We believe that we are judged on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur for the year gone by and the year to come.
If our forecast is inescapable, why would we spend the year hoping for anything different?
While we believe in a Judgment Day, we nonetheless believe that it is still only a snapshot in time and that with repentance, prayer, and charity; we can change our fates – וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רֹעַ הַגְּזֵרָה.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes that the conventional translation of these words obscures their literal meanings.
The word for repentance means homecoming or return – because however lost we may be, we can find our way home – תְשׁוּבָה. The word for prayer means judging ourselves through earnest introspection – תְפִלָּה. The word for charity means justice – because it is something we dispense ourselves – צְדָקָה.
These are all aspects of ourselves that we have agency over.
R’ Micha Berger notes that they each parallel the three kinds of relationships we have – with God; with others; and with ourselves.
Reminding ourselves that there is a God who wants us to be more than sentient mammals; who watches over us, and what that means for the way choose to live are expressions of Tefila that we control.
Giving charity; volunteering; speaking kindly; helping a neighbor, and appreciating family and friends are all expressions of Tzedaka we control.
Improving ourselves; developing a more even temper; cultivating humility, and choosing to live an authentically Jewishly oriented lifestyle are all expressions of Teshuva that we control.
Improving just a single characteristic constitutes a change substantial enough that we believe it can change the future.
You are the master of your fate and the captain of your destiny.