SEPTEMBER 6-8, 2002 1-2 TISHREI 5763
"And abundant in kindness and truth" (From the 13 Attributes of Hashem)
Throughout the High Holiday season, we recite the Thirteen Attributes many times. What are the 13 Attributes? They are a list of G-d's ways of acting mercifully towards His people. The source of the Attributes is a verse in the Torah. In that verse, Hashem tell Moshe Rabenu that the Jewish people should recite them to arouse Hashem's mercy towards His people. The Talmud however, has a question on two of the thirteen. It says, "rab hesed - Abundant in kindness," which means that Hashem is kind and does not rule strictly according to the law. The attribute of "emet - Truth," means strict justice according to the law. Not only do they contradict each other, but the attribute of strict justice seems out of place in the list of merciful traits of Hashem. The Talmud provides an answer that we will explain.
Rabbi Avraham Pam z"l explains this difficulty most beautifully. The pasuk in Parashat Re'eh (13:18) says, "And He will give you mercy and be merciful to you and multiply you." The Talmud in Shabbat (151) explains: Whoever has mercy on the people will be shown mercy from Above. This means that Hashem brings to the person an opportunity to do a kind act in order that he should do an act of mercy, and merit mercy from Hashem. If a person lacks merit, but Hashem wants to be merciful towards him, what does He do? He sends that person a situation to do mercy, which will provide him the merit that he lacks. Once that person has that merit Hashem's court of justice will award him life through the strict rule of law, because he now has the merit. Therefore both attributes of "rab hesed" and "emet" can exist as two attributes of mercy. Hashem is merciful in that He gives us the chance to "deserve" His mercy. We learn a similar concept from the Rambam that the greatest act of charity is to give a needy person the means to earn a livelihood and be successful. The recipient is much happier to be a success than to accept charity.
Therefore, during these days we should pay attention to all opportunities for doing kindness. Remember, the ways of Hashem are hidden. Perhaps the attributes of "rab hesed" and "emet" are sending you those chances. Grab these opportunities. Hashem may be extending to you His golden scepter of forgiveness. Touch His scepter and merit a wonderful year, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Reuven Semah
As this past year comes to a close, we stop and reflect on how much good and bad news has been publicized both in this bulletin and in the regular newspapers. We know that it has been a very tough year for our brothers in Israel and in our midst. We saw and heard many sad things. But we should not forget how many happy occasions we were privileged to be part of, and even just to hear about! Hashem, Who is our Father, wants only the best for us, and wants to shower us with all great things. Sometimes we are the ones not able to receive them because we lack the merit, and so we are the ones who need to change for this coming year.
The mere fact that another year is passing us by, how time is flying so
quickly, is enough to prod us and awaken us to the fact that we must use our
time wisely. Let this year be the one that we commit to do those things
that we always say we will do. Let us appreciate all the good Hashem gives
us constantly, and pray sincerely for a Healthy and Happy year for everyone
in our family, in our community and in our nation. Tizku L'shanim Rabot!
A story is told of a foreigner who came to America and wanted to open a department store. Not knowing the American lifestyle, he walked the streets to learn how business is done in America, and he noticed that a certain store was attracting a much larger crowd than all the others. When he inquired as to the reason, he was informed that there was a sign above the store which read, "Grand Opening" and that this usually attracts many people. He continued on his stroll and noticed another store a few blocks away which was also attracting more customers than all the others stores. Again he inquired and he was told that above this store was a sign "Going out of Business" and that such a sign also tends to attract many inquisitive people.
Wanting his store to be a tremendous success, and unfamiliar with the English language, he hired a sign maker to copy both signs and place them above the entrance to his store. Business was terrible; people did not come in because they were convinced that his store was operated by a lunatic.
This story, which has an amusing note to it, unfortunately portrays many facets of life in general, and Jewish milestones in particular. Bar Misvah is the first celebration in which a young Jewish boy actively participates. But how sad is it when the Bar Misvah boy and his family, after attending services in the synagogue drive away on Shabbat to a non-kosher restaurant for a festive meal. In actuality, for this boy and his family, the "grand opening" and "going out of business" took place at the same time.
There are many weddings which were entered into with much love and anticipation, and unfortunately end immediately afterwards with strife and animosity. The same holds true with businessmen who enter into a partnership which immediately turns into a disastrous battle in court. I am sure you can think of more examples of the "grand opening" and the "going out of business" taking place in quick succession.
