Rosh HaShana Based on the teachings of the Baal HaSulam

Yeshiva of the Inner Light
Kabbalah Institute of America

Message for Rosh Hashanah 5771 ( 2011)
Based on the teachings of the Baal HaSulam
and his son Harav Ashlag

Tomorrow night begins the two days of Rosh Hashanah. One of the focal
points of Rosh Hashanah is hearing the blowing of the shofar.There are many
reasons for this. Most have to do with the sounding of the shofar having the power
to weaken the “satan” (who is always looking to “prosecute” against us) and thus
help enable us to merit to be written for a good year.

Following the teachings of the Baal HaSulam the hearing of the shofar on
Rosh Hashanah could perhaps be understood as follows;

In the Pesichah LeChachmas HaKabbalah the Baal Hasulam explains how as
when the four spiritual worlds evolved from Atzilus to Briah to Yetzirah and
finally down to Yetzirah of which “Olam Hazeh” “ this world” is at the bottom of,
that with each successive world, as the overpowerment of the “Ratzon Lekabel”
“will to receive” decreases (thus allowing the “Ratzon Lekabel” to be increasingly
stronger), so too the “orh” “Light” which is received in that world decreases. The
“Orhoes” “Lights” diminish from Chayah to Neshamah to Ruach and finally down
to Nefesh in Asiyah of which “Olam Hazeh” is the bottom part of.

When describing this final stage of the “orh” of “Nefesh” coming to the
wold of “Asiyah” the Baal HaSulam writes as follows: “ And in the world of
“Asiyah”……The “ohr” that is in it is called “Nefesh”, which implies “ohr” lacking
motion from itself.” (the word “Nefesh” literally is translated to “rest”, [lack of
motion])

I never understood what the Baal HaSulam meant here when he says that the
“ohr” of ‘Nefesh” does not have motion on its own. What does that mean?!
B”H when the Pesichah was reprinted with the additional “perush” “commentary”
taken from the lessons of HaRav Ashalg this idea is explained. The Rebbe explains
it as follows:

In the physical world we see that even a stone has motion! How is this? If
someone comes along and gives it a kick! But on its own, it has no motion.
So too is true of man. On his own he has no “spiritual motion”! Meaning
that even just the idea alone of doing things “Al manas lehashpiah” “ for the sake
of (PURE) bestowal [doing things for the sake of bestowal = “spiritual motion”]”
is totally foreign to us! How then can even a man in “olam hazeh” have “spiritual
motion”? If someone comes along wakes him up. In other words, so to speak
“gives him a kick”! Meaning that he on his own is indeed unable to make a move
spiritually. But he needs to merit to be influenced from someone else. This is why
we put so much effort to find proper teachers and diligently learn Torah from
them! We hope to develop with our Torah study and observance the ability to
develop “spiritual motion” of our own and come to “Deveykus BaHashem”
This is the goal of the sound of the shofar. To wake us up! To give us a
“kick” to begin going in the correct direction of “al menas lehashpiah”. So why
specifically the sound of the shofer!

Two of the various things the Shofar reminds us of is 1) the “Iyal” “ram” by
“Akeydas Yitzchak” “ the binding [for the sacrifice] of Isaac” 2) the sound of the
shofar that was heard at “har Seeniey” “Mt Sinai” by the giving of the Torah
The “iyal” represents “Avraham avenuh” “our Forefather Abraham” selfless
“almenas lehashpia” act of being willing to offer up his dear son Yitzchock who he
waited so many years for, to HaShem without any question. So to the sound of the
Shofar has the ability to wake up this spirit of selflessness for their sake of Hashem
which is inherent in every Jew!

The sound of the shofar by “har Seeniey”‘ represents the climatic level of
“KEISH ECHAD BELEV ECHAD” “ Like one man with one heart” that the Nation
of Israel had obtained as a unified body the concept of ‘Veahavtah lereacha
kamoch” “to love your neighbor as yourself”, accepting upon themselves to
interact with each other “al menas Lehashpia”. So too the sound of the shofar has
the ability to wake up the spirit of acting together as a unified selfless group, the
Holy Nation of Klal Yisrael!

Let us all be zocheh this year as we hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh
HaShanah to let it enter our “sleeping” Nefesh, and allow it to wake it up! Let us
increase our commitment to True Torah study, and Mitzvah Observance, thereby
waking up our ability to change ourselves in order to serve HaShem “almenas
lehashpia”, to come to “devakus with HaShem.

May HaShem write and seal you in, for a good and peaceful life!
Fievel Okowita

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20 Responses to Rosh HaShana Based on the teachings of the Baal HaSulam

  1. In his dairy Rabbash wrote, that Katnnut is neffisha, and it is very difficult states of the soul to make a move on. Now it is very good that we have holidays and shabbatot to wake us a little, but a real kabbalist passes a lot of stages during a short period of time so Rabbash sudjest that the best way to overcome kattnut is to have your week planned and to stick to this plan no matter what you feel inside.

    Our ego wants to do whenever it wants to do something, and not when you have to do things and in this way it keeps us in constant Kattnut and Neffisha, be it our study of Torah, observing Mitzvot with Kavvana or our relationships with people around us, our ego never let us do what we have to do, and even more it hides its destracted influence under the pretence that may be it isn’t a person I had to marry, or the children I would want to grow up, or the job I would want to do and so on, in short it gives us the doubts about anything we previously decided on, and then blame us for poor attitude to everything we have chosen. in Torah it is called Ammalek, it is said-Rashit Go’im- Ammalek, meaning that Ammalek has only the beginning= the start= Rashit, but it never let you finish anything you have decided on.

    We have special commandment to make a war on Ammalek, Gematria of Ammalek is 240, we have 10 days between Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur= exactly 240 hours to make our everyhour war against Amalek’s power of defeating us, by haveing these days espesially planned, including have Slikhot early in the morning, the time which is the most difficult for the ego to let us be awake, additions in prayers, which we have to remember, and the ego wants us to pray automatically, and we try to have everything “right” at least during these days, and the ego fights us in each step, by making it difficult to deal with all the activities cinnected with observing everything KiHallakha.

    And of course the war with Ammalek doesn’t finfsh in these 10 days, but it teaches us that if we do what we have to do and not what our ego let us do, finally we will defeat Ammalek in us and we will learn to make a “kick” to ourselves out of Neffisha into spiritual development, and the begining is PLANNING of our activity.

    Doesn’t matter what out ego draws us about planned actions= that it is boring, nothing unexpected, not intresting at all,rav recomeneds whom to marry, the friends choose what to study, the wife says what to do, or the husdand where to go for the holidays, you will see that if you plan your study, actevity and whatever you are involved or want to be involved, you will be given enomous spiritual growth and you will see, that actually ego’s spontanity has been hiding from you the possibility of Gadlut in all the sphears.

    We always start with kattnut, and we do get the kick( hittarerutta de leh’illa) in this or that form, but the thing is, as Rabbash says that if we miss it, then we will have to wait for the next possibility, meaning waiting for the kick, but Rabbash gives us a great “tip” of knowing the way to give the Kick to ourselves and it is by everyday planned( Rabbash did plans for a week)activity towards Dvvicut imHaShem, and this work should be done everyday no matter what colour the ego paints it in.

    The ego doesn’t know mercy and it will fight our way to Dvvicut HaShem fiercly, and only through Messirat haNeffesh to the planned actions, there is a chance to get Ru’akh and Neshammah and may be even Ha’iy, and Yekhidda, with haShem’s help and to be written in a BOOK OF LIFE.

    Gmaar Ktivva veHattima Tova leKullam.

  2. After all spiritual work we’ve done on Tishrei Holidays I would speciallylike to point out the work which is done on Hoshanna Rabbah by reading special Tikkun and the book of Dvarrim and all the Tekhilim.

    First we read Tikkunim and it stands against Neffesh
    Then we read the book of Dvarrim and it stands against Ru’akh
    And finnally we read all the book of Tehillim and it stands against Neshamma.

    Tikkunim are to begin with, because it helps us to make a move in the direction of finnal day for correcting ourselves, it gives us ideas of some aspects which may be fell out of our scope of attention. And again shows as that the spiritual work is actually endless, becuase there is no end to perfection.

    The book of Dvarrim is a final message of Moshe Rabbeinu to Israeli people before their enterence to the Land of Israel, and its reading makes you want to act to really do something in the direction of your spiritual development, but the problem is that we are very often exited and moved by something, but when we see that there is a lot of work to be done to get the thing that exited us, we drop it altogether, because when you have to pay for something- to prefer spiritual over instictual, you already don’t want it so much as you wanted it before you had known that everything in spiritual cost a lot of money, of course spiritual one which is Ore deHassadim- preference Torah Values over your own values, instincts, intuition= over your ego drives.

    And that is why we finish Hoshanna Rabbah by reading Tekhillim which is supposed to preserve the “high” state -Ru’akh of our soul, and in this way “push ” us up to the pick of Joy of Thishrei Holidays-Simkhat Torah, and as we said the joy of this holiday is in understanding the role of Torah and Mitzvot in our spiritual development, as the only CONSTANT VALUES MODELS independent from our own understanding of things or our wishes, or our dreams, because the ambivalence of our inner world as being pulled between instincts and human values and shame that we feel sometimes after some of our actions or thoughts, never gives us a chance to keep constent scale of values of our own, or of the human sociaty we belong to.

    When we say the blessing on reading Tekhillim we mention the multi-level protection of its reading which consists of special lights pulled to our soul through the 1. the whole psalm, 2. lines within the psalm, 3. words.4. letters, 5.Nekkudot, 6.Cantilation marks(Tehamim)and we know that when something is made by interweaving a lot of different kinds of “strings”, and esspecially if these strings are the spiritual lights of different quality, but put in a unique organization when pronounced together, we get a spiritual matter which is so strong that keeps us from falling down or being damaged by outer Tumma influences, it keeps the inner dimond of a person which is his soul from being stolen by Tumma- Ratzon Lekkabel, which is sick and tired of Tishrei Kdusha and waits for its chance to get us again under its control.

    As we need Bsammim( good smells) after Shabbath during Havdallah to help us pass queitly into the days of Holl( they say that the one that held Shabbath as Hallakhah may experience a kind of soul- going- out- of- him feeling on the defferencies between Shabbath Kdusha and the matereal reality of the Holl), the same we need Tehillim protection when we come out of Tishrei holidays into MarHeshvan, the mounth without any Hollidays( though when we will get the G-d’s mercy and be worth the Third Temple it will be the mouth of its opening)we should read Tekhillim as a special protection from desends and kind of “down’ one has ussually after experiencing the Culmination and Zenith of any kind of intelectual or emotional or spiritual experiences, and be able to hold on the spiritual work and climbing up new levels by finding the new aspects in everyday service to HaShem.

    We have a lot of spiritual help on Tishrei because as a newborn is protected and cared by his mother we are preotected by Aba veAma Illa’in, by as happy as they are to care about us if they don’t “see” our development into direction of independent functioning it is a big greave for them, because we all expect our children and grandchildren to say “mommy”, “daddy” and to begin understanding what our parents want from us ,and that one day we have a potential of becoming like them altoghether.

    I wish to us all a happy and healthy birth in spiritual and that our development will be preotected and cared, but that we will be able to give our “parents ” a lot of Nakhat Ru’akh and happy times.

    Let mounth MarHeshvan coming to us on friday and next day on Shabbath will bring us spiritual and matirial success and love and peace between all Israeli people and all the Creation as a whole.

  3. Maximizing our greatest gift – time.

    by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

    There are many lovely explanations for why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana, but one of the most powerful is given by Moses Maimonides. For Maimonides the shofar is God’s alarm clock, waking us up from the “slumber” in which we spend many of our days. What did he mean?

    God’s greatest gift to us is time, and He gives it to us on equal terms. Whether we are rich or poor, there are still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week and a span of years that is all too short. Often we spend our time on things that in Maimonides` words “neither help nor save.” How many people looking back on a lifetime, saying, “I wish I had spent more time at committee meetings?” By contrast, how many say, “I wish I had spent more time with my children, or helping others, or simply enjoying being alive?”

    Sometimes we can be so busy making a living that we hardly have time to live. Sometimes we can be so busy making a living that we hardly have time to live. Experts on time management speak about two types of activity: the urgent and the important. Often our days are spent on the urgent, and we lose out on the important. I remember a conversation with someone who had been a workaholic, busy seven days a week. As a result of a personal crisis he decided to keep Shabbat. He later told me it was the best decision he ever made. “Now,” he said, “I have time for my wife and child and for my friends. Going to shul has made me part of a community. The strange thing is that the work still gets done, in six days, not seven.”

    Shabbat teaches us to take time for what is important, even though it isn’t urgent. Thirty years ago, when technology was less advanced, most people who wrote about the future saw it as an age of leisure when we would have far more free time. It has not happened that way. We seem more pressurized than ever and less relaxed. Mobile phones, e-mails and pocket computers mean that we are constantly on call. As Wordsworth said, “The world is too much with us; late and soon / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” The Psalmist put it best: “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

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    Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are when we number our days. Asking to be written in the book of life, we think about life and how we use it. In this context the three key words of the “Unetaneh Tokef” prayer are fundamental: teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity). Teshuvah is about our relationship with ourself. Tefillah is about our relationship with God.Tzedakahis about our relationship with other people.

    Teshuvah means not only “repentance” but also “returning” — to our roots, our faith, our people’s history and our vocation as heirs to those who stood at Sinai more than 3,000 years ago. Teshuvah asks us: did we grow in the past year or did we stand still? Did we study the texts of our heritage? Did we keep one more mitzvah? Did we live fully and confidently as Jews? Teshuvah is our satellite navigation system giving us a direction in life.

    Tefillah means prayer. It is our conversation with God. We speak, but if we are wise we also listen, to the voice of God as refracted through the prayers of a hundred generations of our ancestors. Tefillah is less about asking God for what we want, more about asking God to teach us what to want. A new car? A better job? An exotic holiday? Our prayers do not speak about these things because life is about more than these things. It is less about what we own than about what we do and who we aspire to be. We speak about forgiveness and about God’s presence in our lives. We remind ourselves that, short though our time on earth is, by connecting with God we touch eternity. Tefillah is our ‘mobile phone to heaven.’

    Tzedakah is about the good we do for others. Sir Moses Montefiore was one of the great figures of Victorian Jewry. He was a wealthy man and devoted much of his long life to serving the Jewish people in Britain and worldwide (he built the windmill in Jerusalem, and the area of which it is a part — Yemin Moshe — is named after him). Someone once asked him how much he was worth, and he gave him a figure. “But,” said the questioner, “I know you own more than that.” “You didn’t ask me what I own but what I am worth. The figure I gave you was how much money I have given this year to charity, because we are worth what we are willing to share with others.” That is tzedakah.

    Certain mitzvot in Judaism are rehearsals for a time to come. Shabbat is a rehearsal for the messianic age when strife will end and peace reign. Yom Kippur — when we do not eat or drink or engage in physical pleasure, and when there is a custom to wear a kittel like a shroud — is a dress rehearsal for death. It forces us to ask the ultimate question: what did I do in my life that was worthwhile? Did I waste time or did I share it, with my faith, with God, and with those in need?

    Knowing that none of us will live for ever, we ask God for another year: to grow, to pray and to give. That is what Maimonides meant when he called the shofar “God’s alarm call,” asking us not to slumber through life, but to use it to bring blessings.

    May the Almighty bless us, our families and the Jewish people, and may He write us all in the Book of Life.

  4. On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment,
    we don’t spend the day pleading for our lives to be spared.
    Why not?

    by Rabbi Noson Weisz

    This Shabbat is Rosh Hashana and we shall all be called to the Heavenly Court to stand trial for our lives. It would certainly help us greatly if we understood what exactly is being weighed and judged; the sorts of considerations that influence the deliberations of the Heavenly Court; how much input we are allowed to contribute to the proceedings. We shall explore these areas of interest in this essay by developing some of the basic ideas expounded by Rabbi Dessler in his work Michtav Mieliyahu.

    INVESTMENTS VERSUS REWARDS

    The very first point that must be emphasized is that contrary to popular belief, Rosh Hashana is not about reward and punishment. The Talmud informs us that mitzvot cannot be rewarded in this world (Kiddushin 39b). The commentators explain that the physical world simply does not have the resources to deliver the amount of joy required to compensate the performance of even a single Mitzvah.

    Only people who do not have the merit to make it to the World to Come are written into the Book of Life to compensate them for their past good deeds; we certainly hope that none of us are in this position, The conclusion: when we stand before God and pray for a good life in the coming year, we are not asking Him to provide it fo rus as a reward.

    But if the judgment we face on Rosh Hashana does not concern reward, what exactly is being weighed? According to Rabbi Dessler, the model we should study as an aid to understanding the deliberations of the Heavenly Court on Rosh Hashana is an economic investment model; the judgments of Rosh Hashana are the heavenly equivalents of earthly investment policy decisions. On Rosh Hashana it is decided how much Divine energy God will invest in the world in general and in our own lives in particular in the course of the coming year.

