SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2011 25 ELUL 5771
Have a happy and healthy New Year!
"Today the world is created." (Musaf of Rosh Hashanah)
On Rosh Hashanah the world was created. Rabbi Yaakov Haber helps us imagine the new world:
Close your eyes and imagine what the world must have looked like on the very first day of creation. Pristine, fresh, untainted, healthy and unpolluted. Man is created. He is pure and innocent; his face shines from the goodness of his soul. His tongue is holy because he never told a lie. Don't we all wish we could catch a whiff of the freshest air in history? Welcome to Rosh Hashanah. Hayom Harat Olam (today the world was created!). On Rosh Hashanah the world was created. It's a new world. On Rosh Hashanah we can start afresh, our hearts and souls can be renewed. Our relationships can begin again.
Imagine for a moment you are moving to a place where nobody knows you. They have not seen any picture of you nor will they ever meet any of your friends. You now have the opportunity to start anew. You can start doing things you always wanted to do. While being at home, you may have wanted to change some things about the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you eat, your behavior in the synagogue, your business practices and your whole priority system, but it was too difficult even to consider.
What will my friends say if I start dressing differently? Will people view me as an imposter if I suddenly refuse to gossip? What will my wife think if I give up my favorite TV show for daf yomi? It's very difficult to change midstream, but now that you are moving to a brand new place, there is no reason for inhibition. Just do it!
Rosh Hashanah is your new place. Hayom Harat Olam, the world is created today. It's new; you can shed all the baggage, just do it! Look at the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a testing ground. Experiment with some new behaviors. For a week we can do almost anything, unless we are addicted. Are we stuck?
Rosh Hashanah is the day to get unstuck, to start anew and to grow, and Hashem helps. May we all be blessed with a beautiful new page in the Book of Life. Shabbat Shalom & Tizku leshanim rabot. Rabbi Reuven Semah
When we think of teshubah, repentance, we usually think of sins that we did or misvot that we neglected. Indeed that is the basic level of repentance, to wipe out all sins from our records. However, there is another concept that we should focus on, especially during these days.
There was a great Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, who once invited his family and friends to a festive meal. He explained that he had just finished composing a very complex book, and that called for a celebration. He then told his family that when he was a young boy he was a playful child, not interested in studying. One day, he heard his father tell his mother, "Maybe our little son would be more successful as a tradesman rather than a scholar." The young boy burst into his parents' room and cried out, "Give me one more chance and I'll apply myself to my studies," and the rest was history. The Rabbi then concluded by saying, "Imagine if I had become a tailor, a pious Jew who learns every day for a while, and after 120 years went to the Heavenly court. I would think that my judgment would be based on what I did as a tailor, but the Heavenly court would show me this book that I have just finished, and would ask me, 'Where is this work that you could have done?' That is why I am celebrating today - because I will be able to say that I did what was my potential."
We see from here that it's not enough to just consider what we do or don't do. We should ask ourselves, "Are we living up to our potential?" We have so much talent and capabilities. We have to exert ourselves a little more in the service of Hashem. In these days of teshubah let us re-examine our lives, our accomplishments and our goals, and let us see where we can make a difference. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"I can no longer go out and come in." (Debarim 31:2)
Rashi explains that Moshe was not suggesting that the frailty of old age impeded him from going out and coming in. The Torah itself later attests to his remarkable vigorous health and physical vibrancy. Rather, Moshe indicated that Hashem had forbidden him from continuing in his current position as leader. Rashi's explanation does not seem consistent with the literal definition of the word ?????, which means "able." The literal definition would be translated as, "I am no longer able." This translation implies physical impediment and inability to continue.
We may suggest that, indeed, when a saddik is prohibited from doing a specific activity, he literally becomes incapable of carrying out the particular endeavor. Every Jew should strive to attain this spiritual attitude towards misvot. We should be so totally devoted to Hashem's essence that we are simply unable to do anything which is contradictory to Torah dictate.
Harav Boruch Sorotzkin z"l once said that he simply could not oversleep Shaharit, because he had to pray with a minyan. This was the Rosh Yeshivah's attitude in all areas of serving Hashem. If there was a misvah to perform, he simply was not tired or sick, even when his body was invaded with disease and racked with pain. This was due to his ability to transcend the physical realm with spiritual strength.
The Ibn Ezra explains the command of "Lo tachmod - you shall not covet," in a similar manner. One should view his friend's property/object/wife, as being unattainable and out of reach. He uses the analogy of a peasant in relationship to the king's daughter. The peasant is clearly aware of the impossibility of his marriage to royalty ever taking place. Because he recognizes the impossibility of such a union, he harbors no desire whatsoever for her. This should be our attitude towards property which is not ours. The Torah prohibits it, and therefore, we are unable to have it. Thus, our desire for it is totally precluded. (Peninim on the Torah)
A good thought may be miles away from a good act.
It is hard to move when the laws of inertia state that a body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The human body enjoys basking in the sun, resting on the couch, or relaxing on an easy chair. It is truly happy when it is "a body at rest."
