SEPTEMBER 30 - OCTOBER 1, 2005 27 ELUL 5765
The Gemara tells a story. There was once a drought in Israel which was causing a tremendous famine. R' Eliezer, the great leader of that generation ordered fasting and special prayers with twenty-four blessings, but they weren't answered. R' Akiba then got up and said "Abinu Malkenu, Our Father our King, please have mercy on us," and rain came down. The students began to whisper, "How come the great R' Eliezer wasn't answered and R' Akiba, who was his student, was answered?" A voice came down from Heaven and said, "Do not think the student is greater than the Rabbi, rather the student overcomes his character traits which merited this miracle." R' Salanter asks the obvious question: Doesn't this mean that R' Akiba is still greater, since he overcomes his character traits? He answers that R' Eliezer came from very noble stock and therefore his personality was very refined from birth. His character traits were all positive. R' Akiba, however, whose ancestry had converts in it, had to overcome personality traits which he inherited. He had to perfect himself by overcoming his nature. Therefore, he merited to have miracles that Hashem also "overcame his nature" (so to speak) and allowed rain to come, even if not deserved. We see here the power of overcoming one personality trait. If we refrain from responding when insulted, or hold back our anger when provoked, we can bring about miracles since we controlled our nature. We have experienced a difficult year and we all want to see Divine mercy and compassion. If we exhibit these very same traits then Hashem changes His nature and will bring us a year of health, happiness and prosperity. Tizku Leshanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"One should wear freshly laundered clothes and be well-groomed on the eve of Rosh Hashanah" (Shulhan Aruch 581:4)
Rosh Hashanah is filled with paradox. On the one hand it is a solemn day; it is Yom Hadin, the day on which Hashem judges His world. Accordingly, we are careful that our actions and speech are on the highest standard we can muster. On the other hand the day has an air of festivity. Rosh Hashanah is a yom tob, and we celebrate with sumptuous meals and fine clothes. This festivity seems to conflict with the sense of gravity of the Day of Judgment. Analyzing this paradox will give us a deeper understanding of Rosh Hashanah and will provide us with a key to achieve our goal of being written and sealed in the Book of Life.
Rabbi Reuven Cohen (Rosh Kollel of Zichron Yosef in Israel) explains this paradox with a quote from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Rosh Hhashanah 1:3): The gist of the quote is that ordinarily a person who must face trial for his life will wear black, grow his beard and leave himself unkempt because he doesn't know what his verdict will be. But, the people of Israel do not do this; they beautify themselves, eat and drink, for they know Hashem will work miracles on their behalf and tip the scales in their favor and tear up the harsh verdict. The Mishnah Berurah on the above quoted halachah (531:4 & 25) says the same idea. However, this idea seems to be totally against the idea of judgment. The Ramban (Hilchot Teshubah) explains that our misvot and sins are weighed on a scale. How can Hashem disregard this seemingly exact judgment and "tip the scales" in our favor?
What is a sin? A person is faced with a test. He either can choose to negate his will to his Creator and get a misvah or, has veshalom, he can favor his own desires over the will of Hashem and get a sin. All these tests are placed on the scale to determine if he usually follows Hashem's will or his own. When one reaches judgment day we would expect anyone to be very frightened. An individual knows he has many sins and won't merit life. A truly believing Jew knows that this is not a parable but a true reality. The Jewish people, however, rise above themselves and act in a manner opposite to human nature. Facing the death sentence they rejoice. They focus in the other aspect of Rosh Hashanah. This day is not only the Day of Judgment, it's also Yom Harat Olam, the day the universe was conceived and the day Hashem became King. On the coronation day of the King one must set aside all personal desires and feelings. It may be that throughout the year one has failed test after test, which might indicate his desire to follow his own will. But now, if he puts aside his own personal welfare to rejoice in the coronation of the King while the Jew is in danger, this shows his true essence that in his core his true desire is to do the will of Hashem. This enables Hashem to tilt the scale in his favor. This doesn't contradict the scale; it shows the true essence of one's deeds and desires. Of course, if a person rejoices simply to save one's life, that person has defeated the purpose. Choosing to rejoice in their King on the day of coronation in the shadow of death, proves that deep down they always want to fulfill Hashem's will. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"The matter is very close to you" (Debarim 30:14)
Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz commented on this that the Torah tells us that regardless of how far away one is, if he is sincerely resolved to become a better person, he will be able to make an immediate transformation of himself. When you make a verbal commitment to Hashem and to yourself to become a changed person, your very words put you into a different place than where you were before.
Of course, if you just say that you will change without actually improving your behavior, you have not sincerely changed. But the words you tell yourself have a major influence on your behavior. In whatever area you wish to improve, if you keep repeating over and over to yourself how you will act from now on, you will notice practical changes. Your verbal and mental suggestions are very close to you; all you need is a firm decision to make this effort. Once you have made this decision, you will be successful as long as you keep up that original resolve of yours.
There are some people, however, who keep making pledges and resolutions to make positive changes but do not actually carry out their plans. They have created a credibility gap for themselves. Since they have already said that they would change and have not done so, they are likely not to really believe themselves. To overcome this, one needs action and consistency. Just as you should keep your word when you give it to others, so too you should keep your word to yourself. (Growth through Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 61:10 - 63:9.
This haftarah is the last of the series of seven haftarot which discussed consolation. Hashem says that He was always with Israel in its exile, and always shares in their suffering. He will take vengeance on Edom, and bring us back from our exile.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
Call to 646-279-8712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
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