    AXIOMS OF DIVINE POLICY

    The most fundamental tenet of Judaism is that this physical world we inhabit is not our final destination but is merely a workplace. Each of us is sent to this world by God to develop ourselves spiritually and earn our entry to the World to Come, the place we regard as our destination where we shall receive our reward. God’s policy regarding the manner of setting up the conditions we that we encounter in our working environment, this world is summed up in the following passage:

    “Whoever undertakes to purify himself, we shall assist him. Whoever undertakes to shut himself to spirituality, we shall provide him or her with the opportunity to carry out this design.” (Talmud, Yuma 39b).

    The direction we choose to follow in our lives and the levels of intensity with which we pursue our spiritual objectives are evaluated annually. If we have made use of the inputs we were given in the previous year and progressed towards perfecting ourselves, the Heavenly court will generally decide to increase its investment in us. Our circumstances for the coming investment period, the New Year, will be arranged in a manner that ensures that we encounter the opportunities we require to progress even faster toward our goals.

    INVESTMENT MODELS

    For example, let us imagine a person who has spent the year since last Rosh Hashana working intensely on his devotion to Torah study. Through his efforts, his attachment to his studies has grown to such an extent that it has become painful and frustrating to invest any time in any other endeavor no matter how important it may be to physical survival. The Heavenly court may very well decide on Rosh Hashana that he should receive a substantial financial windfall so that he may be in the position to hire other people to assume his everyday physical burdens.

    But not only does the Court decide what we shall receive in the coming year on Rosh Hashana, it also decides on the manner we shall receive the things that were prescribed for us. Suppose for example that our budding scholar had purchased a cheap startup stock, Microsoft. The Court might arrange to deliver the windfall by increasing the value of Microsoft stock so rapidly, that our frustrated scholar is able to solve all his financial worries for the foreseeable future by selling his holdings.

    Of course, choosing this method of delivering the windfall to the scholar means that other owners of Microsoft stock will prosper as well, but that is all to the good. There is nothing the Heavenly Court enjoys more than the opportunity to distribute largess. They are glad to allow other people to hitchhike on the Torah scholar’s prosperity.

    On the other hand, if he already enjoys substantial wealth and it is the time and attention that he must devote to his business that is the major source of his distraction, it may very well be decided that the best way to give the Torah scholar more time to immerse himself totally in his studies is to bankrupt his business. A life of poverty might be far more conducive to Torah study than living with the distractions of wealth and luxury. Let us imagine that the revolving bank loan that his business needs to function is secured by his holdings of Microsoft stock. The Court might arrange a crash of the Nasdaq, so that Microsoft stock loses its value so rapidly that the banks would be forced to call in the revolving credit business loan, driving the business into bankruptcy.

    Once again this will affect other people’s lives, this time negatively, but as the other people who are affected are only written into the Book of Life in the merit of the Torah scholar, this outcome is not considered unjust by the Heavenly Court.

    In fact we have stumbled upon an entirely different category of judgment. For there are people who are written into the Book of Life for themselves and there are others who are written into the book in the merit of others.

    SPIRITUAL DEPENDENCY

    Let us attempt to develop the origins of such states of dependency from first principles. Reading through the Rosh Hashana prayer book conveys the idea that the Members of the Great Assembly, the Sages who compiled these prayers over three thousand years ago, conceived of Rosh Hashana as a sort of Divine Coronation day. The Machzor, the High Holiday prayer book, is full of prayers requesting the establishment of God’s Kingdom over the entire world. All the prayers we recite on Rosh Hashana are about the need to submit to God’s rule in some fashion. The Talmud refers to this phenomenon as Malchiyot, or Enthronement prayers.

    In order to gain the correct perspective on these prayers we must first comprehend the idea of God’s Kingdom. Our own conception of kingdom is political. A new kingdom is established, when either by popular consent or through the power of conquest, a group of people establishes hegemony over a portion of the earth and its inhabitants; the people who become the subjects of the new kingdom already belong to a particular culture or cultures. The human king does not create his kingdom. He merely reorganizes a given part of creation under his banner.

    GOD’S KINGDOM

    In contrast, the entire creation is called God’s Kingdom because it is an expression of His Will. The conceptual foundation of Rosh Hashana is that a created universe has no inertia; it consists entirely of Divine Energy whose input comes up for renewal annually. Each year, God in effect recreates the world by renewing and redistributing the Divine Energy of creation. This renewal of creation is referred to in our prayers as the establishment of a brand new Kingdom.

    This new kingdom isn’t merely forests and trees; it is also people and events. The people of the world and the events in which they will be involved in the coming year are powered by Divine energy just as much as the physical environment they inhabit. The energy that keeps people alive and the energy they must expend in the course of their lives must also be renewed.

    In fact, the annual renewal of God’s kingdom is only significant in terms of the changes that take place in people’s lives and the developments of human history. God is perfectly happy with the physical universe as is, just as He brought it into being in the Six Days of Creation. When He finished creating the physical universe and all its creatures, He declared, “And God saw all that He had made and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). There is no need to tinker with what is already very good.

    The only aspect of the creation that requires readjustment and therefore comes up for review is the arrangement of the forces of nature in terms of the manner in which they impact on people’s lives. The Heavenly Court will rearrange the world according to the dictates of the fundamental principles of Divine policy: “whoever undertakes to purify himself, We shall assist him. Whoever undertakes to shut himself to spirituality, We shall provide him the opportunity to carry out his designs.”

    The world will be recreated in a manner that will place every individual in the circumstances that are precisely appropriate to his situation following these two guidelines.

    People’s lives are so intertwined and intermeshed that in practice, readjusting the circumstances of a multitude of people amounts to the recreation of the entire universe. Let us remember that the universe was created by a series of Divine speeches (Avot 5,1). This means that creation is really an expression of God’s will; it is formed and shaped by commands expressed in speeches.

    As the created universe is nothing more than the concretization of God’s Will, it is the ultimate in kingdoms. Unlike the kingdoms of human beings, who can only issue commands to peoples that already exist, and control territories that are already in place, God’s Kingdom extends over creatures who are themselves the expressions of His will and occupies territory that is created for the express purpose of supporting the Divine Kingdom. Existence itself is God’s Kingdom.

    OUR INPUT

    Because the world is recreated every Rosh Hashana, the day marks the occasion of the establishment of a brand new Divine Kingdom. Jewish tradition maintains that God informed us about Rosh Hashana to allow us to have some input into how this new kingdom is to be fashioned. The purpose of creation is to allow man to actualize his spiritual potential. As I stand before God on Rosh Hashana, He is waiting to hear from me about what I plan to do to actualize my spiritual potential in the coming year.

    If all that issues form me is my desire to live on in prosperity and good health for another year, I am actually informing God that I do not require the renewal of His Kingdom at all. I am perfectly happy with the world just as it is. But God did not intend this world to be a comfortable place where I merely keep living on and on. He created the World to Come as the place of enjoyment and living the good life. The sole reason for the existence of this world is to provide man with a place in which he can work. If my main interest in being in this world is to live well and enjoy myself, I don’t need to be here at all.

    On the other hand if I sincerely resolve to invest my energy [really the Divine energy that I am asking God to renew out of which I am fashioned] in the coming year into developing my spiritual potential, not only do I need this world to be recreated, I also need it to assume the particular shape that will maximize my ability to work efficiently, and develop as much of my potential as possible.

    On the first day of Rosh Hashana God only considers the cases of the people who are sincerely committed to developing themselves spiritually. It is they who offer Him investment opportunities, because it is they who require the renewal of His Kingdom. After carefully assessing the seriousness and feasibility of the proposals that are submitted, He determines the inputs that each individual whose case is being deliberated requires to actualize his ideas in the coming year, and weaves all these individual requirements into a common tapestry and recreates a world that will correspond exactly with the combined requirements.

    THE SECOND DAY

    But what of all the good, solid people who do not fall into the category of those dedicated to developing themselves? What of all the good Jews who may not be very interested in spiritual development, but who are loyal to tradition, who are excellent spouses, dedicated parents, solid reliable people. How do they fit into the new world? They are what the second day of Rosh Hashana is about. It is not difficult to explain how there could be two days of Passover or Succot. Passover celebrates the freedom from the dominance of physical circumstances. You can always use an extra dose of freedom. Succot is the season of our joy, and you certainly cannot get enough of that! But Rosh Hashana is a Day of Judgment. Who wants a second day? Moreover, the Heavenly Court does not function in the manner of its earthly counterparts. It has no backlog of cases. God can finish judging the entire world all in one day. There should be no judgment to celebrate on the second day!

    The cases of all the people who did not pass muster on the first day are judged on the second. After God maps out the dimensions of His new Kingdom on the first day based on the requirements of those who were judged worthy of investment, on the second day He considers all the lives that need to be renewed to make His new Kingdom function.

    Even if we focus only on religious requirements the new world requires a large population. The people for whom the world was recreated on the first day need synagogues in which to pray; this means that you will need a quorum of people to be written in the Book of Life even if there is only a single member who passed muster on the first day. They will need Talmudic academies in which to study; a functioning academy must have a large student body, teachers, administrators, maintenance people etc.; hundreds of people can be written into the Book of Life in the merit of the few students who actually require the academy for their spiritual growth. First day people require Kosher food to eat; thousands of people can be written into the Book of Life to make sure that there is a functioning food industry. If you think about it there are literally millions of functions that must be filled in order to keep the spiritual world functioning.

    There are other sorts of spiritual needs that must be filled as well. Those who are working seriously on themselves are constantly being tested. In practice, a great percentage of these moral tests, if not the majority, involve interactions with other people. People provide the opportunity for the giving or withholding of charity, for testing patience, for expressions of concern and demonstrations of kindness, for the display of humility; the human character is tested constantly in every interaction with others.

    QUALIFICATION OF THE MAJORITY

    The vast majority of the people who would not have the world renewed for their sakes are sorely needed to make it function and are perfectly qualified to serve as moral testers. The lives of all these people are renewed on the second day of Rosh Hashana. The reason the second day is also called a day of judgment is that even the renewal of life on the grounds of one’s usefulness to others requires surviving judgment.

    The deliberations and considerations before the Heavenly Court on the second day obviously differ from those on the first. People aren’t judged on their potential for spiritual growth, but in terms of their necessity to society and their ability to cooperate with others. The question being considered is whether they are the best choice to fill a required social slot within the Jewish people, or whether they are necessary to keep the world functioning.

    Needless to say, there is a vast difference between the manner in which the world functions for those for whom it was renewed, and the way it functions for those who were allowed to live in order to keep it working smoothly. The people Hashgacha Pratis, Divine Providence. God will monitor their progress constantly throughout the year, ensure that they are protected from harm, and undergo precisely the experiences they need to bring out their potential. Their circumstances undergo daily and even hourly adjustments. In other words, there is a Divine guiding hand that is constantly rearranging the world for their benefit.

    Those who are inscribed in the Book of Life on the second day are placed under an altogether different sort of regime. As they inhabit a world that was renewed for others, the guiding hand of Providence is only concerned with them in terms of the function for which they were given life. Their lives are arranged in terms of the benefit their circumstances bring to others, not in terms of the things they may require to encourage their own spiritual development and growth. As they live in a world that really belongs to others, they are forced to adjust to the conditions of the lives of the people they are living to support.

    Nevertheless they are alive. They have free will. They can change and grow. As long as there is life there is hope and opportunity. By next Rosh Hashana these people could also become first day people. They will certainly do many good things in the course of their ordinary lives and increase their share in the World to Come.

    FREQUENCY OF JUDGMENT

    We can employ these ideas to unravel a strange dispute in the Talmud about how often people are judged. The Talmud presents four different opinions; R’ Meir and R’ Yehuda both take the position that judgments are annual, but R’ Yosi maintains that people are judged daily, while R’ Noson maintains that they are judged constantly. R’ Dessler explains that all these positions are valid, and there is no dispute between these Rabbis. Each of them is referring to a different level of Hashgacha Pratis. On the highest level, people are monitored constantly and the world never ceases to be rearranged around them. On the lowest level, people are fixed in place for the duration of the present reality, the annual renewal of the universe, the establishment of God’s new kingdom.

    GREAT OPPORTUNITY

    The annual renewal of Rosh Hashana presents all of us with a unique opportunity. As Rosh Hashana concerns the level of Divine investment, not reward and punishment, it is possible to surpass one’s spiritual level without the need to put oneself through the drastic changes demanded by true repentance. When you are facing investors, your moral standing is relevant only in so far as it contributes to your productivity. Investors are focused on higher returns; they really don’t care much about just deserts. They are looking out for enterprise, determination, intelligence and foresight. They are future oriented; the past doesn’t really interest them.

    Rosh Hashana is a time for imagination, for the formulation of daring new ideas regarding spiritual progress. If you have imaginative proposals to submit concerning contributions you are willing and able to make toward the successful establishment of God’s Kingdom, and you can persuade the Heavenly Court of the sincerity of your intentions, they will increase their investment in you regardless of your past performance. A junior executive can walk out of a director’s meeting on a much higher rung up the corporate ladder than he entered if he manages to persuade the directors to invest in his ideas. Rosh Hashana offers us all the opportunity of dramatic promotions in our level of involvement with God.

    We can move overnight from a world that belongs to other people to a world that is created specifically for us. We can pass from a state of relative obscurity where we live in other people’s shadows to creatures that are literally held in the palm of God’s hand, His attention focused on us constantly. We can define our own reality. May we all succeed in making a huge spiritual jump this Rosh Hashana. A happy, healthy and peaceful year to all Israel!

  5. Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

    The True Source of Joy
    by Rav Yehonasan Gefen

    A great deal of this week’s Torah portion outlines the devastating punishments that would befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. In the midst of the rebuke the Torah gives us a deeper insight into the cause of all the terrible punishments enumerated here; “Since you did not serve HaShem, your God, with joy and goodness of heart, from rov kol (the abundance of everything).” (1) The simple understanding of this verse is that the Jewish people did not perform mitzvot with happiness despite the fact that they were blessed with the abundance of everything.(2)

    The Arizal explains the verse according to the Kabbala in a slightly different way. He says that the Torah is saying that we may have performed mitzvot with a certain degree of happiness, however our main joy did not derive from observing the Torah, rather from the joy of ‘rov kol’ which refers to all other sources of happiness.(3) Thus, God is telling the Jewish people that the joy of Avodat Hashem (serving God) must be far greater than the pleasure derived from other endeavors. This is a lesson that is of great relevance to Rosh Hashanah: The main service of Rosh Hashanah is to make God King. A significant aspect of this is to recognize that God is the only source of meaning, all other ‘sources’ of pleasure are meaningless. This is also a prerequisite to the teshuva (repentance) process leading up to Yom Kippur. because if a person’s desires are not purely towards serving God, then he will find it almost impossible to avoid sin. There will be times when his desires clash with God’s will and his service of God will inevitably suffer. Thus, any teshuva he does on Yom Kippur will be tainted by his outlook on life – that God is not the only source of true meaning and joy.

    It is important to note that even if a person somehow avoids sinning whilst pursuing his other desires he will still face unpleasant consequences. Rav Yissochor Frand(4) tells a frightening story that illustrates this point. The Chiddushei Harim once travelled with a man on his carriage that was pulled by two horses. After a few miles, one of the horses died, causing great distress to its owner. A few miles later, the other horse also died. The owner was so distressed at the loss of his horses that meant so much to him that he sat crying for a long time until he cried so much that he died. That night, the Chiddushei Harim had a dream; in that dream he saw that the man who had died, received Olam Haba (the next world). But what was his Olam Haba? A lovely carriage with two beautiful horses. This story teaches us that our Olam Haba is created by what we value in Olam Hazeh (this world) – for this man, the most important thing in his life was his horses and carriage, therefore, that was what he got for eternity.

    One may ask, it does not seem to be so bad for a person to receive in Olam Haba that which he cherishes so much in Olam Hazeh. Rav Frand answers this question. He says that when he was a young child he always wanted a slingshot with which to play with but his parents refused. Imagine if, at the time of his wedding, his parents would come to him and say, “here is the slingshot that you always wanted!” As a child, the slingshot was valuable to him, but now he has grown out of it. So too, we may strive to acquire various pleasures in Olam Hazeh, such as money or honor, believing that they will provide us with contentment. But when we arrive in Olam Haba we will see the truth of the words of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto in Path of the Just: “everything else [apart from closeness to God] that people believe are good is nothing but emptiness.”(5) In the next world we will see with perfect clarity, how meaningless are those things that we put so much energy into acquiring in this world.

    The rebuke of Ki Savo is a stark reminder that it is not enough to merely observe the mitzvot, but that it must be the sole driving force in our lives. Honor, power, money, food and any other ‘pleasure’ are all illusionary sources of meaning – making God King means realizing that He is the only source of true happiness.

