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by Rabbi Shmuel1


"You are all standing here today." (Debarim 29:9)

When the Jewish people heard the ninety-eight curses said to them in last week's perashah, the midrash says that they turned white from fear. Moshe then told them, "You are all standing here today," meaning, although you may have done things wrong in the past, you're still around, so don't worry so much. This seems to be self-defeating, for if Moshe is telling them not to be afraid, why then do we read the ninety-eight terrifying curses?

The answer is that once we took the message to heart and became afraid, at that point Moshe can console us and say, "Don't worry," because that means we got the message. This is similar to a school teacher who shows his students the "stick" that he uses to punish if they don't behave. He will never have to use it during the year if on the first day, he scares them with the stick to keep them in line. It says in the laws of Rosh Hashanah that we don't say Hallel on this holiday, since the books of life and death are open. How then can we say Hallel? Yet the law is that we dress up for Rosh Hashanah and have a festive meal. Aren't these two things contradictory? The answer is the same. Once we come to the realization that it's such a serious day that we can't even say Hallel though it's a holiday, then and only then can we allow ourselves to dress up and eat a festive meal. We must take these days very seriously, realizing that our whole year depends on how we pray and how we act on Rosh Hashanah. Then we can be assured to be inscribed in the book of life, health and happiness. Tizku leshanim rabot.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Fortunate are the people who know the teru'ah (the shofar sound)" (Tehillim 89:16)

In Tehillim, our people are praised for knowing the sound, the teru'ah, of the shofar. What is the praise that we "know" the teru'ah? R' Moshe Feinstein explains that in the Torah we find the word "ki yedativ" which means to love. Here also, the word "yodea" means to love. We are great because we love the shofar.

The Rambam states that there is a hint in the shofar for the listener to pick up on. The hint is "wake up you sleepers from your sleep and the ones who are dozing should wake up." What's the difference between one who is sleeping and one who is dozing? A person who goes to sleep wants to sleep for a certain period of time and doesn't want to be disturbed. One who is dozing falls asleep for a short time out of extreme tiredness, but would like to be woken up if he oversleeps. The shofar wakes up both the sleepers and the dozers but praiseworthy are those who love the shofar, who want to be woken up. Even those who want to be woken up need to hear the shofar. They need to hear words of encouragement and rebuke.

The Rambam continues and says, "Wake up, all those that forget the truth due to the foolishness of our times!" Any Jew who is not a rebel but forgets the truth, the truth of dedicating our lives completely to Hashem, can be woken up by the shofar. Most of us know the truth, but we get confused by these hectic times we live in. The shofar helps us remember. So whether you are a sleeper or a dozer, the shofar is for you. We hardly know any rebels.

May Hashem inscribe all of us for another year of health, happiness and success, Amen. Tizku leshanim rabot!

Pop quiz: To whom did Moshe give the Sefer Torah which he personally wrote?
Answer to pop quiz:The Levites


If we were to receive a distinguished guest in our home, there is no doubt that we would go all out to welcome him and show him respect. We would prepare the finest meals for him and offer him the best accommodations. If the guest were to stay in our home for an extended period of time, though, we probably would not maintain that level of service throughout the duration of the visit. Then, when the time came for the guest to leave us, we would again prepare for him a lavish meal and send him on his way with honor.

This, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian teaches, is the way we should view the last Shabbat of the year. We may have neglected to give the Shabbat the honor it deserves throughout the year, but this Shabbat is like a guest who has been with us all year and is now preparing to depart. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to give greater honor to this particular Shabbat.

How do we show more honor to the Shabbat? Of course, this means that we must be extra careful with the prohibitions of the day. Any "leniencies" we have allowed ourselves during the year should be put aside, at least for this day. We must also pray the tefillot of Shabbat with greater concentration, to understand and think about the meanings of the words which we are saying to Hashem.

We should also be sure to enjoy the meals of Shabbat for the express purpose of giving honor to the day. If a person stuffs himself to the point where he is too tired to sit down with a sefer and study Torah, then he didn't show respect to the Shabbat - he simply honored himself.

It is known that a person in the last moments of his life can do complete teshubah and be forgiven for a lifetime of sins. In an instant, he can repair all the damage he has done to his soul over the many years of his life. The same holds true regarding the last Shabbat of the year and regarding the last day of the year. If a person acts in the proper way, dedicating himself to the study of Torah and the performance of misvot he can salvage the entire year and merit great blessings for the new year. (Lekah Tob)

Rosh Hashanah Pop quiz:On what days of the week will the first day of Rosh Hashanah never fall?
Answer to pop quiz:On Sunday, Wednesday or Friday.

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