In the Musaf liturgy we declare, "Hayom harat olam - today is the birth of the world." In reality, the creation of the world started a few days earlier, but Rosh Hashanah is the birth of Adam, the first man, through whom the creation of the world reached fruition.
On this day Adam, the progenitor of mankind, made his "Grand Opening." Annually, on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem gives each man and woman the chance to start afresh and make a "grand opening." There are also some people who have a "grand opening" followed very quickly by a "going out of business." They make lofty resolutions and commitments regarding their relationship with other people and with Hashem in the year to come. Unfortunately, these are often very quickly disregarded and forgotten.
Let us resolve to stay in business throughout the year, and go from strength to strength in our devotion and observance of Torah and Judaism. With such an approach our "grand opening" will bring happy and prosperous results. (Vedibarta Bam)
On Rosh Hashanah we read the first chapter and part of the second of the Book of Shemuel, which discusses Hannah's praying to Hashem and how she honored her vow without any reservation. The third chapter relates an episode with little Shemuel when his mother left him in the Sanctuary to be inducted into the service of Hashem.
In the narrative it is related, "And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was lying in his place - for his eyes had become dim, he could not see. Hashem called Shemuel and he said, 'Here I am.' He ran into Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me?" and [Eli] said, 'I did not call you, go back and lie down.'" Again and again the young lad heard the voice of Hashem calling him, but the aged Eli sent him back telling him, "Lo karati beni, shub shechab - I did not call you, my son, go back and lie down." Shemuel had not yet known Hashem, and the word of Hashem had not yet been revealed to him. When this repeated itself a third time, Eli realized that Hashem was calling the lad.
This narrative of an episode which took place a few thousand years ago is very related to our contemporary times and conveys a poignant lesson. We are living in a time when many a Jewish child has heard the voice of Hashem. They have experienced inspiring moments in their lives and have expressed to their parents a desire to learn about our golden heritage. The child tells the parent that he or she heard a call and would like to respond, but the unimaginative parent will say, "Shub shechab - go back to sleep." Instead of nurturing this awakening and helping it grow into something positive, the parent stills the child and dampens the flame. A story is told of a father who wanted to influence his young son with heretical views. One night, he wrote on the side of his son's bed while his son was asleep: "G-d is nowhere." The father hoped that this message would leave an indelible impression on his child. When the youngster woke up and began to spell out his father's message, he jumped out of bed, ran to his father and excitedly exclaimed, "On my bed I saw the message written 'G-d is now here.'"
Fortunately the young members of our generation are hearing the Divine call and refuse to listen to their parents or mentors who tell them, "Go back to sleep." In all corners of the world there is a very strong ba'al teshubah movement. Young people from all walks of life are returning to the fold. They are coming in throngs to study Torah and have accepted authentic Torah teachings as their way of life. Let us encourage them and help them achieve their goal of learning about our golden heritage. We should be immensely proud of this generation, "Ki hem zera berach Hashem - They are the seed that Hashem has blessed" (Isaiah 61:9). (Vedibarta Bam)
According to halachah there is no limit to how big the shofar may be. In fact, in the musaf prayers we will quote the prophet Isaiah who says, "And it shall be on that day yitaka beshofar gadol - a big shofar will be sounded." How big is big I do not know, but most probably it is bigger than the biggest shofar we have seen in the stores or in pictures.
There is, however, a minimum size for a shofar. The Gemara and the Shulhan Aruch say that it must be at least one tefach, which is equal to the width of four thumbs, so that when one grasps a tefach-long shofar with the four fingers in the palm of his hand, the shofar would be visible on either side of the hand.
The significance of this requirement may be the following. We use the shofar to make noise to alarm or to call to attention. The hand represents action. There are many people who are noisemakers or big talkers, but who are deficient when it comes to doing. The message of the shofar is that just to make noise alone is not sufficient, but people have to be able to see that what you speak of can also be seen through your hand. In other words, you must practice what you preach.
Hashem told the prophet Isaiah, "Kashofar harem kolecha - Raise your voice like a shofar" (58:2). In light of the above, it can be said that Hashem's message was that whenever one raises his voice, whenever one preaches, whenever one lectures and makes demands, let your voice be like a shofar. Just as a shofar has to be seen through your hand, likewise, practice what you preach and be a living example to those you want to inspire. (Vedibarta Bam)
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