    NOTES

    1. Ki Savo, 28:47.

    2. See Rashi and Gur Aryeh.

    3. This Arizal was quoted by Rav Yissochor Frand shlit”a.

    4. Tape: Four questions for Yom Kippur.

    5. Path of the Just, Ch. 1.

  6. Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
    JOY
    by Rav Ari Kahn

    As the Jews are making the final preparations for the imminent conquest, Moses instructs the people:

    And it shall be, when you come in to the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, and possess it, and live in it. That you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which you shall bring of your land that the Lord your God gives you, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go to the place which the Lord your God shall choose to place his name there. (Deut. 28:1-2)

    The law which is taught is the command of bikkurim, the “first fruits.”

    The law itself is quite interesting. When the Jews finally settle and work the land, until the land yields its produce, they are being encouraged not to forget the trials and tribulations their ancestors endured to see the fruits of their labor.

    They are to imagine the beautiful tranquility of living in their own land, being nomads no more.The Torah is encouraging what we can call “historical consciousness.” Here, Moses encourages the people to look into the future and imagine the beautiful tranquility of living in their own land, being nomads no more.

    At that point, man is commanded to look back and declare:

    A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard slavery. And when we cried to the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesomeness, and with signs, and with wonders. And he has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land that flows with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which you, O Lord, have given me. And you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. (Deut. 26:5-10)

    We are not to view our success in either a spiritual nor a historical vacuum. We must recognize not only where we came from, but we must be cognizant of the Divine hand which constantly guides us.

    * * *

    THE JOY OF GRATITUDE

    At the conclusion of this ceremony the Torah ordains:

    And you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you, and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger who is among you. (Deut. 26:11)

    It is not sufficient to see the chain of events in a spiritual context. The result of such an analysis must be joy, the joy of standing in front of God, and thanking Him for all the gifts which have been showered upon us. The individual who sees his success in a myopic, self-aggrandized sense, suffers from a spiritual malevolence of far-reaching consequences.

    We find a warning of what will be the inevitable result if man does not adhere to the word of God.In order to understand these issues we must forge ahead in this week’s Torah portion. In the latter part we find a rebuke, a warning and a litany of curses — which will be the inevitable result if man does not adhere to the word of God. [See also Parshat Bechukotai in the aish.com archives section.] The horrific behavior of the Jews which will serve as a catalyst for this outcome is described as follows:

    And all these curses shall come upon you, and shall pursue you, and overtake you, till you are destroyed; because you listened not to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded you. And they shall be upon you for a sign and for a wonder, and upon your seed forever. Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things. (Deut. 28: 45-47)

    The terrible curses are brought about due to a lack of “joyfulness, and … gladness of heart.” We would not have imagined that this would be the core problem which would lead to a 2,000-year exile, yet that is what exactly what we learn.

    One often imagines that the emphasis on joy and happiness is some later Hassidic idea, yet no one would claim that these verses are an interpolation dating to the 18th century.

    Therefore, the opening of this Torah portion must be understood in the same light, the result of the first fruits was to be joyful; if that joy would be lacking then the results would be catastrophic.

    This analysis will aid us in understanding the following, related Midrash:

    Moses used his Divine clairvoyance, and saw that the Temple would one day be destroyed, and therefore the rite of first fruits would cease. He therefore initiated prayer, three times a day. (Tanchuma Kitavo)

    This Midrash seems somewhat obscure, why, of all the rites and practices in the Temple, was the rite of first fruits singled out as the one which Moses was concerned about. Secondly, what correlation exists between prayer and this rite?

    On the other hand perhaps we can reverse the logic, and say that it was the lack of observance of this rite — with its stress on joy — which led to the destruction. Might that be the connection? This would support our understanding that the lack of joy described at the end of the Torah portion is connected with the joy described in the beginning.

    * * *

    KEEPING HOPE ALIVE

    The connection which we made in passing above, between the present exile and this week’s Torah portion is based on a teaching made famous by Nachmanides, in his commentary to the Book of Leviticus. His source is actually a passage in the Zohar.

    The Zohar begins by telling us that when Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was in a cave together with his son Rabbi Eliezer hiding from the Romans, Elijah the prophet would visit them daily and teach them the mysteries of the Torah. Meanwhile, during their absence, back in the study hall a question arose:

    It is said (we have a tradition) that the curses in Torat Kohanim (Book of Leviticus) are referring to the destruction of the first Temple, while the curses listed in Mishna Torah (literally Repetition of the Torah, or Deuteronoomy) refer to the second Temple. The curses in Leviticus contain guarantees and display the love which God has for man … The curses in Deuteronomy contain no such guarantees or comforting words [that one day redemption will come] … and no one knew how to answer this question. Rabbi Yehuda bar Iylai arose and said: “Woe to us for we miss Rabbi Shimon, and we do not know where he is.”

    We must keep in mind that the time which elapsed between the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians and the building of the second Temple was but seventy years. Roughly seventy years after the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans the Bar Kochba rebellion failed, and the persecution by Emperor Hadrian violently squashed the nascent messianic aspirations. Rabbi Akiva was dead, and the great Rabbi Shimon was in hiding. Instead of giving up hope, the remaining sages were confident that there was a good explanation for the lack of guarantees, and comforting words in these passages, which described the exile which they were enduring.

    Rabbi Yossi bar Yehuda, arose one morning and saw many birds flying about. Alone in the back of the group was one solitary dove. He stood on his feet and said “Dove, faithful dove, from the days of the flood [of Noah] symbol of our holy people … go and be my emissary to Bar Yochai, wherever he may be.”

    The dove which is the symbol of hope and peace from time immemorial, serves as a prototype for the behavior of the Jewish people because of its reputation for fidelity and monogamy. Seeing the dove inspired Rabbi Yossi and gave him hope.

    The dove circled above while Rabbi Yossi wrote a letter … the dove took the letter to Rabbi Shimon … When Rabbi Shimon saw the letter he began to weep … He said I am crying because I am separated from my companions, and I cry for that which is not revealed to them, what will future generations do if they see this? Elijah then arrived, he saw that [Rabbi Shimon] was crying. He [Elijah] said I was on a different mission, but God sent me to dry your tears.

    * * *

    THE APOCALYPSE

    The Zohar then describes the Apocalypse — how things will look at the end of days. Elijah reveals to Rabbi Shimon, that in reality all the punishment and curses emanated from God who, as a loving father must at times discipline, but all the curses indeed emanate from love. At the very end of the passage Elijah explains:

    All this will take place at the end of days, and all is dependent on repentance, but it is hidden … he who has a heart will look and return to his master … Rabbi Shimon wrote these things in a letter and sent it back with the dove to Rav Yossi who was still waiting … (Zohar Chadash Ki Tavo 59c-60a)

    The understanding that the two sections of rebuke in the Torah — in Leviticus and Deuteronomy — refer to the first and second Temples respectively is the point of origin in the Zohar. The main concern in the Zohar is how to explain the lack of guarantees on God’s part. But the conclusion of the Zohar is instructive, man’s repentance has the capacity to heal.

    In order to understand why the first destruction had guarantees, while the second destruction is dependent on man’s repentance, we must introduce a new concept: There are two ways to heal the rift in the relationship between man and God. One type is the “movement” of God towards man. This is described in mystical literature as an “awakening from above.”

    There are two ways to heal the rift — movement of God toward man, and man toward God.The second type is the movement of man toward God, or an “awakening from below.” The guarantees which are described in Leviticus indicate the healing which needed to take place at that juncture was based on movement by God. On the other hand, the second exile will not come to an end until man reaches out toward God.

    This idea is the essence of this week’s Torah portion.

    * * *

    REJECTION OF GOD

    After man sees the fruit of his labor, an appreciation of God must be part of that experience. The rejection, or absence of God at the culmination of the conquest, settling and normalization of life, cause a spiritual vacuum. Man is supposed to sense and feel God in all his endeavors. Throughout the varieties of experiences and permeating the vicissitudes of the human condition God should play a dominant role. Certainly, at the moment of success, when the covenant formed with our forefathers had come to fruition, man was to recognize that the grace and love of God allowed all this.

    This was the objective of the first fruits ceremony. After all, what better symbol exists for the fulfillment of the covenant than the fruits in our hands. Living in our own land, supported by our own labor, independent of foreign powers or resources.

    This realization was to bring a person “before the Lord,” as it is described in the Torah:

    And you shall set it (the first fruits offering) before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. (Deut. 26:10)

    It is both a physical and a spiritual state to stand before God, produce in hand, and it should lead to feelings bordering on ecstasy. If man does not feel the joy at that point when evidence of God’s keeping His word is in his hand, then it is an indication that man has moved away from God despite all the blessing he received.

    Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things. (Deut. 28:47)

    * * *

    COMING BACK

    When man has moved away from the Divine, the only rectification is for man to move back toward God. Therefore the Zohar concludes that repentance is the key to heal the rift, which caused the destruction of the second Temple. This would also explain the Midrash cited at the outset — Moses knew that the absence of the Temple necessitated man’s movement toward God; therefore, Moses instituted thrice daily prayer, in order to remind man constantly, in all his experiences, that he must not forget God, rather he should take every opportunity to stand in front of God.

    Furthermore, prayer is described as “service of the heart.” Evidently the heart, the emotions are crucial for this return.

    Repentance itself may be divided into two types, that which is the result of man’s fears and sense of mortality:

    repentance motivated by fear, and
    repentance motivated by love, which emerges from a profound sense of love toward God.

    This latter type of repentance represents man’s appreciation of all the gifts which God constantly provides and brings healing both for individuals and for the entire creation.

    When the Jewish people succeed in relating to God via love, Elijah will return to dry our tears and the exile will come to end.

    Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 3:23-24)

    The end of days will indeed be a time when Elijah returns, fathers and sons will be united, the historical consciousness which we described in the beginning will be the order of the day. At that time we will be united with our father in heaven as well. And a joy of the type which we have not seen before will spread throughout the earth. Indeed, it is joy which will cause this cosmic reunion. The impetus must come from below, the response will be from above.

    In the end, Rabbi Yossi and the other companions were comforted. Just as the raging waters of the flood were dried in biblical times, the tears of Rabbi Shimon were dried.

    The Zohar in a different passage declares:

    Observe that from the time when the Temple was destroyed no day has passed without its curses. For as long as the Temple was in existence, Israel performed Divine service, offering up burnt-offerings and other offerings, while the Shechina in the Temple hovered over them like a mother hovering over her children, and so all faces were lit up, and all found blessing both above and here below, and no day passed without its blessings and its joys. Then Israel dwelt securely in their land and all the world was provisioned through them.

    But now that the Temple is destroyed and the Shechina is in exile with Israel there is not a day but brings its curses, and the world is under a curse, and joylessness reigns on high and below.

    Nevertheless, the Holy One, blessed be He, will in due time raise Israel from the dust and suffuse the world with joy. So Scripture says: Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer (Isaiah. 54:7). And just as they went into exile with tears, as it is written, She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks (Lamentations 1:2). So shall they return with tears, as it is written, They shall come with weeping and with supplications will I lead them (Jeremiah 31:9).

    Prayer is the classic example of man reaching from below, up to our Father in heaven. Prayer is designed to bring the Shechina, God’s presence, down to earth. Moses did not want the separation between man and God to take place at all, therefore, he insisted on our prayers.

    But the Zohar insists that repentance coming from the heart full of love is needed to return the Jews to the level which should have been reached via the first fruits offerings. When this happens, joy will become a reality — everlasting and complete joy.

  7. A handy checklist of everything you need to know for Rosh Hashanah.
    by Aish.com staff

    Pre-Rosh Hashanah

    A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone one may have wronged during the previous year. To whatever extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. One should also be quick to forgive those who have wronged him.

    Many people have the custom to go to the mikveh before Rosh Hashanah after midday. A mikveh, which has the power to purify from certain types of spiritual impurities, can be an important part of the teshuva process.

    Some have the custom of visiting a cemetery on the day before Rosh Hashanah and praying at the graves of the righteous. Of course, we do not pray “to” the righteous, but only to God who hears our prayers in the merit of the righteous.

    The morning before Rosh Hashanah, we perform “Hatarat Nedarim” – annulling all vows. In Torah terms, saying something as simple as “I refuse to eat any more candy” can be considered a legal vow. Therefore, before Rosh Hashanah, we annul any vows, whether they were made intentionally or not. This is done by standing in front of three adult males and asking to be released from the vows that were made. The full text can be found in a Siddur or Rosh Hashanah Machzor.

    The Festive Meal

    During the High Holidays, a round challah is used – symbolizing fullness and completion. After making the “Hamotzi” blessing, it is customary to dip the bread into honey – symbolizing our prayer for a sweet new year.

    Then, after most of your slice of bread has been eaten, take an apple and dip it in honey. Make a blessing on the apple (since “Hamotzi” did not cover the apple) and eat a little bit of the apple. Then say, “May it be Your will, God, to renew us for a good and sweet new year.” (OC 583)

    Why do we ask for both a “good” AND “sweet” year? Doesn’t the word “good” automatically include “sweet?”

    Judaism teaches that everything happens for the good. It is all part of the divine will. Even things that may look “bad” in our eyes, are actually “good.” So when we ask God that the year should be “sweet” (in addition to good), it is because we know that everything will be for the good. But we also ask that it be a “revealed” good – i.e. one that tastes “sweet” to us.

    On Rosh Hashanah, we add the paragraph Ya’aleh V’yavo in Grace After Meals.

    Symbolic Foods

    On Rosh Hashanah, we eat foods that symbolize good things we hope for in the coming year. We contemplate what these foods symbolize, and connect with the Source of all good things.

    The symbolic foods are based on a word game which connects the name of a certain food, to a particular hope we have for the new year. Here is a list from the Talmud of symbolic foods customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah. (The food and its related meaning are in bold.)

    After eating leek or cabbage, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be cut off.”

    After eating beets, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our adversaries be removed.”

    After eating dates, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be finished.”

    After eating gourd, say: “May it be Your will, God, that the decree of our sentence should be torn apart, and may our merits be proclaimed before You.”

    After eating pomegranate, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”

    After eating the head of a sheep or fish, say: “May it be Your will, God, that we be as the head and not as the tail.

    You can also use other foods and make up your own “May it be Your will…” For example, you could eat a raisin and celery, and ask God in the coming year for a “raise in salary” (raisin celery)!

    Print a PDF file of the symbolic foods (courtesy of ArtScroll).

    Rosh Hashanah Prayers

    Since there are so many unique prayers on Rosh Hashanah, we use a special prayer book called a “Machzor.”

    In the “Amidah” and “Kiddush” for Rosh Hashanah, we say the phrase Yom Teruah. However, if Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, we say Zichron Teruah instead. (If one inadvertently said the wrong phrase, he needn’t repeat the prayer.)

    The supplication “Avinu Malkeinu” should be said on Rosh Hashanah, except when Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat coincide, since supplications are not said on Shabbat. If Rosh Hashanah falls on a Friday, “Avinu Malkeinu” is not said at Mincha.

    During the High Holidays, the curtain on the ark is changed into a white one, to symbolize that our “mistakes will be whitened like snow.”

    The chazan (cantor) for the High Holidays should not be chosen for his vocal talents alone. Ideally, the chazan should be over 30 years old, God fearing, learned in Torah, humble, and married. A learned man under 30 with the other qualifications is acceptable. Though it is preferable to allow an unfit chazan to lead services, rather than cause strife over the issue in the community.

    Since it is a question as to whether the She’hechianu blessing should be said on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we are accustomed to eat a new fruit or wear a new garment and say She’hechianu upon it.

    The Shofar

    The essential mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar. The shofar blasts after the Torah Reading are called “Tekiot M’yushav.”

    The minimum Torah obligation is to hear nine blasts. However, there is a doubt whether the sound of the shofar should be a groaning type of cry (Shevarim), or a sobbing weep (Teruah), or a combination (Shevarim-Teruah). Therefore, we perform all three sounds, each preceded and followed by an unbroken blast, Tekiah. Three of each set results in 30 blasts total, which are necessary to remove all doubt that the Torah precept has been fulfilled.

    It is customary to blow shofar in the same place that the Torah is read, so that the merit of the Torah will support us. The shofar should be blown during the daytime. In ancient times, when the Romans persecuted the Jews, the rabbis instituted blowing the shofar before Musaf, since the Romans had guards in the synagogues during the early morning.

    The person who blows the shofar must stand. He should be instructed immediately before blowing to have intention to fulfill the obligation for all those listening. Similarly, all those listening should be reminded to have intention that their obligation is being fulfilled.

    Before blowing, two blessings are recited: “to hear the sound of the shofar,” and She’hechianu. Once the blessings have been made, one may not speak until the end of the shofar blowing.