Then you are interrupted by a request to help another. In order to do so, you must get up and go somewhere or do something. This is when psychological inertia sets in. The One Hundred Good Reasons Why You Can Do What Is Needed But Cannot Do It Now come to mind with digital speed. The thought of helping flits away, and the body at rest abides by the law (of inertia, of course).
A person is not an island and is certainly not isolated or self-sufficient. People help people and people give to others. This creates a cycle of debt. Such debt is not repaid with a note that can be cashed at a bank. It is simply a debt of appreciation and gratitude. You either owe something to the person who is asking a favor, or to one of his relatives, and/or to Hashem - who gave you everything that you have in the first place.
When you just can't seem to translate that good thought into a good deed, consider your potential action not as an act of giving, but, instead, as payment of a debt. Think of how the person in need - or someone related to that individual - may have helped you in the past. If that doesn't prompt action, consider that Hashem gave you the tools and the powers to help that person or to get that action done, and you owe it to Him to deliver.
You can really get going by seeing yourself not as a giver but as a debtor who is ready and willing to pay. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
The Gemara has two separate statements which seem to conflict with one another. First, it states that on Rosh Hashanah, all of mankind passes in front of Hashem one by one and are judged for their actions. Later, the Gemara says that everybody is judged collectively as one unit.
In order to answer this question, the Sabba of Kelm quotes the explanation of Rabbi Yisrael Salant on the pasuk "a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is he" (Debarim 32:4). Rabbi Salant asks: Is this all we could say about Hashem, that he is fair and just? He explains that there is a much deeper meaning. In any country, when a person breaks a law and is brought to trial, he Hashem also looks at the big picture, and if even one person who doesn't deserve punishment would suffer from this person's retribution, then Hashem will spare him.
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian adds that it is a good idea to make ourselves needed and loved by as many people as possible, and it can even save us from punishment. If even one of our friends doesn't deserve the sorrow that he would feel by our suffering, then Hashem may withhold our punishment due to their merit. (Lekah Tob)
The shofar is narrow on one end and broad on the other. The broad end is where the horn was attached to the animal's head, and the narrow end is the tip of the horn. There are two rules in the Shulhan Aruch regarding the two ends of the shofar. One is that if someone mechanically changes the shape of the shofar by applying heat, making the narrow end wide and the wide end narrow, the shofar is disqualified, because the Torah states, "veha'abarta shofar teru'ah - you shall sound the blast of teru'ah," and the word "veha'abarta" teaches that it must be "derech ha'abarto - in the same shape as when it was removed from the animal" (Orach Hayim 586:12).
Another halachah states that even when one does not make any physical changes in the shofar, but merely reverses it and blows through the wide end, he does not fulfill the misvah. A hint to this halachah is found in the pasuk, "min hameisar karati Kah anani bamerhab Kah - from the straits [lit. narrow] I called to G-d and then G-d answered me with expansiveness [lit. wide open]" (Tehillim 118:5)
The first halachah is very easy to comprehend, but the second one is somewhat puzzling. To turn around a shofar and blow through the wide side is extremely difficult. Why is one who exerts such effort and who delivers the prescribed tones rejected, receiving no credit for fulfilling the misvah?
When Bilam was hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people, in amazement he said, "Mah tobu ohalecha Ya'akob mishkenotecha Yisrael - How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel" (Bemidbar 24:5). Rashi comments that Bilam was amazed when he saw "that the openings [of their tents] were not lined up with the other." Why did he focus on their "openings"?
Rabbi Baruch of Mezibush explains it in the following way. The Midrash Rabbah says that Hashem urges the Jewish people to do teshubah, saying: "Make a small opening like that of the head of a needle and I will open for you an opening through which caravans can enter." In other words, the Jew merely has to begin the teshubah process and Hashem will help him to attain the most lofty goals. Thus, the "openings" that Jews have to make and Hashem's reciprocal opening are not comparable.
Therefore, in praise and envy Bilam said, "You Jews are lucky; your opening and Hashem's opening are not 'lined up' - i.e. not identical - to each other. You only have to put in a little effort and Hashem opens for you the vast gates of teshubah. If your G-d loves you so much, how can my cursing possibly have an effect?"
The Rambam writes that though the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is one of the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah, it also conveys a call to the people to awaken from their slumber and do teshubah - repent to Hashem.
It may be said that the two openings of the shofar, the narrow one and the wide one, represent the minute opening the Jew makes and the reciprocal broad opening of Hashem. While many may hesitate to do teshubah, thinking that it is very difficult for one to return and come close to Hashem, the message of the shofar refutes this. It is simple to do teshubah. Just make a small opening, move closer to Hashem, and He will open up His gates for you and facilitate your return.
The halachah about turning the shofar around and blowing through the wide end is a metaphor for those who claim that teshubah is difficult and that even if one goes through much effort he will accomplish very little in the end. This approach is contrary to our belief, and therefore, unacceptable and disqualified. The message, conveyed by our way of blowing the shofar, is that teshubah is not difficult; a person simply has to make a small opening - a little effort, and he will reap immense reward. (Vedibarta Bam)
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