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Weekly Chizuk

Rosh Hashana

A Love Affair with the King

(Based on a recording from Rav Ezriel Tauber.)

Rosh Hashana is the Yom Hadin (Day of Judgment). The gemara explains to us in detail how everyone passes before Him one by one to receive his verdict. The Unesana Tokef prayer describes how everything is determined on Rosh Hashana: who will be born, who will live, and who will die: will he live out his allotted time, or die before his time; who by water, who by fire, who by the sword. Who will have peace, and who will be unsettled, who will have a tranquil year, and who will suffer; who will become poor, and who will become rich, etc.

These days are rightfully labeled the Days of Awe. In the Slichos Motzei Shabbos we recite:

We are creeping and trembling from the day of Your coming.
Heavily ill from the burden of Your wrath.

We go through Rosh Hashana dreading the outcome of our trial.

Afterwards we have the 10 Days of Teshuva to repent and prepare ourselves for the Day of Atonement. Then we stand in tefilla on Yom Kippur reciting the vidui and confessing our aveiros.

Many ask that apparently the Jewish calendar is backwards. It would be more appropriate to first have the 10 Days of Repentance during the month of Elul to prepare our repentance. Then we could confess our sins and do teshuva on Yom Kippur. After fasting and davening the whole day, we would be ready to enter Rosh Hashana with a clean slate and receive a good verdict.

But the order isn't that way. First we have Elul which are days of mercy ( ). We then have Rosh Hashana when we don't ask for repentance for our sins and we don't recite vidui. The accent of Rosh Hashana isn't even on our getting judged. The major thrust of the tefillos is accepting Hashem as King: "reign over the entire universe in Your glory; be exalted over all the world in Your splendor Let everything with a life's breath in its nostrils proclaim: Hashem, the G d of Israel, is King and His kingship rules over everything."

So now we have to delve a little deeper into the meaning of Rosh Hashana. Elul is the month of preparation for the Yomim Nora'im. The holy seforim tell us that a hint of the meaning of Elul lies in its name: Elul is roshei teivos (an acronym): = (Shir Hashirim 6:3) "I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me." I love Him, He loves me.

This thought raises even more questions: in order to prepare for the Days of Awe and Judgment we cite a possuk of a love relationship?

The answer can be found in a possuk in Nechemia.

A remnant of Klal Yisrael came back from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael. But they weren't tzaddikim. Many of them were intermarried. They had not yet fully repented from the aveiros that had led to the destruction of the 1st Temple. As they entered their first Rosh Hashana they were a broken and dejected nation. Ezra gathered them all together in Yerushalayim and they spent the morning in tefilla and Torah study.

Then Ezra proclaimed: "Go, eat fat foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord, and do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nechemia 8:10). This last phrase is mysterious. What is the meaning of "do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength"?

The standard explanation is that by outwardly enjoying the Yom Tov, your simcha will strengthen you and you will overcome your mood and you can enjoy the Yom Tov.

The Chasam Sofer (Rosh Hashana 29b), however, gives a deeper rendering of the possuk: "for the joy of the Lord is your strength," the fact that Hashem is happy with you is your power.

On Rosh Hashana we blow the shofar. There are contradictory interpretations behind the sound of the shofar. On the one hand Chazal tell us that it is the sound of the Royal Coronation. "Hakadosh Baruch Hu said, 'On Rosh Hashana make me a king over you in order that your remembrance should arise before me for the good. How? With the shofar'" (Rosh Hashana 16a). This tells us that the sound of the shofar is a jubilant announcement of our crowning Hashem as our King. Because of this in the Beis Hamikdash not only did they blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana, they blew trumpets (26b).

On the other hand we learn which sounds to blow from the cries of Sisra's mother: sounds of weeping.

How do we reconcile these contradictions: joy and weeping both emanating from the same sounds?

The Chasam Sofer answers that Rosh Hashana is the day of Hakadosh Baruch Hu's joy with His dear child and loved one: Klal Yisrael. The world was created only for the sake of Klal Yisrael. We, of all Creation, have been singled out to be His kingdom. Therefore we should be sad and weep from the depths of our heart when we see how the nations of the world fail to recognize Him. When all of mankind fell into the depths of depravity and immorality during the generation of the Flood, "And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart" (Bereishis 6:6). When Mankind fails to recognize their Maker, Hashem weeps, and we should weep with Him.