    Women may sound the shofar for herself and say the blessing. (Sefardi women do not say a blessing.) A child who is old enough to be educated regarding mitzvot is required to hear the shofar.

    The shofar is not blown when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat.

    The shofar used on Rosh Hashanah should be a curved ram’s horn, and longer than four inches. It is permitted to use the shofar of an animal not ritually slaughtered. After the fact, any shofar is acceptable except the horn of a cow, ox or an unkosher species of animal.

    In the “Amidah” prayer of Musaf, there are three special blessings: Malchiot (praises to God the King), Zichronot (asking God to remember the merits of our Ancestors), and Shofrot (the significance of the shofar). During the chazan’s repetition, we blow an additional 30 blasts in the various combinations.

    It is the custom to blow 40 extra blasts at the end of services, bringing the total to 100. It is customary to prolong the final blast, which is called a Tekiah Gedolah.

    Other Customs

    It is customary to greet others as follows: “L’shana Tova / Ketivah vi-chatima Tova.” This means: “For a good year / You should be written and sealed in the good (Book of Life).”

    One should try not to sleep or go for idle walks on the day of Rosh Hashanah. (The Arizal permits a nap in the afternoon.)

    It is advisable to avoid marital relations, except if Rosh Hashanah falls on the night of the wife’s immersion.

    If a Bris Milah falls on Rosh Hashanah, it should be performed between the Torah reading and the shofar blowing.

    Tashlich

    The “Tashlich” prayer is said on the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by a pool of water that preferably has fish in it. These prayers are symbolic of the casting away of our mistakes. Of course, it is foolish to think you can rid sins by shaking out your pockets. Rather, the Jewish approach is deep introspection and commitment to change. Indeed, the whole idea of “Tashlich” is partly to commemorate the Midrash that says when Abraham went to the Akeida (binding of Isaac), he had to cross through water up to his neck

    If Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat, “Tashlich” is pushed off until the second day. If “Tashlich” was not said on Rosh Hashanah itself, it may be said anytime during the Ten Days of Repentance.

    Both the body of water and the fish are symbolic. In Talmudic literature Torah is represented as water. Just as fish can’t live without water, so too a Jew can’t live without Torah!

    Also, the fact that fish’s eyes never close serve to remind us that, so too, God’s eyes (so to speak) never close; He knows of our every move.

    This is the text of “Tashlich:”

    Who is like You, God, who removes iniquity and overlooks transgression of the remainder of His inheritance. He doesn’t remain angry forever because He desires kindness. He will return and He will be merciful to us, and He will conquer our iniquities, and He will cast them into the depths of the seas.

    Give truth to Jacob, kindness to Abraham like that you swore to our ancestors from long ago.

    From the straits I called upon God, God answered me with expansiveness. God is with me, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me? God is with me to help me, and I will see my foes (annihilated). It is better to take refuge in God than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in God, that to rely on nobles.

    Many people also read Psalms 33 and 130.

  8. Rosh Hashana
    by Rav Yaakov Menken

    “And G-d remembered Sarah as He had said, and G-d did for Sarah as He had spoken. And Sarah conceived, and she gave birth to a child to Avraham, a son to his old age, in the time which G-d had told him.” [Genesis 21:1-2]

    Why do we read this Torah portion on Rosh HaShanah? How does it add to our observance of the Day of Judgement, our consciousness of G-d’s Kingship, or our obligation to desist from sin and to return to Him and His ways?

    The Talmud [Rosh Hashanah 11a] says that G-d “remembered” both Sarah and Chanah on Rosh Hashanah, answering their prayers to have children. Therefore the Torah reading on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah concerns the birth of Yitzchak, while the Haftorah concerns Chanah’s prayer and the birth of her son, the prophet Shmuel. By reading these portions, we not only recall their greatness, but we inspire ourselves to pray as they did.

    If we are searching, however, for a lesson in repentance from the Torah reading, it is easily found — just from an unexpected source. In our parsha, it is Yishmael, the evil child whom Avraham was forced to expel from his home, who is our model.

    “And G-d heard the voice of the child, and an angel of G-d called to Hagar from the heavens, and it said to her, ‘what is your trouble, Hagar, do not fear, for G-d has heard the voice of the child, according to where he is now.'” [21:17]

    The Torah uses an unusual expression — “according to where he is now.” These words teach us a profound lesson: G-d judges each person’s current behavior and mindset, regardless of the past or future. A person is judged “according to where he is now.”

    Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki explains: “[Yishmael] is judged according to his actions now, and not according to what he will do in the future. The ministering angels were accusing him and saying, ‘Master of the World, someone whose children will kill your children with thirst in the future, to him, you raise a well?’ And He answered them, and asked, ‘Right now, what is he: a righteous person, or an evil person?’ And they answered him, ‘Righteous.’ And He said to them, ‘According to his actions now, I judge him, and this is “according to where he is now.”‘”

    When it comes to a holiday such as Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, many people feel like hypocrites, or at least insincere. “How can I go and ask forgiveness, what I am just going to go back to the same behavior tomorrow?” To a certain extent, this sentiment is correct. If a person is planning to commit a crime tomorrow, then he can hardly go before G-d today and claim to regret all the evil he has ever done.

    This is only true, however, where the person is actually planning to do this. If a person genuinely feels regret, and wants to change, and resolves to change, then the fact that she has been making the same resolution for the last 15 years — and breaking it — isn’t relevant. What is relevant is what she is thinking now.

    Even if you have been confronting the same character flaws, the same misbehavior, the same problems every year — that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you resolve to solve these problems once and for all, and pray throughout Rosh Hashanah that G-d give you the strength and support to meet your goal. Don’t worry about what happened last year, or the year before. The time is now.

  9. Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)
    120. The Reason for Not Eating Nuts on Rosh Hashanah
    Shammati( Ihave heard)

    I( Rabash) heard at the closing of Rosh Hashanah, 1942, Jerusalem

    The reason for not eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is that Egoz (nut), in Gematria, is Het (sin). And he asked, “But Egoz, in Gematria, is Tov (good)?” And he said that Egoz implies the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    And before one repents from love, the Egoz in him is still a sin. And one who has already been awarded repentance from love is permitted to eat nuts. Hence, his Het has become good, and then he is permitted to eat nuts. This is why we should take note that we eat only things that do not have any hint of a sin, which are considered the tree of life. However, things that have Gematria of Het imply the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  10. Kabbalah teaches that each blast of the shofar has a unique spiritual impact.

    Blowing Your Horn
    From the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

    One of the central commandments related to Rosh Hashanah is to hear the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn. On the simple level, we are declaring G-d to be King, and this coronation ceremony is accompanied by trumpet blasts. The following Zohar translation deals with the inner meaning of the different types of shofar blasts and their purpose. There are three main “notes” blown on the shofar: Terua, consisting of nine short blasts; Shevarim, three short blasts, each one taking the same length of time as three blasts of the Terua; and Tekia a single blast that is the length of the Terua and Shevarim combined when those blasts are sounded one after the other.

    Terua: You shall break them [in Hebrew, “tero’aim”] with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Psalms 2:9)

    The Terua blasts are in the sefira of tiferet and break the power of the negative spiritual energies, the Sitra Achra, breaking them with powerful shattering blasts.

    These blasts act like an iron rod shattering pottery, and this is why King David chose the word “teroaim”, which shares the same root as “Terua”, to describe a shattering action.

    Tekia: Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them up [in Hebrew, “hoka”] in broad daylight [in Hebrew, “neged hashemesh”, literally “opposite the sun”], that the fierce anger of G-d may be turned away from Israel.(Num. 25:3) The Tekia blast is rooted in the sefira of chesed….
    After the people sinned with the Midianite women, who enticed them into idolatry, Moses was instructed to placate the anger of G-d by executing them and hanging them up on a poll. Note the similarity between the word for hanging up, “hoka”, and the English word “hook”. The Tekia blast is rooted in the sefira of chesed. Here the verse is interpreted to mean that the blast takes the Sitra Achra and hangs him up “opposite the sun”. “The sun” is a code for Zeir Anpin, the loving and active influencing power of the Divine. Acts of kindness (chesed) avert even fierce anger.

    And the shofar is the [simple] voice. From her issues the voice [from which come the blasts of] Tekia, Shevarim and Terua.

    The feminine gender of the word “shofar” hints at the sefira of bina, which is the root of the sound that issues from it. She is the root of chesed, gevura and tiferet, which are the three sefirot represented by the different types of blasts made with the “voice” which issues from the shofar.

    Tekia comes from the brain.

    The sefira above chesed in the diagram of the sefirot is chochma. This is the state of chesed in elevated consciousness.

    Shevarim comes from the heart. This is reflected in the verse “The contrite [in Hebrew, “nishbar”] spirit is a sacrifice [in Hebrew, “zevach”] to G-d; O G-d, You will not despise a contrite and broken [“nishbar”] heart.” (Psalms 51:19)

    When the heart is broken, as opposed to being full of itself, the light of the Divine can enter…
    The word “shevarim” means “broken” and is related to the sefira of gevura since it takes strength, i.e. gevura, to break something. In the quoted verse, the same root word, “shever”, describes the contrite and broken heart. The higher source of the sefira of gevura is bina. This is reflected in the diagram of the sefirot where bina is above gevura, hinting that gevura, when elevated into consciousness, becomes bina. Bina in turn relates to the heart. When the heart is broken, as opposed to being full of itself, the light of the Divine can enter. The Shevarim blasts of the shofar represent the breaking of pride in the heart that diminishes bina consciousness.

    This also [represents] the broken, i.e. contrite, spirit that is the sacrifice to G-d.

    The harsh judgments are “slaughtered” (from the word “zevach”, meaning to “slaughter” above) by a broken and contrite spirit. The harsh judgments have hold over a person in a state of egotism. As soon as this state is renounced for true humility, these forces have no source to grasp onto and automatically fall away. It requires true gevura – strength – to conquer egotistical desires, but once this is done a person can receive bina consciousness and truly see reality.

    The sound of the Terua is from the wings of the lungs [the source of the sound], and the lungs and the windpipe contain it completely. They make the simple sound and the mouth makes the speech.

    The Neshama and Ruach and Nefesh of a person are also represented by the sounds of Tekia, Terua and Shevarim….
    The nine blasts of the Terua require a deep breath. This involves the two wings of the lungs that represent tiferet, a sefira that is the combination of two others. The wind generated and carried through the throat represents bina consciousness and the sound completes the rectification of Zeir Anpin. The mouth and specifically the lips make the “speech” of the shofar, namely the three types of blasts. Speech always represents the sefira of malchut and so in the very act of blowing the shofar we have a representation of the unification of the Divine.

    In addition to this, the Neshama and Ruach and Nefesh of a person are also represented by the sounds of Tekia, Terua and Shevarim. The Nefesh is in the heart, and that is represented by the Shevarim as is derived from the [above] verse “a broken and contrite heart”.

    The Nefesh is the raw life force and is represented by the blood. The heart distributes the blood and so it represents the Nefesh. The name Elokim is mentioned 32 times in the description of Creation in the opening chapter of the book of Genesis. In Hebrew the number 32 is represented by the letters lamed (=30) plus beit (=2). These two letters also spell the word “lev”, meaning “heart”. In the constricted state of consciousness, the heart is controlled by these 32 names of Elokim. In expanded consciousness the name Elokim is replaced by the name Havayah, so that a person sees the mercy of G-d in every aspect of reality instead of feeling his own constricted essence.

    The Neshama is in the brain, and that is the Tekia [elevated from chesed to chochma, as explained above].

    The Ruach is in the two wings of the lungs that cool the heart, which is like a burning fire. If it were not so, the heat of the heart would burn the whole body. The secret of this is revealed in the verse “You shall shine like the wings of a dove covered with silver”. (Psalms 68:14) [Silver represents chesed and the word “wings” hints also at the wings of the lungs]. The Ruach also includes fire and water [chesed and gevura], and because of this, the Ruach is represented by Terua [which is in tiferet, which combines chesed and gevura]. Concerning this, it is written: “Happy is the people who know [in Hebrew, “yodei”] the Terua blast; they shall walk in the light of Your countenance G-d.” (Psalms 89:16)

    The nine Terua blasts are in tiferet. That sefira is below daat in the sefira diagram, hence the word “yodei”, derived from the same root as “daat”, is used to describe the state of mind of those who are made happy by hearing these blasts. Because they understand the spiritual source of these sounds and internalize their message, they merit to walk in G-d’s light.

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    Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 21 p.42a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

  11. Via specific meditations during the shofar blasts, the root of judgment is sweetened.
    Advanced
    Shofar Meditation

    From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria
    It is explained in Kabbala and Chasidut that on Rosh Hashanah the act of the creation of the world is in a sense replayed. Although, since G-d made a covenant with Noah never again to destroy the world, the world will certainly continue to exist from year to year, the passage from old year to new year is still a critical nexus point. This is because the nature of the created universe is being determined at this time. The energy that powered the previous year is withdrawn and a new energy is drawn down. Since the creative energy that powers the world is being withdrawn to its source, there are no “rules”, and everything is, in a sense, up for grabs. Evil can assert that it deserves to receive the new life force of the coming year, especially in view of the record of its so-called rightful recipients during the previous year. Therefore, in order that the life force of the new year be drawn down as it should, that is, channeled mainly into holiness (and its champions in this world, the Jewish people), it is necessary to ensure that G-d is “reminded,” so to speak, of His original vision of Creation, in which the Jewish people are His emissaries to make this world into His home.

    The word “shofar” may be analyzed as follows. The shin-vav together with the 14 joints of the hand holding the shofar are 320 sparks, which are awakened from “the candle of darkness”.

    The word “shofar” is spelled shin-vav-pei-reish.

    The numerical value of shin-vav is 300 + 6 = 306. The hand of the shofar-blower has 14 joints (3 in each of the 4 fingers and 2 in the thumb); 306 + 14 = 320. The number 320 is associated with the attribute of severe judgment (din). The “candle of darkness” (butzina d’kardinuta) is an appellation of the gevura of Atik Yomin.

    The gevura of Atik Yomin becomes vested in the bina of Arich Anpin…
    In the cascading development of the partzufim, the higher partzuf always serves as the motivation or origin of the next lower partzuf. In this case, Atik Yomin, the partzuf of delight, motivates the partzuf of will, Arich Anpin. The way this “motivation” works is that the seven lower sub-sefirot of the higher partzuf enter and become vested within the lower partzuf. Chesed of the higher partzuf becomes vested in chochma of the lower partzuf; gevura of the higher partzuf becomes vested in the bina of the lower partzuf, and so on. What is relevant here is that the gevura of Atik Yomin becomes vested in the bina of Arich Anpin. We thus see that bina is rooted in a higher gevura. This is what gives bina its ability to act as the evaluating principle of the intelligence, weighing the implications of the insight of chochma.

    The [other two] letters, pei-reish, signify the five states of gevura indicated by [the five final letters] mem-nun-tzadik-pei-chaf, that are awakened from bina.

    The numerical value of pei-reish is 80 + 200 = 280. This number is also the combined numerical value of the five letters in the Hebrew alphabet that have final forms: mem (40) + nun (50) + tzadik (90) + pei (80) + chaf (20) = 280. The five final letters are also a phenomenon of gevura or din (severe judgment), since they indicate a stop or limit of the flow of life-force or meaning indicated by the other letters. As we have explained previously, the five states of gevura that originate within bina are the source of the five states of gevura of daat, which in turn inform the gevura aspects of Zeir Anpin and Nukva.

    We see from all this that the shofar is an expression of the attributes of severity and judgment.

    […] On Rosh Hashanah, the inner dimension of the lights of chesed-gevura-tiferet-malchut ascend into bina.

    The renewed inner light returns when the shofar is blown…
    Chesed, gevura, and tiferet are the three principle emotions, and thus signify the partzuf of Zeir Anpin; malchut of course signifies the partzuf of Nukva. On Rosh Hashanah, these two offspring of Imma withdraw back into the womb where they originated, so to speak. The external dimension of the lights of these partzufim remains in place in order for Creation to continue to exist. The renewed inner light returns when the shofar is blown.

    This is in order to sweeten all the aspects of severe judgment in the mouth of the one blowing the shofar and in the breath issuing from his mouth that enters into the shofar. This breath collides with the seven [aspects of] breath present in bina, and thus produces 260 lights, [this number being] 7 times the numerical value of the word for “breath” [in Hebrew, “hevel”, spelled hei-veit-lamed, 37, plus the kolel].

    7 x 37 = 259, adding 1 for the word itself gives 260.

    “Bina,” says the Zohar, “is the heart, and through it the heart understands.” Although understanding is obviously a facet of the intellect, the intellect will produce – if all is functioning well – an emotional response, and thus bina may be seen as the origin of the emotions. Emotions are felt in the heart, and therefore the Zohar calls bina the heart.

