wealth may receive it in spiritual terms instead of physical ones.

  • 1
    Sealed can mean very hard to change, not impossible to change. Source?
    – user6781
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 16:44
  • @user6781 Have you ever opened a envelope?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 16:46
  • @user6781, Talmud Rosh Hashana 18a - אע״ג שנחתם נקרע - even though it was sealed, it is torn up.
    – Yishai
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 16:54
  • @Yishai Source for saying that the sealing of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is changeable?
    – user6781
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 17:13
  • @user6781, Rambam Teshuva 2:6.
    – Yishai
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 17:21

There is a Baal Shem Tov story about him talking to the local water carrier, Haikel (sp?). First Haikel the Water Carrier discusses that his day is terrible, he must work very hard despite being old, and is not at all respected, is too poor to buy much food, etc. The next day he says things are going wonderfully, he is still able to work despite his age, he can at least afford food, etc.

The Baal Shem Tov said this is a demonstration of being judged each day. Despite the fact that nothing external changed and his decree for the year is the same, this day is not like the previous day.


According to the Pele Yoetz there are two kinds of decrees in Heaven. The ones written over a clay tablet and the ones script with blood. Our prayer can change (break) the clay tablet, but there is nothing to do with the ones written in blood. BUT as is not possible to us to know which one of them (clay or blood) is the decree upon us... we pray hopping that it´s not in blood.

Something like that is in Purim story. Mordechai "saw" in heaven that the bad decree was in clay, so because of that he asked people to pray and to fast.

And if we pray and the decree was in blood? what happened with all our prayers? The answer according chasidic Rebbes is that this prayers are usefull to us to another subject. The same happened with the prayers of Moses... The zchus of them he innerited to us. So when we pray, we have almost our prayer + the 515 tefilot of Moises.


Uhh, so you can have a better judgment next year?

  • But do we daven for the next year to be good? Source as it says in the shemona esray prayer "Heal us, O L-rd, and we will be healed; help us and we will be saved; for You are our praise. GRANT COMPLETE CURE AND HEALING TO ALL OUR WOUNDS"
    – user6781
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 16:14
  • 2
    "Bless for us, L-rd our G‑d, THIS YEAR (!!!!!) and all the varieties of its produce for good;"
    – user6781
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 16:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .