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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 61:10-63:9

SEPTEMBER 18-20, 2009 1-2 ELUL 5769


"And then grant honor to your people" (Amidah of Rosh Hashanah) On Rosh Hashanah, we will all go before Hashem to be judged. The great sadikim always made an effort to find merits for the Jewish people, especially before Rosh Hashanah. They would go out of their way to creatively find a way to demonstrate to Hashem how wonderful and loyal the Jews are to Hashem and how special the nation of Israel is.

There are two stories that are especially appropriate before Rosh Hashanah, told by Avi Shulman.

The first true story happened in Yerushalayim, where there was a man who tried his best to pray every Arbit with a minyan. Because he often traveled for business, this required a lot of maneuvering. Nevertheless, he was determined to succeed. One night he found himself late at night not having prayed Arbit yet, so he went to Zichron Moshe where there are usually minyanim at all hours of the night.

For some reason, on this particular night at 1:30 am, there were no minyanim, and there was just one other man waiting for a minyan. So the two of them waited and waited. Soon it was evident that no minyan was going to happen. So what did he do? This Jew had a brainstorm. He called a Jewish all-night taxi company and ordered eight taxis. When eight taxis were there, he told each driver to start his meter and come in to make his minyan, and he would pay them later. After Arbit, he went over to every taxi driver offering to pay. Not a single driver took his money!

Story number two revolves around a Senator of an East coast state, who had a reputation as someone who enjoys alcohol. On this particular night, he had a problem because there were no alcoholic beverages in his house, and his city had an 11:00 pm curfew on bars, so they were all closed. So he had a brainstorm. He called an all-night limo service and ordered a stretch limo. He told the driver to drive for an hour wherever he wanted to, as he enjoyed the fully stocked bar in the back of the limo.

So here we have two stories, one of a Jew who used his creativity to do a misvah, and the other of a Senator who used his creativity to fill his craving for alcohol. The great sadikim of old would have been proud to present this modern-day contrast to Hashem in defense of the Jewish people. Tizku l'shanim rabot! Rabbi Reuven Semah

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.

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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"For You remember all forgotten things" (Amidah of Rosh Hashanah)

How does this attribute of Hashem work in our favor?

There are many good things that a person does without making any issue of them. Since he has long forgotten about them, when the day of judgment arrives, he does not make mention of them as merit for his deserving to be blessed with a good year. Fortunately, Hashem does not forget. Thus, we beseech Him, since You do not forget anything, take into consideration all the good things we have done and forgotten.

On the other hand, if one forgets about his sin and does not repent, Hashem will remember it and hold one accountable. But if a person committed a transgression, and is remorseful and conducts himself, as King David said, in a way of "Vehatati negdi tamid - My sin is before me always" (Tehillim 51:5) - Hashem will disregard his sin since he only remembers "hanishkachot - what has been forgotten." (Vedibarta Bam)


The primary event on Rosh Hashanah day is the sounding of the shofar. There are many halachot in the Shulhan Aruch concerning the shofar itself, the sounds produced, and the individual who hears it. One of the halachot is that it is obligatory to hear the actual sound of the shofar and not an echo. If one hears the echo of the sounds of the shofar, he has not fulfilled the misvah. One may wonder why the Sages were so insisting that the actual sound be heard. After all, the echo sounds exactly the same as the original sounds and, it is in fact a reflection of the original.

The Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 28:6) states that at Mount Sinai when Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people, his voice was unique in that it had no echo. Usually, the stronger the voice, the stronger the echo. Isn't the lack of echo from Hashem's voice a sign of weakness?

The distance the voice can travel depends on the strength of the person. When the voice reaches a wall, it rebounds, causing an echo. The Midrash is implying that the voice of Hashem was so powerful that it penetrated and permeated every person and every physical part of the universe, so that there was no echo.

The Rambam (Teshubah 3:4) writes, "Although the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is an unexplained Scriptural command, it contains an allusion: 'Sleepers, awaken from your sleep and you that slumber awake from your slumber, and ponder your deeds, remember your Creator, and go back to Him in penitence. You who miss the truth in your pursuit of vanities, and waste your years in seeking after vain things that can neither profit nor deliver, look after your own souls, and improve your ways and your deeds. Let every one of you abandon his evil ways and thoughts and return to G-d that He may have mercy on you.'"

The halachah of hearing an echo is imparting a very important message. The sound of the shofar is supposed to permeate us and move us to change and reach for higher goals and aspirations. "Hearing an echo" means that the sound of the shofar, instead of permeating the person, has hit him on the outside and has bounced off not making any inroads into the person himself. Such a person, though he has come to shul and though he has heard shofar sounds, has not really achieved the true intention of the misvah of hearing shofar.

Just blowing shofar has no real significance. We accomplish something with the shofar only if it penetrates our very being and we are permeated with the inspiration to wake up, resort to true soul searching, and resolve to lead a spiritually more meaningful life. (Vedibarta Bam)

There was once a chaplain who visited a jail to deliver a sermon to the inmates. While ascending the podium to speak, he tripped and fell flat on his face. The room erupted in laughter. He picked himself up and went over to the podium and said, "I have just concluded my sermon; the moral is that even when a person falls flat on his face, he can rise up again. (Vedibarta Bam)

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 (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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