    The arousal of the emotions, which is physically manifest as the warming of the heart, produces “breath,” i.e., the beginnings or raw material of expression. This breath may ultimately be expressed as words (when the breath is acted upon and “processed” by the five organs of speech in the mouth – which themselves manifest the five states of gevura of bina), or as a scream, a sigh, or a kiss. In any case, the “seven aspects of breath” of bina are the seven proto-emotions as they exist within bina.

    […] The first set of blasts is tekia-shevarim-terua-tekia. The first blast is the straight tekia. One should have in mind [during this blast] that the numerical value of the [root of the] word “tekia” [spelled taf-kuf-ayin, 570] is [the same as that of the word for “ten”, (“eser”, spelled ayin-shin-reish), and that the numerical value of the rest of the letters (yud-hei) is 15,] and that 10 times 15 equals 150.

    15 is the numerical value of the divine name “Y-ah”(spelled yud-hei). Since this name is associated with a sefira of the intellect, it is considered completely iterated in its ten sub-sefirot, giving 10 x 15 = 150.

    In other words, intend to elicit the 150 lights from Abba, who is associated with the name Y-ah, to Zeir Anpin, and from him to Nukva.

    […] In the three blasts of the shevarim, have in mind that they express the states of severe judgment situated in the throat.

    As we have explained previously, the throat is the narrow passageway from the intellect (the head) to the emotions (the torso). The transformation from intellect to emotion is a contraction of the original light or consciousness of the intellect. This process is “dangerous” in that the emotions can be sidetracked along the way into all other sorts of contexts. These dangers are the states of din situated in the throat. Although the Arizal does not mention it here, these states of din are generally identified with the three ministers of Pharaoh (the butcher, the baker, and the butler), who are associated with the esophagus, the trachea, and the jugular vein. Pharaoh himself is associated with the neck, since the word for “neck” (in Hebrew, “oref”) is spelled with the same letters as is the word “Pharaoh”. Pharaoh (and Egypt in general) signify the constricted state of intellectual bondage, in which the intellect is prevent from giving birth to emotions (this is why the Egyptians threw the Jewish babies into the Nile).

    […] These three blasts then expand into the nine blasts of the terua. Intend through these [latter] to sweeten these states of judgment [manifested by the shevarim] by means of the chesed situated in the throat. Specifically, the [throat is the origin of the] guttural letters alef-chet-ayin-hei, whose combined numerical value is 84. This number is 2 times 42, the number of letters in the two names Havayah spelled out with the letter yud.

    Again, since we are at the level of intellect, the three states of gevura expand into their full iteration of 3 x 3 = 9.The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are divided in terms of their origin in the mouth into the dentals, labials, gutturals, palatals, and linguals (Sefer Yetzira 2:3).

    The numerical value of the name Havayah when spelled out with the letter yud is 72, as we have explained previously. Spelling out this name in two iterations requires 42 letters (4 for the name itself, 10 for the first iteration, and 28 for the second iteration).

    These [two names Havayah] are the two drops of 42-letters situated in bina, that is, in the throat, and they are names Havayah spelled out with the letter yud.

    The breath of the lungs…rises to the throat in search of expression…
    As we said, the breath of the lungs, warmed by the heart (related to bina), rises to the throat in search of expression. As we have explained previously, each of the four spellings-out of the name Havayah is associated with a specific partzuf, and this one is associated with chochma, i.e., the initial insight on which the analysis of bina operates. The presence of bina in the throat is thus the presence of the insight of chochma at the core of bina. This presence of original insight acts to mollify (i.e., sweeten) the severity of the bina-process and allows it to remain inspired by the recollection of the original insight. This is a manifestation of chesed, which is also indicated by the fact that 72, the numerical value of this name (in its first iteration), is also the numerical value of the word “chesed” (spelled chet-samech-dalet, 8 + 60 + 4).

    Finally, in the last tekia [of this series] intend to combine all these elements together. The [states of severity] first appeared as three [in the shevarim] and were then expanded into nine [in the terua] and are now united into one simple blast [indicating that they have become sweetened].

    Just as the first tekia is the sweetening light of Abba/chochma, the original insight.

    In describing the next two sets of blasts, tekia-shevarim-tekia and tekia-terua-tekia, the Arizal states that the intentions for the tekias that frame each set at the beginning and end are the same as described above, i.e., eliciting the light of Abba into Zeir Anpin and thence to Nukva. The middle blasts (shevarim and terua) also indicate various aspects of severe judgement, differing based on the numerical values of the number of beats in each as reflected in the various Divine Names possessing equivalent numerical values. Specifically, the shevarim indicate the “hard severe judgments” while the terua blasts indicate the “soft severe judgments,” presumably because they are more “pulverized” than the shevarim.

    In the set of 30 blasts there are 270 short beats…the numerical value of the word for “evil”…
    In any case, it is clear that the overall idea is to sweeten the judgements of the middle blasts by the simple straightforward blast of the tekia. In Chassidut, it is explained that the tekia indicates the “primal scream” of the soul expressing its ineffable yearning and absolute desire for G-d in His essence. The shevarim and terua blasts reflect the brokenhearted crying that results when the revelation of the tekia-consciousness focuses then on the individual’s actual behavior in the here and now.

    […] All three sets – tekia-shevarim-terua-tekia, tekia-shevarim-tekia, and tekia-terua-tekia – are blown three times, giving a total of 30 blasts.

    The tekia is sounded for 9 beats, the shevarim are sounded for 3 beats each, making 9 beats, and the 9 blasts of the terua are each 1 beat long, again giving 9 beats. Thus:

    In the set of 30 blasts there are 270 short beats.

    Now, 270 is the numerical value of the word for “evil” (in Hebrew, “ra”, spelled reish-ayin).

    The entire set of thirty blasts is sounded three times: (1) before Musaf, (2) during the silent recitation of Musaf, and (3) during the repetition of Musaf, totaling 90 blasts. In addition, the three sets are again blown – once each, i.e. 10 blasts – during the Kadish after Musaf. The grand total is thus 100 blasts.

    [During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts before Musaf] intend annihilate the evil inclination toward idol worship. During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts of the silent Musaf, intend to annihilate the evil inclination toward sexual aberration. During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts of the repetition of Musaf, intend to annihilate the evil inclination toward murder. During the final ten blasts after the prayers, during the Kadish, intend to annihilate the evil inclination towards slander.

    Normally, if a person is faced with the choice of committing a sin or being killed, he may commit the sin in order to save his life. There are three exceptions to this, however: idol worship, major sexual offenses, and murder. Although one is not required to lay down his life rather than speak slander, we are nonetheless taught that slander is such a heinous crime that it is considered as grave as these three cardinal sins.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaKavanot, Rosh Hashanah 9; subsequently published in “Apples From the Orchard.”

  12. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the judgment days of the year

    Our Portion for the Year
    From the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

    On Rosh Hashanah the whole world passes in front of Him and each person is judged according to his actions. We have learned that Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year of the king, and who is the king associated with this New Year? It is Isaac [gevura], who is called “Head” because he is one of the heads of the King — in the place called Year…

    [Isaac, who is on the left side of the tree of the sefirot, represents the sefira-attribute of gevura or “fear/awe”, and is elevated from Zeir Anpin –the intermediate category of sefirot, representing the emotions — to consciousness as bina, or understanding. Chesed, the other “head” of the seven emotional attributes, is represented by Abraham, who is on the right side of the tree of the sefirot; chesed is elevated to consciousness as the sefira of chochma — wisdom. The elevation of awe to understanding relates to the idea of appearing before the King in judgment and takes place at the time specifically appropriate for that, namely New Year.] There are four specific times the world is judged…associated with the names Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David…
    Because Isaac, who is from the side of judgment, reigns at Rosh Hashanah, it is the time when all people are judged…order. Each receives their deserved portion [thus setting the pattern for the whole year to come, each receiving the reward or punishment which has been decided based on past deeds.]

    On the festival of Sukkot the world is judged regarding water [associated with the sefira of chesed]. This is the beginning of the expression of the right side of the King and is the reason why the joy of [the blessing of] water is felt by all [who have been judged favorably]. At the time when the water…offering was made on the altar in the Temple, this joy was pervasive because [the property of] water is known [as symbolizing chesed, the kindness of being forgiven]…

    There are four specific times the world is judged. Rabbi Yossi said that …when we look at things everything is found in [these] four parts: you think about these times they could all be summed up in the symbolism associated with the names Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David… In these [aspects] the world is judged. …And in four parts (aspects) all people are judged all the days they are in the [this] world. [These represent the four times people receive judgment, on the days when the four sefirot represented by those names (chesed, gevura, tiferet and malchut) reign in the world — namely Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach and Shavuot.] Every single day the books are open and all of the deeds of mankind are recorded but no one is conscious of this and none bend their inner ear to listen to the lessons each day brings. The Torah gives evidence every day and her voice calls out strongly,… “Whoever is…simple [susceptible to temptation] let him turn [study me] here, to he of a weak heart she speaks whoever is lacking the ability to meditate in his heart about reward and punishment, Torah and mitzvot, study me!” (Proverbs 9:3). But there is no one to hear her [the Torah]. But no one is aware enough to pay attention to the voice of the announcer.

    ——————————————————————————–

    From Zohar, p.226b; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

  13. The Land of Israel is known as “the land of G-d’s desire”

    Eyes on the Land
    From the teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

    Many of the letters in this section of the Tanya were written in order to rouse Jewry to contribute generously to tzedaka in general and in particular for the sake of settling the Holy Land. In this letter, the author places singular emphasis on the merit of giving tzedaka for the Holy Land. Every year, he declares, charity should be given with more vitality and in greater volume, thus echoing the rhythm of the annually-renewed life-force that emanates from On High to the Holy Land.

    [This letter is written] to arouse the old love and fondness for the Holy Land, so that it burn like fiery flames from the inwardness of man and from the depths of his heart, as if this very day G-d had set His spirit upon us, a spirit of generosity, so that people volunteer to consecrate themselves to G-d with a full and generous hand, with one increase after another, from year to year, continually rising and excelling themselves. All this in keeping with the measure of [the level of divinity called] “Kodesh HaElyon” [Hebrew for “Supreme Holiness”], another name for the attribute of chochma, which radiates to the Holy Land and is constantly renewed [qualitatively] and increased [quantitatively], as it is written, “Forever are the eyes of the L-rd your G-d upon it [the Land of Israel], from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Deut. 11:12).

    As the Rebbe will soon say, the term “eyes” alludes to the divine attribute of chochma, or Kodesh HaElyon, which infuses the Land of Israel constantly, from the beginning of the year to its end. In order to explain how we derive from this verse that the level of chochma that radiates to the Holy Land is constantly renewed and increased, the Rebbe first raises the following query:

    Now, this phrase “to the end…” appears to be problematic, for at the end of one year begins another year. Thus it should surely have said [that the eyes of G-d are upon the Land of Israel] “everlastingly”.

    However, this matter will be understood by considering the verse “G-d by chochma established the earth” (Proverbs 3:19). That is, the foundation of “the Higher Land” [i.e. the heavenly model of the terrestrial Holy Land], which is the mode of [creative divine influence which is immanent and therefore called] “Memalei Kol Almin”

    This refers to the sefira of malchut of the world of Atzilut, called “land” for it is the last and [so to speak] lowest of the supernal sefirot, and it vests itself in created worlds and beings so as to vitalize them.

    This radiation and efflux from Supreme Chochma, that irradiates the “land” at both these levels, is renewed annually by a truly new light….
    And it is [likewise the foundation] of the nether [land], which is [the Land of Israel which is known as] “the land of [G-d’s] desire”, which truly corresponds to it[s heavenly counterpart], viz. “the Higher Land”, and is called by its name “the Land of Life” – [the foundation, then, of the higher and the lower lands] issues from the downward flow and radiation from the Supreme Chochma which is the source of supernal life; as it is written, “chochma animates those who possess it….” (Ecclesiastes 7:12)

    “G-d by chochma established the earth” thus means that the sefira of chochma diffuses its creative light upon “the Higher Land”, i.e. malchut of Atzilut, as well as upon its terrestrial counterpart, the Land of Israel.

    This radiation and efflux from Supreme Chochma, that irradiates the “land” at both these levels, is renewed annually by a truly new light. For G-d (blessed be He) and His chochma are one, in an absolute unity which is called “the [infinite] Ein Sof-light”, because there is no limit nor end to the quality and greatness of the light and vitality that issues forth from Him and from His chochma, in elevation upon elevation, to no end or limit, to the peak of the loftiest levels.

    Since the life-giving light that issues from Supreme Chochma is infinite, it follows that whatever the intensity of the light drawn down in the previous year, it is still possible that a greater degree of light be drawn down in the new year.

    Every year there descends and radiates a new and renewed light which has never yet shone….
    And every year there descends and radiates a new and renewed light which has never yet shone, from the Supreme Chochma to the Higher Land.

    The light that reaches down to this level is here described as “new and renewed”, for in the first instance a new light radiates into chochma from the Ein Sof that transcends it, and then a new light issues from chochma and infuses the Higher Land.

    For the light of every year withdraws to its source in the Essence of the Ein Sof on the eve of every Rosh Hashanah, “when the moon is covered”.

    Rosh Hashanah is known as “the holiday when the new moon is covered” (Rosh Hashanah 8a) and is not seen. In a spiritual context, this means that the sefira of malchut [represented in the Kabbala by the moon], the light that animates the worlds and created beings, is concealed and withdraws to its source.

    Afterwards, by means of the sounding of the Shofar and by means of the prayers, a new and superior light is elicited, [a light] of a yet higher rank in the sphere of the Supreme Chochma, to radiate to the Higher Land and those who dwell upon it, i.e. to all the higher and lower worlds that receive their vitality from it, i.e. from the Ein Sof-light, and from [G-d’s] chochma which is vested in it, i.e. in “the Higher Land”; this is as it is written, “For with You is the source of life; in Your light shall we see light.” (Psalms 36:10)

    The slumber that G-d brought upon Adam on the day of his creation…took place on the day of Rosh Hashanah….
    Supreme Chochma, which is the source of life, is “with You”, i.e., nullified and unified with the Ein Sof; “in Your light” – i.e. in the light that radiates from chochma to “the Higher Land” – “we shall see light”, referring to the light that descends from the Higher Land and illumines all the created beings which receive their vitality from it.

    This refers to the light that radiates from Supreme Chochma, the source (and, as is known to the scholars of the Hidden Wisdom, i.e. the Tree of Life, every Rosh Hashanah the nesira takes place, and [the sefira of malchut] receives new, more sublime mochin [levels of consciousness], and so on.)

    This is a Kabbalistic theme regarding the “rebuilding” of the sefira of malchut that takes place every Rosh Hashanah. The paradigm of this sequence is the slumber that G-d brought upon Adam on the day of his creation (see Gen. 2:21), which took place on the day of Rosh Hashanah, and the subsequent excision [“nesira”] of the rib from which Eve was then formed.

    The Kabbala explains that Adam is a terrestrial echo of Supernal Man, i.e. the bracket of sefirot known collectively as Zeir Anpin of the World of Atzilut. “Slumber” alludes to the withdrawal of the supernal intellectual attributes, or “mochin”, from Zeir Anpin [just as man’s intellect withdraws during sleep]. The new and more sublime mochin which are then drawn down into malchut are far superior to the mochin that Malchut had previously received from Zeir Anpin.

    In a very specific way, this takes place every day. More sublime mochin are elicited by every morning-prayer, which are not the original mochin that withdrew after the prayer [of the previous day], but more sublime ones.

    The Land of Israel, too, is illumined by chochma….
    In general terms, with respect to the world as a whole during the six thousand years [of the world’s existence], this occurs every Rosh Hashanah [and not only with regard to the daily elicitation of new mochin during prayer as experienced by an individual man].

    And this is the meaning of the above-quoted verse, “Forever are the eyes of the L-rd your G-d upon it”, for “eyes” is an epithet for the efflux and radiation of the light of chochma, for which reason sages are referred to as “the eyes of the congregation” (See Num. 15:24), for they are illuminated by the light of chochma, which is known by the term “eyes”. And this, too, is the meaning of the teaching “The atmosphere of the Land of Israel makes one wise” (Baba Batra 158b) – for the Land of Israel, too, is illumined by chochma.

    As was stated above, “Forever are the eyes of the L-rd your G-d upon it” refers to a constant illumination by chochma.

    Now, this radiation and efflux, though it is continuous, nevertheless, it is not only on one and the same plane and level since the beginning of the world. Rather, every year there is a new and superior light, because the light which was generated and which shone on this Rosh Hashanah withdraws to its source on the eve of the next Rosh Hashanah.

    This enables us to understand the verse that says that “the eyes of G-d” are upon the Land “from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” only.

    The verse does not state that they are there “eternally”, for the efflux that descends on Rosh Hashanah lasts only to the end of the year, at which time it withdraws and makes way for the descent of a new and more sublime light.

