SEPTEMBER 29-OCTOBER 1, 2000 1-2 TISHREI 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
It is well known that Rosh Hashanah is the day on which Hashem judges us and our deeds. It is on this day that He determines, based on our merits, what kind of a year we will have. The Satan is busy on this day prosecuting us for our sins. Our Rabbis teach, though, that the blowing of the shofar helps to confuse the Satan so that he is no longer able to hurl accusations at us, and we then have a better chance for a favorable judgment.
v There is a halachah that if the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat, then we do not blow the shofar on that day. Rather, we blow the shofar only on the second day. The Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (29b) explains that the reason for this halachah was that there was concern that someone may mistakenly carry the shofar in a public domain and inadvertently violate the Shabbat. In order to avoid this possibility, the Rabbis decreed that we would not blow the shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat.
Does this make sense? In order to avoid a possible unintentional error, we are putting the entire nation in great danger! Without the shofar to stop the Satan, we are defenseless against his accusations!
The Rabbis tell us that the merit of keeping Shabbat is our defense against Satan. The Shabbat Queen herself goes to Hashem and pleads our case for us. But this can work for us or against us, as illustrated by this story.
The king sentenced two men to death for the same crime. The wife of one of them came and pleaded for her husband's life and the king was moved by her tears and allowed the man to live. The second wife came and also cried for her husband to be spared but the king ordered him executed. The second woman cried out to the king, "Why is my request not being considered like the other one?" The king answered, "I see you are full of bruises and welts, which obviously means your husband abused you; should I save him so he could hurt you more? The other wife looked healthy and safe from her husband so I saved his life!"
If we keep Shabbat all year long the right way, it will plead on our behalf, and even though we don't have shofar, we will have the merit of Shabbat. But if we abuse the Shabbat, how can it plead for us? Let us all resolve to keep Shabbat right away, the way our ancestors did, so that it will pray for us to have a year full of health and blessing.
Tizku Leshanim Rabot.
"A remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation" (Vayikra 23:24)
Once upon a time there were two poor people. They would go door to door collecting money. Their garments were torn, they were very hungry and they were baking in the sun. Eventually they came to the home of a great Rebbe. There was a long line of people waiting for a berachah. They decided that they might as well wait on line too. Maybe they would get a blessing that would put them out of this terrible situation. They waited many hours and finally the doors of the great Rabbi were opened for them, and they entered to see the Rebbe. At that moment they felt the tragedy of their situation and both started to cry uncontrollably.
The Rebbe blessed them. He gave the first a blessing of a good livelihood, a livelihood that is without difficulty, and a life of happiness and great wealth. The Rebbe blessed the second that Hashem should strengthen his ability to remember, and he should therefore remember everything. After they walked out, they wondered about the meaning of the second person's blessing. To what great benefit would it be for such a desperately poor man to have a great memory? At that point they met a student of the Rebbe, and they hoped he could answer their question. He answered simply that these two poor people were different. The first was very poor, who also came from poor parents who also spent their lives collecting door to door. To him he gave a blessing to have true wealth with honor. The second poor man was really a rich man. His father was fabulously wealthy, and owned much property and other holdings. This poor man, for some reason, distanced himself from his family, until he became a beggar. However, if he would remember well his family life of old, his royalty, children and palatial homes, if he would contrast that with his present state, he would quickly go back to his family and live in serenity.
Rosh Hashanah is described as a day of remembrance. Besides the simple meaning that G-d should remember us for good, it can also mean a day of shofar that makes us remember. To remember our old days of greatness, of how great it used to be, we will remember how close we and our people used to be to Hashem, and we will just come back. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.
To: Every person in the nation of Israel.
You are hereby summoned to stand judgment before the court on the first and second days of the month of Tishrei in the year 5761
. You stand accused of violating a substantial portion of the four sections of the Shulhan Aruch. The following is a list of some of the more serious accusations against you:
1. Bitul Torah - you have neglected to spend time studying Torah; you distracted and deterred others from studying Torah.
2. Sins of the Tongue - you have lied; slandered your fellow man; neglected to fulfill your vows, etc.
3. Sins against your Fellow Man - you did not judge your friend favorably; you were jealous of your fellow man; you did not love your neighbor as yourself; you did not honor your parents and your Rabbis, etc.
4. Disregard for Monetary Laws - you did not deal honestly with your business associates; you caused your friend to suffer a loss; you did not give sedakah to the extent that you were able, etc.
The verdict in this trial will determine your future existence in this world and in the World to Come. If you are found guilty, the following sentences will be considered based on the severity of your transgressions:
1. Death, G-d forbid.
2. Disease and suffering, G-d forbid.
3. Poverty, pain and exile, G-d forbid.
You must appear before the Judge personally, with no advisors or lawyers to assist you. The allegations against you have been compiled with great scrutiny, and your actions, day and night, have been analyzed thoroughly. Since there is no question as to the veracity of the accusations against you, there is no need for debate or counter-arguments.
It is recommended that you confess your guilt in the aforementioned accusations, and beg the Judge for mercy. Any attempt to deny your guilt will only serve to magnify your sins.
You have been granted thirty days in which to correct your ways. It is now time for you to stand trial.
The verdict will be dispensed on the Day of Judgment. If necessary, you will be granted an extension of ten days in which to demonstrate your remorse and correct your ways. (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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