    At that time the innermost element of the world’s vitality is in a state of withdrawal….
    And that is why the word for “from the beginning” [in Hebrew, “meireishit”] is written without an alef: it alludes to the withdrawal of the light, signified by the alef, which withdraws on the night of Rosh Hashanah (see Zohar II:34a).

    At that time the innermost element of the world’s vitality is in a state of withdrawal due to the “ascent of Malchut”, i.e. the innermost core of Malchut is then in a state of elevation and withdrawal.

    This is until after the sounding of the Shofar, when there descends a new and more sublime light that has never yet shone since the beginning of the world. It vests itself and conceals itself in the Higher Land, which is above – i.e. in Malchut of Atzilut, the source of all worlds and created beings – and in the Higher Land, which is below, in the Land of Israel,

    For the light that animates this world first passes through the Holy Land, and from there it is diffused throughout the world at large.

    This is in order to animate all the worlds for the duration of that year. Its manifestation, however, depends on the actions of those below, and on their merits and penitence during the Ten Days of Penitence.

    For the light became concealed in the Higher Land above and below, so that its further descent and the revelation of its creative life-force to the world and to all its created beings.

    This will suffice for the initiated.

    In summary, the Divine light issuing from the sefira of chochma in the World of Atzilut that radiates within the Land of Israel throughout the year, increases yearly both in quantity and in quality. Similarly, the tzedaka given for the Holy Land should be increased every year both quantitatively and qualitatively.

    The conclusion of the above letter makes it clear that this mortal initiative makes an impact on the revelation of this light: the ever-increasing revelation of the light that descends in a concealed form is dependent on the ever-increasing contributions of tzedaka given for the sake if the Land of Israel.

    [Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from
    Tanya I: 14 from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B.Wineberg and edited by Uri Kaploun

  14. Revelation and Concealment
    By Simon Jacobson

    The mystics write that as the sun sets before Rosh Hashanah, the universe goes into a comatose state. A slumber descends on all existence; everything comes to a stand-still in cosmic silence, in apprehension of its contract being renewed.

    Is existence a form of revelation or a form of concealment?
    As the sun sets before Rosh Hashanah and existence hangs in the balance – it’s a good time to review the very nature of this existence that we are part of and whose parameters define our lives. Is existence a form of revelation or a form of concealment?

    This is not a mere abstract or esoteric question; it touches on the fundamental nature of our beings. Is the true essence of a human being – and of all existence – defined by what is visible to the eye and tangible to the five senses, or is the essence quite invisible, something that cannot be experienced in a revealed state?

    In other words: is what we see really a state of revelation, or is it the other way around, what we see is the glove, while the true hand remains hidden within?

    The first verse of Genesis,: “In the beginning when G-d created heaven and earth,” answers the riddle. The name for G-d used in this verse is “Elokim.” The classic commentator Rashi explains why the name “Havaya” is not used (as in a later verse, Genesis 2:4): “Initially the Divine intention was to create existence with the element of justice, but He perceived that the world would not endure; so He preceded it with the element of compassion, blending it with the element of justice.”

    …why did G-d initially consider creating it that way…
    What is the meaning of this explanation? Since the world could not endure on justice alone, why did G-d initially consider creating it that way; and only later did He decide to integrate the element of compassion? And what exactly is the meaning of ‘justice’ and ‘compassion’?

    Justice (Elokim) refers to the concealment of the Divine omnipresence which was a prerequisite for existence to come into being. As long as the Divine reality is all consuming, there is no room for any other consciousness to emerge. Explains the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal of Tsfat), in his revolutionary tzimtzum doctrine, that the Divine presence (i.e. light) was concealed in a type of cosmic “black hole,” which allowed for the emergence of the conscious, independent personality of existence as we know it. Like a teacher with an infinitely greater mind than his student conceals his brilliance in order to allow “space” for the student to contain the ideas on his limited terms.

    This tzimtzum/concealment is a called justice (din and gevurah), which withholds, measures and limits the transmission. By contrast, compassion (Havaya) activates the flow of energy and light.

    Without this concealment an independent existence can never come to be.
    Now we can understand the meaning of Rashi’s words: The basis of all existence is rooted in the element of “justice”, which concentrates and conceals the Divine light. Without this concealment an independent existence can never come to be. Thus, genesis begins that the universe was created with the name Elokim. However, G-d recognized the far-reaching consequences of a universe whose engine is strict justice and concealment. He therefore infused into the tzimtzum an element of compassion – ingrained in the concealment is the purpose that it must bring light.

    When a great teacher conceals the full intensity of his mind he does so not as an end in itself, but as a means to convey the idea to the student. In other words, the concealment (justice) itself is ultimately an expression of compassion, allowing the student to absorb the wisdom. So too, the concealment of the Divine energy (the tzimtzum), so necessary for existence to emerge, is not an end in itself but an act of compassion that will allow us – an autonomous entity – to unite with the Divine, step by step, on our terms.

    Here we have the answer to our initial question as to the nature of existence: Existence as we perceive it is actually a state of concealment. The deeper you travel into the intimate recesses of the human spirit the less tangible is the sensation, the fewer are the words, the less defined is the experience.

    In other words, the entire nature of existence is turned on its head, upside down and inside out: Our sensation of the revealed is actually a state of concealment, and that what is concealed is the true state of revelation. The visible is an artificial cover, and the invisible is true reality. This existence as we know it, as we perceive and experience it merely a shell, the surface layer that shrouds what lies behind the curtain.

    And the journey – and purpose – of our lives is not to be distracted by the outer mechanics, not to be deluded into thinking that there is nothing more than the outer shell. The objective of life is to weaken the hold of the concealment (justice) and reveal the compassion and revelation within.

    No person is immune to the forces of “justice” in this dark world. Our challenge is not to be overcome by the severer moments of life, and recognize the compassion even in the darker moments. Knowing that compassion is imbued into the very fabric of existence (or else the world could not have endured) becomes an eternal source of hope, giving us the strength to overcome any challenge.

    This is one of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah, when we celebrate the birthday of the universe and its crown-jewel, the human being.

  15. Nitzavim(Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
    Taking Responsibility For Ourselves
    by Rav Yehonason Gefen

    “This mitzvah that I command you today – it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, [for you] to say, ‘who can ascend to the heaven or us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?'” What is the mitzvah that the Torah refers to in this verse? The Ramban writes that it is the mitzvah of teshuva (repentance); the Torah is telling us that teshuva is not something that is out of our grasp, rather it is easily attainable if only we make the effort.

    Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks, if the mitzvah of teshuva is so easy to fulfil, then why are there so few people who do teshuva properly? Everyone knows that they make mistakes, so why do they not admit their error and repent?

    The following Medrash about the story of Cain and Abel can help us answer this question: After Cain killed Abel, God did not punish him instantly, rather He said “where is Abel your brother?” Cain famously answered, “am I my brother’s keeper?” (ibid. 4:9) The Medrash gives more details of Cain’s reply: “You are the protector of all life, and You are asking me?!.. I killed him but You gave me the evil inclination, You are supposed to protect everyone and You let me kill him, You are the one that killed him… had You accepted my offering like his, I would not have been jealous of him.”

    Why didn’t Cain do teshuva for his heinous act? Because he refused to accept culpability for his role in the murder – he even blamed it on God! We can now answer our initial question as to why so few people do teshuva properly. We are generally aware that we commit sins but there is one factor that prevents us from repenting properly, the ability to accept that the ultimate responsibility for our actions lies with us and us alone. There are many factors to which we can easily attribute our flaws; whether it be our upbringing, our natural inclinations, or our society, we find it extremely hard to accept ultimate responsibility for our failings. The prerequisite for teshuva is a recognition that ‘I could have done better; I could have overcome my yetzer hara (negative inclination) and not sinned.’ Without the ability to make this difficult admission we cannot begin to repent properly but with it teshuva is easily attainable.

    This inability to admit our guilt lies at the core of the first and most decisive sin in human history which plagues us to this very day – that of Adam. We traditionally attribute Adam’s sin to his disobeying God’s instructions not to eat from the fruit, and it was this that caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from the Garden of Eden with all the accompanying negative consequences. Rav Motty Berger points out that on closer analysis it is clear that they were not punished immediately after the sin. Rather, God engaged Adam in conversation, giving him the opportunity to admit his mistake. However, Adam did not accept this reprieve, instead he said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me – she gave me of the tree and I ate.” Adam avoided responsibility for his sin, shifting it onto Eve and even God himself for giving her to him initially. Then God turned to Eve, also giving her a chance to repent – she too declined the offer, saying, “the serpent deceived me and I ate.” Only then did God punish them for the sin. it is clear that had they taken responsibility for their actions when God confronted them, then surely the punishment would have been far lighter. Who knows how different the course of history could have been!

    We see from the stories of Adam and Cain that the ability to admit one’s mistakes is perhaps even more important than not sinning! Indeed we all err at some point, it is whether we can stand up and admit the truth for our actions that is the true judge of our spiritual level. It was only several hundred years after the sad beginning of history that a man arose who would shoulder the responsibility for his actions and rectify the mistake of Adam. The Tosefta says, “Why did Judah merit the Kingship? Because he admitted [to his actions] in the incident of Tamar.” Tamar was about to be burned at the stake for her alleged act of adultery, when she gave Yehuda the chance to admit to his part in the events. He could easily have remained quiet, thereby sentencing three souls to death – Tamar and the twins inside her. However, in a defining moment in history, he bravely accepted accountability, saying, “she is right, it is from me.” It is no coincidence that this was the key moment in producing the seed of the Messiah. We know that the Messiah is the person who will bring mankind back to its pristine state of before the sin, rectifying the mistake of Adam and Eve. The way in which to repair the damage done by a sin is by correcting the negative trait displayed in that sin. As we have seen, the main flaw present in Adam’s sin was an inability to accept responsibility for mistakes, therefore Judah’s success in taking responsibility for his actions was an ideal rectification.

    The intrinsic connection between Messiah and taking responsibility continued strongly amongst Judah’s most distinguished descendant, King David. The Talmud tells us that King Saul sinned once and subsequently lost his kingdom, whereas David sinned twice and remained king. Why was Saul treated so much more harshly than David? The Prophet, Samuel confronted Saul after he had not destroyed all of Amalek as he was commanded. But instead of admitting his mistake, Shaul justified his actions, denying he even sinned. Then he blamed it on the people for pressuring him to leave over some of Amalek’s animals to be offerings. After a lengthy back and forth, Shaul finally did repent but it was too late and Shmuel informed him that he had lost his right to the kingship. In contrast, after David’s sin in the incident of Batsheva, The Prophet, Nathan sternly rebuked him for his actions, and David immediately replied, “I have sinned to God.” David showed his willingness to take responsibility for his mistakes by immediately admitting his guilt unlike Shaul. Therefore he was forgiven and given another chance to continue as King. Moreover, the kabbalistic sources write that King David is a reincarnation of Adam and that his purpose was to rectify Adam’s sin. It seems very apparent that one of the main ways in which King David rectified the sin was by taking responsibility for his error so quickly.

    We live in a society today that shuns the concept of responsibility – many educated people claim that no-one can be held liable for his behaviour. They argue that essentially we do not have any free will, the person that we become is predestined based on our background, upbringing, genetics and society. Consequently, criminals can be excused of their crimes on the basis that they really had no choice in the matter, and people can tolerate the failings in their relationships and character traits as being unavoidable. The Torah outlook strongly rejects this view. If a person is brave enough to admit that he can do better then God will surely help him do so.

    We see this from the Talmud about a man called Elazar ben Durdaya. He was a man who was steeped in immorality; however he suddenly came to a realization of the error of his ways. The Talmud then proceeds to tell us how he tried to gain forgiveness for his sins. He sat between a mountain and a hill and asked them to request mercy for him but they refused. He then asked the heavens and earth to request mercy for him but they also refused. He finally turned to the sun and the moon but they also refused to help him.(1)

    Rav Yissochor Frand brings a homiletical explanation of this Gemara. The different things whom he asked to pray for him represent different influences on his life; he was trying to shift responsibility for his behaviour onto them. The mountain and hill represent his parents. He argued that his upbringing was responsible for his dire situation, but they refused to acknowledge their guilt. He then turned to the heavens and earth who represent his environment and tried to blame that for his actions, but they also would not accept responsibility for his sins. He finally turned to the sun and the moon who represent his mazal, his natural inclinations, and claimed that it was impossible to avoid sinning because of his nature. But again, they would not accept culpability for his behaviour. Then the Gemara states that he said “this thing is only dependent on myself.” He finally acknowledged that there was only one source responsible for his sins – himself. He could not blame his parents, society or nature, he realised that he had the power to change his ways and he did so. He then did complete teshuva and his soul returned to heaven and a Heavenly Voice came out, proclaiming that Rebbi Elazar ben Durdaya has a place in the Next World. The commentaries note that the Voice called him ‘Rebbi’ because he is our Rebbi in teshuva – he teaches us that the only way to do proper teshuva is to admit that the ultimate responsibility for our behaviour lies only with ourselves. If we can do this, then we can hope to do complete teshuva.

    NOTES

    1. Obviously this Gemara should not be taken literally

  16. Vayelech(Deuteronomy 31)
    When Was the World Created?

    It was taught: Rabbi Eliezer said, “The world was created in Tishrei.”…Rabbi Yehoshua said, “The world was created in Nissan.” (Rosh HaShanah 10b)

    This seems to be a most fundamental dispute. Nevertheless, the Tosafos commentaries attempt a resolution:

    Rabbeinu Tam says, “Both views are ‘the words of the living God’ [both are true]. One may say that in Tishrei it occurred to God to create the world, but He did not actually do so until Nissan.” (Tosafos, Rosh HaShanah 27a, s.v. “K’man matzlinan”)

    This is comparable to a view espoused by Rashi:

    In the beginning Elokim created the heaven and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1)

    Elokim created – it does not say God [the four-letter Divine name] created. For initially, it arose in God’s thought to create it with the Divine characteristic of strict justice [indicated by the name Elokim], but when He saw that the world could not endure in this mode, He preceded the characteristic of Divine mercy [indicated by the four-letter name] and twinned it with strict justice. This is as the verse says: On the day on which God Elokim [both names] made earth and heaven (Bereishis 2:4). (Rashi loc. cit.)

    We may suggest that this is the same concept as that mentioned by the Tosafos. God, as it were, decided to create the world in Tishrei. The mazal, or astrological sign, of Tishrei is scales, which symbolizes the atmosphere of din (judgment) which prevails during this month. The world could never have survived the Divine scrutiny which this implies, so the actual creation was postponed until Nissan, a month in which mercy prevails. Nissan would be the month in which God would eventually enact the Exodus from Egypt, a tremendous display of chesed toward His people.

    * * *

    THE DISPUTE

    Let us consider the dispute in the Gemara a little more carefully. Note that it was Rabbi Eliezer who claimed that the world was created in Tishrei, the month of din. We may suggest that this reflects his allegiance to Beis Shammai. The root of Beis Shammai’s view is strict din, which is the theoretical ideal, the intellectually correct path. This approach is shown by the following, well-known story:

    It once happened that a gentile came before Shammai. He said to him, “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I am standing on one leg.” Shammai chased him out with the builder’s plumb line that was in his hand… (Shabbos 31a)

    A plumb line is an instrument with which a builder measures a construction to ensure that it is exactly level. It symbolizes Shammai’s approach to the would-be convert: he required complete perfection, which he clearly did not detect within him.

    In contrast, Rabbi Yehoshua claimed that the world was created in Nissan, the month of chesed. This reflects, if not an ideal approach, then a realistic one, in which the actuality of the physical world and its defects are taken into consideration. We are accustomed to considering the Hebrew names of people and objects as indicating their true essence. As such, we may even suggest that the names of these sages, Eliezer and Yehoshua, reflect their worldviews.

    Yehoshua comes from the word moshia meaning “savior.” There is another similar word in Hebrew, eizer, which we could translate as “helper.” Let us understand the difference between these terms. An eizer does just that – he assists his friend. One party makes some effort, then a friend comes along to help him out, and between the two of them they achieve what needs to be done. This is demonstrated by the following verse:

    If you see the donkey of someone who hates you crouching under its load, and you would hold back from helping him, you shall surely unload it with him.(Shemos 23:5)

    If the owner of the donkey says to a passerby, “Since the mitzvah devolves upon you [to unload the animal], if you want to unload it, then unload it,” he is exempt, for the verse says with him. (Mishnah, Bava Metzia 2:10)

    We see that an eizer assists someone, rather than doing something for him in its entirety. On the other hand, Yehoshua comes from the word moshia, “savior” – someone who does something for another person even if he has to do it completely. It is the word which applies when the helped party does nothing at all to assist the helper. We see this from the verse which describes the salvation of God at the sea:

    God saved [vayosha, from the same root word as moshia] Yisrael on that day from the hand of Egypt… (Shemos 14:30)

    Yisrael did nothing for themselves at the sea. It was a miraculous salvation from God. When a person takes some action to help himself, then God is an eizer, a helper to him. In this situation, the recipient may even qualify for the merit of din, for this is how din functions:

    If God did not help him, he could never prevail. (Sukkah 52b)

    God has made His help essential to the running of the world. This means that everyone, even the greatest tzaddik, must have help from God to succeed. As such, one may merit the quality of din even when God helps, but only if one starts by helping oneself. Thus Rabbi Eliezer promotes the din thesis about the world – that God created it in Tishrei. In contrast, when God helps a person entirely, He acts as a moshia, a complete savior. This is an act of profound chesed and mercy on His behalf. We now see why it is Rabbi Yehoshua who claims that the world was created in Nissan, the month when God’s chesed is most evident to mankind.

    Excerpted from Shem MiShmuel by the Sochatchover Rebbe,
    rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski,
    published by Targum Press

  17. Nitzavim(Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
    Choices and Rewards
    by Rav Noson Weisz

    This Shabbat is the last Shabbat before Rosh Hashana and we are preparing ourselves to face judgment. Jewish tradition teaches us that the judgment on Rosh Hashana concerns the events of this world. As we recite in this majestic prayer:

    On Rosh Hashana will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed: how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who will die before his time; who by water who by fire; who by sword who by beast; who by famine, who by thirst; … who will rest and who will wander; who will live in harmony and who will be harassed; who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer; who will be impoverished and who will be enriched; who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

    But although the prayer service informs us about the sorts of matters that are decided on Rosh Hashana, it is less explicit about the considerations that enter the deliberations of the heavenly court. Consequently, it is all too easy to miss the entire point of the day. Not only does such an error result in a missed opportunity, it also opens the door to the possibility of failing to obtain the best possible judgment.

    Judgment is a concept that involves the determination of “just deserts” and is related to reward and punishment. Thus, a decree for a trouble-free, healthy life in the coming year represents a reward, while a bad decree that results in poverty and sickness is a punishment.

    But Jewish tradition would appear to dictate that as far as Rosh Hashana is concerned, nothing could be farther from the truth. It is impossible to receive the reward for any mitzvah in this world (Talmud, Kidushin, 39b).

    The commentators explain that it would be utterly cruel of God to reward any good deed in this world when the option exists to reward it in the next. The reward for any good deed preformed by someone with a share in the World to Come (Olam Haba) should automatically be received later on simple utilitarian grounds. The payoff in this world is incomparably less, and rewarding the good deed here would be an unconscionable waste of a valuable resource.

    * * *

    THE REWARD OF A MITZVAH

    The real reason goes deeper. The truth is that the reward of a mitzvah simply doesn’t fit into this world. If you lined up the pleasure felt by all human beings from the beginning of the world to the present and squeezed it into a single moment, it would still not equal a moment’s pleasure in the World to Come.

    Reward in this world is mainly distributed to those who won’t make it to the World to Come.Reward in this world is mainly distributed to those who cannot receive their reward in the World to Come because they simply won’t make it there. (The exceptions are too complicated to explain in the context of this essay.) But even such people, known as reshaim gemurim, or “totally evil,” have many good deeds to their credit. They may have been good fathers or husbands, they may have helped people when they felt the urge, and consequently they need to be rewarded.

    Of course, it is impossible for us to grasp how such people with all these good deeds to their credit can be considered reshaim gemurim without appreciating how evil is to be understood, according to Jewish tradition.

    Nachmanides explains (Genesis 1:4) that the word tov or “good,” refers to something “everlasting,” and that the word ra or “evil” refers to something “temporary.” This view is intuitively sensible as well — God wants the good to last forever, whereas evil is clearly a temporary phenomenon. According to this perception, a rasha is not necessarily an evil person in the common sense of the word; rather, he is a person who is attached only to the temporary and transient and has never connected himself to the everlasting.

    Look, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil, that which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees, and His ordinances … But if your heart will stray and you will not listen, and you are led astray, and you prostrate yourselves to strange gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will surely be lost … I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life so that you will live, you and your offspring… (Deut. 30:15-19)

    Our Torah portion presents us with the choice between life and good, and death and evil.

    As Nachmanides explains: Life and good and death and evil are not different things but synonymous; the good is life everlasting, and the evil is death because it is temporary. This passage states that life is gained through choice: choose life so that you will live. The rasha is not evil in the common sense; he is merely a person who chooses the temporary and the short-lived rather than the everlasting.

    But there is another concept that needs to be understood before we can understand who the rasha is.

    * * *

    LIFE CHOICES

    Rabbi Dessler explains that while we make many choices in life, most of them are not the type of choices that are referred to by our passage. It is obvious that a choice between a gray suit and a black one cannot be considered a life choice, but Rabbi Dessler explains that even most moral choices cannot be regarded as life choices as defined here.

    Most of our moral decisions do not involve facing down wrenching moral dilemmas.

    A person who loves his wife will sacrifice a great deal for her without experiencing any conflict or difficulty. He doesn’t do it out of a sense of right and wrong, or because he is obeying God’s will, he does it because he wants to. People take pride and joy in depriving themselves in order to be able to educate their children. Rabbi Dessler explains that such sacrifices, although they are clearly right and good, are not the sort of choices that attach a person to eternal life.

    The type of choices that are able to accomplish such attachment are those that are taken precisely for the reasons stated in the passage. Choices taken for the express purpose of attaching to life and to good instead of what is temporary and therefore to the evil.

    We desire one thing, but we know that the right decision is in the other direction.These kinds of choices are made in the context of confronting moral dilemmas when we are torn in two directions, and we do not have a powerful inner program instilled by heredity or environment pointing us in the right direction. We desire one thing, but we know that the right decision is in the other direction — not because of our inner program but because God told us in the Torah that that is the way to go. It is in these sorts of situations that present us with the opportunity of attaching ourselves to life.

    Thus, in the Torah view, a person can be considered a rasha in the eyes of God, even if he seems like a very fine person to us.

    Many people are blessed with loving natures and come from the sorts of fine upbringing that naturally predisposes them to do the right thing in most situations as a matter of course. Indeed, that is the major goal of all successful child rearing — the creation of character traits that will automatically guide our children into taking the right and moral course in any of life’s dilemmas. In other words, our aim is to build the type of complex and powerful program into our children’s characters that will force them into the correct moral choices by the anxiety that an immoral choice would generate.

    But even when people are programmed or educated to do good, they can still be reshaim — that is, people who will not have a share in the World to Come because they have never chosen to attach themselves to the everlasting and the eternal.

    They have merely acted out their inner programs, and in fact, have always done what came easiest for them, no matter how difficult it may have appeared to the outside observer, who was not fortunate enough to be instilled with an inner program of such high quality. Whenever these reshaim encountered a situation which was outside their program, they failed to come up with the self-sacrifice to make the correct moral choice and always fell into the easy and convenient option. They chose to go against what God dictated in the Torah by means of various rationalizations, such as that the Torah’s injunctions really didn’t apply to their particular situations and the circumstances. Despite their good deeds such people have no share in the world to come.

    On the other hand, people who have attached themselves to the eternal, even if they have only done so once in their lives, will make it to the World to Come eventually in spite of the multitude of their transgressions.

    Jewish tradition teaches that God’s policy is never to allow a person’s mitzvot to be cancelled by his transgressions. Therefore, if a person performed his mitzvot with the type of dedication that is required to attach himself to God and to eternal life, this act altered his inner reality permanently. He is now a person who is attached to Olam Haba once and for all and he will eventually enjoy that life.

    * * *

    PAST TRANSGRESSIONS

    But what about that person’s past transgressions? His transgressions are a barrier to the enjoyment of Olam Haba and consequently they must be dealt with and purified. Consequently, the transgressions of such a person must be dealt with either in this world or in Gehenom or Hell. But once again utilitarian considerations mandate that the necessary purification be accomplished in this world. Therefore, anyone who belongs in the World to Come but is blemished by transgressions — as most of us are– this world is logically be expected to be a vale of tears.

    On the other hand, for our rasha who has failed to attach himself to the eternal even once in his life, but who has performed many good deeds which must be rewarded, this world is the only place where such rewards can be made available. As the rewards of mitzvot are so incomparably large, we would expect him to have a wonderful life in this world.

    We have now arrived at the difficulty of comprehending Rosh Hashana.

    We certainly do not want to think of ourselves as reshaim. But most of us know that we are not tzadikim gemurim, “totally righteous people” either. If so, we will make it to the World to Come with God’s help, as all people in general do except for the reshaim. But this means that something has to be done to cleanse us of our many evil deeds. This can either be done by the means of hardships that we suffer in this world, or by subjecting us to the tortures of Gehenom or Hell after we die.

    As the tortures of Hell are infinitely more painful than any tribulation we might experience in this world, we ought to prefer to complete our purification in this one. So why are we asking God for an easy year? And how could the decree of a good year possibly be considered a favorable judgment?

    * * *

    DIVINE PROVIDENCE

    The answer lies in understanding what is known as Hashgacha Pratit, or Divine Providence.

    This world and what happens in it is not about reward and punishment. As we have explained, reward and punishment become a part of our world due to purely secondary considerations.

    This world is a workplace. The Divine policies that apply here are generated primarily by concerns over maximizing production, just as you would expect in any industrial setting. After all, the product of this world is the manufacture of eternal life. Practically speaking, this means that the creation of a place in Olam Haba for all of us is the focus of Hashgacha Pratit.

    There are three primary factors involved:

    We all must be placed into a situation that will force us to produce. For example, suppose A is sent into the world to correct the character trait of arrogance and cruelty. The extent of the correction achieved will determine A’s place in the World to Come. Providence will have determined that A must be born rich or become wealthy early in his adult life. Such a life situation will guarantee that he will always contend with the character traits he was sent to correct. People will constantly ask him for help, and with each instance he will have confront his streak of cruelty. The very fact that everyone will always be asking him for help and attempting to curry favor with him will ensure that he has to confront his trait of arrogance.

    On the other hand, B is sent to the world to correct the trait of self-pity and to demonstrate the cheerful acceptance of one’s lot. Providence will arrange for B to be poor, as his poverty will automatically force him to contend with the very problems he was sent into the world to work on. If A were poor and B were rich neither would automatically be forced to do their jobs, and their productivity would be entirely dependant on their inner motivation, a very inefficient policy in terms of assuring maximum productivity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. No one has ever come up with a better motivator. A’s wealth and B’s poverty thus have zero relationship with reward and punishment. The determination is based on purely utilitarian considerations.

    The second function of Providence is to provide help. As the Talmud states “someone who seeks to make himself spiritually impure, they open the way for him, and if someone desires to purify himself, heaven assists him” (Talmud, Yuma 38b). Providence is always there to provide assistance; how much assistance, and what sort will be available, is again based on considerations of productivity.

    Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto in “Derech Hashem” explains that there are three levels of assistance in either direction. The person who begins on the path towards the World to Come automatically receives some assistance. The person who is firmly set on his way gets more; his assistance comes in the form of redefining his job so that it is easier to complete. The person who has already gone most of the way gets the most assistance; God provides him with whatever it takes to guarantee that he successfully completes his job.

    For the rasha who is headed in the opposite direction there are also three levels of “assistance.”
    For the rasha who is headed in the opposite direction there are also three levels of “assistance.” Someone who has begun on the path away from the World to Come loses the assistance he could have received and is left to his own devices, but Providence doesn’t hinder him from turning back to face the right direction either. On the other hand, for the person who is well on his way on the road that leads away from the World to Come is positively hindered from turning back. Providence places him in a situation that makes it difficult for him to change directions, while the confirmed rasha is placed in a life situation that renders a change in direction next to impossible.

    Luzatto provides a practical example to bring this down to earth. Changing one’s direction in life requires introspection, self-criticism and thought. These in turn require opportunity and motivation. Thus the rasha may be so loaded down with the trials and cares of poverty and ill health that his daily struggles make it impossible for him to enjoy the peace of mind that is required to really look closely at his life and figure out that he is headed in the wrong direction. Or Providence may decide to bless the rasha with great wealth which will remove his motivation to indulge in searching self-criticism. Why rock the boat when everything is going well? The method selected by the Providence will depend on whether the rasha needs to be rewarded for his good deeds in this world or not.

    This determination of Providence, of how much positive help a person deserves, or how many obstacles should be placed in his path, is a function of judgment. This is what the judgment of Rosh Hashana is about.

    * * *

    JUDGMENT OF ROSH HASHANA

    Let us return to our examples A and B.

    A, the wealthy man who was sent into the world to struggle with arrogance and cruelty has been doing a poor job. He hasn’t been at all charitable and he has become unapproachable and haughty. He knows about the workings of Providence that we have just described and stands before God on Rosh Hashana, desperately afraid. His wealth was given to him only to ensure a productive struggle with his negative character traits. As he is losing the struggle and not being productive, if he were God, at this point he would decide to take his wealth away as a means of making the task of reaching his objective more cumbersome and difficult.

    What can he do about it? He should say to God that he realizes that until now he has been deficient in his task but from now on he intends to fully engage in the activities for which he was born. If he can persuade God of his sincerity, he will not lose his wealth.

    B also stands before God knowing that his poverty is a result of the workings of Providence. But he has done an excellent job and worked on his self-pity and has tried to accept his situation with good cheer. He tells God that he has struggled hard and long and been productive and now he would like some help. He would like his task made easier and therefore there is no more need for him to be poor. Let God consider what he has accomplished as enough and let him contend with other character traits such as arrogance and cruelty. Let Providence place him in a life situation that would make him productive in these new tasks. Let Providence make him rich.

    Rosh Hashana is indeed about judgment. The judgment doesn’t concern ultimate rewards but is about the availability of Divine assistance. Unlike the ultimate rewards which are the direct results of the inner transformations accomplished by the person himself and therefore cannot be awarded but must be chosen, assistance is a variable commodity whose availability is never absolutely fixed. Like everything else in this world it is relative rather than absolute, and human beings can employ their creative ingenuity to increase it.

    We stand before God on Rosh Hashana to present our case for increased Hashgacha Pratit – Divine Providence. May it be His will to judge our worldly task as finally complete and witness the arrival of the Messiah.

  18. by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman

    The overarching theme of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is “change:” to change from what we were before and to become new individuals.

    Rosh Hashana begins Sunday eve Sept. 16, 2012, through Tuesday night, Sept. 18.
    Browse our collection of short films, inspiring essays, family activities, recipes, greeting cards, and more at: High Holidays

    Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is the first month of the universe, and just as when God completed His Creation He contemplated and evaluated it, so does He do every Rosh Hashana — which means that Rosh Hashana is actually the Day of Judgment for the universe and for mankind collectively and individually.

    That explains why, more than any other Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana’s liturgy is not limited to Jewish themes exclusively, but contains so many universal themes as well. On no other occasion, for example, is God referred to as “King over all the earth,” and at no other time is God’s Holy Temple called a “house of prayer for all the nations.” This is all a reflection of the universal judgment of this day.

    God evaluates us collectively, just as a shepherd looks over his flock with one glance. And individually, He also judges us like a shepherd who looks at each single sheep as it files through a narrow opening in the gate. So Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are more than just a Jewish version of New Year’s Day. It’s a time of great introspection, of teshuva/repentance, of stock-taking. According to an ancient Jewish tradition, it marks the creation of Adam and Eve — who were created, who sinned, and who were judged all on the same day.

    All of these traditions underscore the idea that Rosh Hashana is the time of beginnings. For example, the Talmud states that a number of other events took place on Rosh Hashana: Abraham and Jacob were born on Rosh Hashana; the three barren women — Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah (the mother of the prophet Samuel) — were all remembered by God on Rosh Hashana, when He decreed that they will give birth. On Rosh Hashana, Joseph was freed from the Egyptian prison and became viceroy of Egypt. And on Rosh Hashana, slavery ended for the Jews in Egypt and they waited for the ten plagues to be completed so that they could go out to freedom.

    Thus, Rosh Hashana is a time for significant initiatives. As such, it is an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, to return to a relationship with God, to strengthen our ties to our faith…

    On the one hand, Rosh Hashana is an extremely solemn day, the most solemn of the year after Yom Kippur. Because Rosh Hashana begins the Ten Days of Repentance, we stand at the bar of judgment on those days. It’s as if we were in a courtroom pleading for our very lives.

    Our tradition gives us a vivid image: “The Books of the Living and the Books of the Dead are open before Him,” which means many things — but one of the things it means is that we pray that our names be inscribed by our loving and understanding God in the one book and not in the other.

    Our tradition also tells us that beginning with Rosh Hashana, a Jew has the opportunity to return to God, to perform teshuva — which literally means to turn around, to return, to start all over again. Rosh Hashana and its companion, Yom Kippur, are Divine gifts in which we are given the opportunity to reopen our relationship with God, when we have the chance to wipe away the past as if it did not exist, and to start over again with a clean slate.

    The slate is not wiped clean automatically. The process has to begin with us, with a sense of true regret, with contrition for past misdeeds, and with a serious resolution not to repeat them. The opportunity is given to sincere returners, not to pro forma ones who are just going through the motions. But once the process is properly done, once the catharsis of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur make their impact on us, what could be more joyous than that? So, yes, it is solemnity filled with awe, and also filled with spiritual joy.

    Remember that in the religious context joy is deeply inward, and is not necessarily manifested by laughter and smiles. As such, religious joy and religious awe are not contradictions. In fact, they go hand in hand. In the second Psalm, King David says, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

    The liturgy of Rosh Hashana, especially the additional “musaf” service, is the most magnificent prayer the world has ever seen. It’s like a symphony, perfectly balanced, divided into three separate movements, devoted to the themes of:

    making God our sovereign and acknowledging Him as our King;
    remembering His intervention in our history, and underscoring our belief in Divine Providence — the idea that He listens and cares for us; and
    recalling the numerous Biblical events where the shofar heralds God’s presence and protection, and longing for the time when the shofar will herald the redemption of all mankind and the coming of the Messiah…

    Bear this in mind: the overarching theme of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is “change:” to change from what we were before and to become new individuals. The motif behind it all is accountability. We are responsible for our actions. We do not live in a vacuum. What we do or say has an impact and a resonance in the world. Yom Kippur represents the potential for a human being to change and return: we are not eternally condemned to follow a certain habitual path; we do have the ability, if we so choose, to change our ways.

    It is amazing: in the Talmud (Nedarim 39b), the Sages tell us that teshuva, repentance, was created before the world was created. That is to say, the idea of repentance, of a person changing himself and changing his course, is an integral part of Creation — and the world could not exist without it.

    An excerpt from “On Judaism,” conversations on being Jewish in today’s world. Published by Shaar Press

  19. Hug Samekh to all the Visitors of the site and Shanna Tova
    A handy checklist of everything you need to know for Rosh HaShana

    Pre-Rosh Hashanah

    A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone one may have wronged during the previous year. To whatever extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. One should also be quick to forgive those who have wronged him.

    Many people have the custom to go to the mikveh before Rosh Hashanah after midday. A mikveh, which has the power to purify from certain types of spiritual impurities, can be an important part of the teshuva process.

    Some have the custom of visiting a cemetery on the day before Rosh Hashanah and praying at the graves of the righteous. Of course, we do not pray “to” the righteous, but only to God who hears our prayers in the merit of the righteous.

    The morning before Rosh Hashanah, we perform “Hatarat Nedarim” – annulling all vows. In Torah terms, saying something as simple as “I refuse to eat any more candy” can be considered a legal vow. Therefore, before Rosh Hashanah, we annul any vows, whether they were made intentionally or not. This is done by standing in front of three adult males and asking to be released from the vows that were made. The full text can be found in a Siddur or Rosh Hashanah Machzor.

    The Festive Meal

    During the High Holidays, a round challah is used – symbolizing fullness and completion. After making the “Hamotzi” blessing, it is customary to dip the bread into honey – symbolizing our prayer for a sweet new year.

    Then, after most of your slice of bread has been eaten, take an apple and dip it in honey. Make a blessing on the apple (since “Hamotzi” did not cover the apple) and eat a little bit of the apple. Then say, “May it be Your will, God, to renew us for a good and sweet new year.” (OC 583)

    Why do we ask for both a “good” AND “sweet” year? Doesn’t the word “good” automatically include “sweet?”

    Judaism teaches that everything happens for the good. It is all part of the divine will. Even things that may look “bad” in our eyes, are actually “good.” So when we ask God that the year should be “sweet” (in addition to good), it is because we know that everything will be for the good. But we also ask that it be a “revealed” good – i.e. one that tastes “sweet” to us.

    On Rosh Hashanah, we add the paragraph Ya’aleh V’yavo in Grace After Meals.

    Symbolic Foods

    On Rosh Hashanah, we eat foods that symbolize good things we hope for in the coming year. We contemplate what these foods symbolize, and connect with the Source of all good things.

    The symbolic foods are based on a word game which connects the name of a certain food, to a particular hope we have for the new year. Here is a list from the Talmud of symbolic foods customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah. (The food and its related meaning are in bold.)

    After eating leek or cabbage, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be cut off.”

    After eating beets, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our adversaries be removed.”

    After eating dates, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be finished.”

    After eating gourd, say: “May it be Your will, God, that the decree of our sentence should be torn apart, and may our merits be proclaimed before You.”

    After eating pomegranate, say: “May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”

    After eating the head of a sheep or fish, say: “May it be Your will, God, that we be as the head and not as the tail.

    You can also use other foods and make up your own “May it be Your will…” For example, you could eat a raisin and celery, and ask God in the coming year for a “raise in salary” (raisin celery)!

    Print a PDF file of the symbolic foods (courtesy of ArtScroll).

    Rosh Hashanah Prayers

    Since there are so many unique prayers on Rosh Hashanah, we use a special prayer book called a “Machzor.”

    In the “Amidah” and “Kiddush” for Rosh Hashanah, we say the phrase Yom Teruah. However, if Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, we say Zichron Teruah instead. (If one inadvertently said the wrong phrase, he needn’t repeat the prayer.)

    The supplication “Avinu Malkeinu” should be said on Rosh Hashanah, except when Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat coincide, since supplications are not said on Shabbat. If Rosh Hashanah falls on a Friday, “Avinu Malkeinu” is not said at Mincha.

    During the High Holidays, the curtain on the ark is changed into a white one, to symbolize that our “mistakes will be whitened like snow.”

    The chazan (cantor) for the High Holidays should not be chosen for his vocal talents alone. Ideally, the chazan should be over 30 years old, God fearing, learned in Torah, humble, and married. A learned man under 30 with the other qualifications is acceptable. Though it is preferable to allow an unfit chazan to lead services, rather than cause strife over the issue in the community.

    Since it is a question as to whether the She’hechianu blessing should be said on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we are accustomed to eat a new fruit or wear a new garment and say She’hechianu upon it.

    The Shofar

    The essential mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar. The shofar blasts after the Torah Reading are called “Tekiot M’yushav.”

    The minimum Torah obligation is to hear nine blasts. However, there is a doubt whether the sound of the shofar should be a groaning type of cry (Shevarim), or a sobbing weep (Teruah), or a combination (Shevarim-Teruah). Therefore, we perform all three sounds, each preceded and followed by an unbroken blast, Tekiah. Three of each set results in 30 blasts total, which are necessary to remove all doubt that the Torah precept has been fulfilled.

    It is customary to blow shofar in the same place that the Torah is read, so that the merit of the Torah will support us. The shofar should be blown during the daytime. In ancient times, when the Romans persecuted the Jews, the rabbis instituted blowing the shofar before Musaf, since the Romans had guards in the synagogues during the early morning.

    The person who blows the shofar must stand. He should be instructed immediately before blowing to have intention to fulfill the obligation for all those listening. Similarly, all those listening should be reminded to have intention that their obligation is being fulfilled.

    Before blowing, two blessings are recited: “to hear the sound of the shofar,” and She’hechianu. Once the blessings have been made, one may not speak until the end of the shofar blowing.

    Women may sound the shofar for herself and say the blessing. (Sefardi women do not say a blessing.) A child who is old enough to be educated regarding mitzvot is required to hear the shofar.

    The shofar is not blown when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat.

    The shofar used on Rosh Hashanah should be a curved ram’s horn, and longer than four inches. It is permitted to use the shofar of an animal not ritually slaughtered. After the fact, any shofar is acceptable except the horn of a cow, ox or an unkosher species of animal.

    In the “Amidah” prayer of Musaf, there are three special blessings: Malchiot (praises to God the King), Zichronot (asking God to remember the merits of our Ancestors), and Shofrot (the significance of the shofar). During the chazan’s repetition, we blow an additional 30 blasts in the various combinations.

    It is the custom to blow 40 extra blasts at the end of services, bringing the total to 100. It is customary to prolong the final blast, which is called a Tekiah Gedolah.

    Other Customs

    It is customary to greet others as follows: “L’shana Tova / Ketivah vi-chatima Tova.” This means: “For a good year / You should be written and sealed in the good (Book of Life).”

    One should try not to sleep or go for idle walks on the day of Rosh Hashanah. (The Arizal permits a nap in the afternoon.)

    It is advisable to avoid marital relations, except if Rosh Hashanah falls on the night of the wife’s immersion.

    If a Bris Milah falls on Rosh Hashanah, it should be performed between the Torah reading and the shofar blowing.

    Tashlich

    The “Tashlich” prayer is said on the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by a pool of water that preferably has fish in it. These prayers are symbolic of the casting away of our mistakes. Of course, it is foolish to think you can rid sins by shaking out your pockets. Rather, the Jewish approach is deep introspection and commitment to change. Indeed, the whole idea of “Tashlich” is partly to commemorate the Midrash that says when Abraham went to the Akeida (binding of Isaac), he had to cross through water up to his neck

    If Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat, “Tashlich” is pushed off until the second day. If “Tashlich” was not said on Rosh Hashanah itself, it may be said anytime during the Ten Days of Repentance.

    Both the body of water and the fish are symbolic. In Talmudic literature Torah is represented as water. Just as fish can’t live without water, so too a Jew can’t live without Torah!

    Also, the fact that fish’s eyes never close serve to remind us that, so too, God’s eyes (so to speak) never close; He knows of our every move.

    This is the text of “Tashlich:”

    Who is like You, God, who removes iniquity and overlooks transgression of the remainder of His inheritance. He doesn’t remain angry forever because He desires kindness. He will return and He will be merciful to us, and He will conquer our iniquities, and He will cast them into the depths of the seas.

    Give truth to Jacob, kindness to Abraham like that you swore to our ancestors from long ago.

    From the straits I called upon God, God answered me with expansiveness. God is with me, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me? God is with me to help me, and I will see my foes (annihilated). It is better to take refuge in God than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in God, that to rely on nobles.

    Many people also read Psalms 33 and 130.

    based on research by Rabbi Moshe Lazerus

  20. Vayelech(Deuteronomy 31)
    The Idea of Rosh Hashana
    by Rav Ari kahn

    It is common knowledge that Rosh Hashana marks the Jewish New Year. The Mishna in Rosh Hashana teaches us that Judaism actually recognizes multiple years and new years. Just as secular society has a first day of school, a first day when the government meets, a first day when taxes are collected, so does Judaism recognize different “new year” days to mark different occasions.

    There are four new years. On the first of Nissan is the new year for kings and for festivals. On the first of Elul is the new year for the tithe of cattle. Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Simeon, however, place this on the first of Tishrei. On the first of Tishrei is the new year for years, for release and jubilee years, for plantation and for [tithe of] vegetables. On the first of Shevat is the new year for trees, according to the ruling of Beit Shammai; Beit Hillel, however, place it on the fifteenth of that month.

    * * *

    BEGINNING OF TIME?

    A “new year” day marks a passage of time which is based on either an objective criteria or a subjective perspective, what is it that the Jewish new year demarcates?

    The traditional response to this question would be that Rosh Hashana commemorates the creation of the world. One would therefore assume that Rosh Hashana, must delineate the beginning of time.

    The Talmud, however reports the following difference of opinion regarding creation:

    Rabbi Eliezer says: “In Tishrei the world was created” … Rabbi Joshua says: “In Nissan the world was created.” (Rosh Hashana 10b-11a)

    The opinion of Rabbi Eliezer is clarified in the Midrash, where it is explained that in fact the world came into existence on the 25th of Elul.1 Therefore when Rebbe Eliezer referred to the creation which took place on the first of Tishrei ? he was referring to the sixth day and the creation of man – of Adam.

    It seems strange that so fundamental an issue as the day of creation could be subject to debate.Nonetheless, we see that these two great luminaries Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua argue whether creation took place in the fall or spring. It seems strange that so fundamental an issue as the day of creation could be subject to debate.2

    Rabbenu Tam however remarkably sees no contradiction between the opinions of Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Yehoshua, he sees these opinions as not being mutually exclusive, he declares:

    “These and these are the words of the living God, and one may say that the thought to create was formed in Tishrei, while the actual creation did not take place until Nissan.” (Tosfot Rosh Hashana 27a)

    According to Rabbenu Tam, the two rabbis do not disagree, creation involves a process. The question is do we commemorate the beginning or end of the process? Their argument is only in emphasis — which aspect of creation is dominant, the thought of creation, or the actual creation? According to Rabbenu Tam Tishri was the time that God thought of creation. What is the significance of such thoughts?

    This idea of a “thought of creation” has a parallel teaching which should shed light on this passage. Rashi in his commentary to the very first verse in the Torah notes that the name of God used to describe creation is Elokim which refers to the aspect of God from which justice emanates. Later on in Genesis (2:4), when the creation is recapitulated, the Torah uses a different terminology to describe God, using the unpronounceable name of God, the Tetragrammaton, plus Elokim — a combination that is usually translated as “the Lord God.” In this name, both aspects — judgment and mercy — are expressed.

    The Midrash explains why both terms are used side by side in this verse in Genesis.

    The Lord God [made earth and heaven]. This may be compared to a king who had some empty glasses. Said the king: “If I pour hot water into them, they will burst; if cold, they will contract [and snap].” What then did the king do? He mixed hot and cold water and poured it into them, and so they remained [unbroken]. Even so, said the Holy One, blessed be He: “If I create the world on the basis of mercy alone, its sins will be great; on the basis of judgment alone, the world cannot exist. Hence I will create it on the basis of judgment and of mercy, and may it then stand!” Hence the expression, the Lord God. (Midrash Rabbah – Genesis 12:15)

    The Midrash explains why both terms are used, but it fails to explain why in the first verse in the Torah only the term Elokim is used, thereby implying exclusively that justice was used to create the world.

    Rashi explains that the idea of creation is represented by Elokim, and that idea is based on justice. The actual creation though contains both mercy and justice fused together as described in the Midrash.

    Rav Gedalya Shore (Or Gidalyahu) suggested that we may draw the following conclusion: The thought of creation is based on justice, the actual creation is based on mercy and judgment. The thought of creation took place in Tishrei while the actual creation took place in Nissan. Therefore Tishrei is a time of judgment, while Nissan is a time of mercy.

    * * *

    JUDGMENT VS. MERCY

    We can take this conclusion one step further, the strict aspect of judgment, based on God’s creation via thought, is limited to thought. Hence the strict judgment which man undergoes is for his thoughts. However, when it comes to man’s actions, God’s judgment of man is tempered by mercy.

    This leads to a major conclusion regarding the quality of judgment on Rosh Hashana, and man’s obligation.

    The major objective of Rosh Hashana is related to thought. The objective on Rosh Hashana is to come up with a plan, just as God designed a plan for creation, man needs to come up with a plan for his creation ? his life. This plan is judged by God with incredible strictness. Whether man lives up to his plan or not is judged with mercy, for the world of action God fuses strictness with mercy. God understands human frailty.

    “Rosh Hashana” in its most literal sense means the “head of the year” — it is the time to think.Perhaps there is another meaning of the term “Rosh Hashana” in its most literal sense — the “head of the year” is the time to think.

    This is the time of year that each of us has to come up with a plan for living our lives, by using our heads, our intellect — the Tzelem Elokim, the “image of God” within us.3 We are judged strictly for this plan, since it directly reflects to what extent our Tzelem Elokim is utilized.

    However the implementation is another matter. There are times that man fails due to his animal instincts; this is something that God understands. But we can make no mistake about it, we are judged for these failings — it’s just that the judgment is one which is tempered by mercy.

    This concept of a plan seen as an independent entity from the actual reality is reflected in the Akaida, where Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his son. Once Abraham was willing and set a plan for the deed to be done, it was no longer required for him to follow through with that deed. We are told that God considers the positive thoughts of the righteous as if they were accomplished.4

    On Rosh Hashana all mankind stands before God in fear and in dread of the awesome Day of Judgment. May we all have the acumen to formulate the proper plan to lead our lives, may we all be given the strength to implement our plans, and may God judge us with mercy on those occasions that we fail.

    May we all be immediately written and sealed in the book of life.

    Shana Tova from:

    Ari, Naomi
    Mattityahu, Hillel, Yishi, Yosef, and Elisheva

    NOTES

    See the teachings attributed to Rebbi Eliezer found in Pirki Drebbi Eliezer chapters 3-7. (return to text)

    In Judaism, creation – or the “mysteries of creation” isa subject which can not be taught publicly – see Mishna Chagiga 2:1 and the Talmud’s comments Chagiga 11b. (return to text)

    See Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim 3:8 where he makes the identification between intellect and Tzelem Elokim. See also my book Explorations (Jerusalem: Targum Press, 2001) p. 222ff.b. (return to text)

    Kiddushin 40a. (return to text)

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