But now, on Rosh Hashana the Ribono Shel Olam does not grieve. Rather He is joyous with His people Klal Yisrael who give Him nachas. Out of all the billions of people on this planet, we are the only nation to recognize Him and accept upon ourselves Torah and Mitzvos. "And I love you, said Hashem" (Malachi 1:2). Therefore, on this day of Rosh Hashana it is our job to petition against the disgrace of our Father our King.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu said that He wants us to rejoice today. It is a day of joyous blasts of the shofar. Because today I am happy that Klal Yisrael are standing up against the disgrace of their Father in Heaven. So it is on one hand a day of joyous celebration over our Coronation of our King. And on the other hand, a day of weeping over His dishonor among the Nations.

This is all fine when Klal Yisrael are performing the will of their Maker. Unfortunately, most of the year Klal Yisroel throws off His yoke. We're not such good Jews. How, then can we demand His honor from the nations of the world when we ourselves act like goyim? Instead, the Satan stands before the Heavenly throne and indicts Klal Yisrael for their disloyalty. Therefore, Chazal advise us to blow the shofar twice. Once, before Musaf, to bring ourselves back to Him in teshuva and accept upon ourselves his Kingship and become His dear friends once more. And then a second time during Musaf to plea against the disgrace of our Father in Heaven from the Nations of the world: "Become King over the entire World!"

Sit back a moment and look around the world. There are billions of people out there. A good guess is that 99.99% of them are basically thinking about themselves. From morning 'till evening they go through life thinking what can I get out of this. How much money can I make, how much pleasure can I get. Me. Me. Me. I. I. I.

The world has always been corrupt. But at least they had religion. They recognized a Higher Being. Modern society is now in the process of ditching that last remnant of decency, it is throwing off the shackles of religion. They may pay lip service to religion and spiritual values, but their daily actions belie their real thoughts. They're not even embarrassed about it anymore. The last Democratic Convention removed any mention of G-d until they realized that was politically incorrect. When they voted to reinstate G-d they were met by a chorus of loud boos. In the United States individuals who are trying to live according to religious principles are being sued by liberal atheists. Mention of G-d has been outlawed on public property. It "offends" atheists. One atheist even declared, "I'm not an atheist, I'm an anti theist!" They are waging war against religion. That is the state of the world at large. Hashem is crying.

The Jews are but a very minute percentage of the world's population. And if you are reading this, you are a Torah Observant Jew who is even just a small minority of the Jewish population. What does a frum Jew think about? He davens every day. He buys the most kosher tefillin. He eats only glatt kosher food. He sends his children to yeshivos and seminaries; his dream is that his kids will be better Jews than he. They should all marry and build Torah observant families. His biggest nachas is to see frum grandchildren.

He leaves work early on Friday, and won't answer phone calls on Shabbos. As much as he needs money, if he finds a $100 bill on the street on Shabbos, he won't pick it up. He doesn't shake hands with women clients, and he is repulsed by the common office jokes. He is concerned about what he sees and has installed a filter on his computer.

Remember the over 200,000 Yidden world-wide who attended the Siyum Hashas? It inspired thousands more to begin Brachos, and take on a rigorous schedule, to give an hour of their busy day toward the goal of finishing Shas in another 7 years.

When something goes wrong, a frum Yid declares "Gam zu letova" this too is for the good. It was bershert. G-d willed it. Is there another people like this walking this planet? Sit back and reflect on all this and feel proud you're a Yid. A Torah Observant Jew lives much of his life giving nachas to Hashem. Out of all those billions of people walking the earth, who gives Hakadosh Baruch Hu pleasure? Everyone who is thinking what's in it for me? Or the pashuta Yid trying to give a little nachas to the Ribono Shel Olam. We are the only nation who, as a nation, thinks about pleasing Hashem.

Rosh Hashana is a day to proclaim: I'm happy I'm a Yid! A person should be happy he's part of the Jewish people.

When a goy comes to convert, besides learning all about Yiddishkeit, he must prove his sincerity. The gemara (Yevamos 47a) relates the procedure. The Beis Din tells him, "Don't you know that Jews are looked down upon today? We are hounded, attacked, and persecuted." If he responds, "Yes I know, and I'm not worthy of being a Jew," we immediately accept him and proceed with the conversion.

In prewar Europe there was a certain ger tzeddik (a convert). He married and raised a family. Then came Hitler. As the decrees became more and more brutal and they started rounding up the Jews, his family came to him. They said they had connections and would cover up for him. He would stay with them as if he were a goy. That way he would survive. After all, he was born a goy, and all his family were goyim.

He refused. "I accepted upon myself to be a part of the Jewish People. I am Jewish and I am willing to die because of it." He was eventually caught and sent to Auschwitz. Those who survived testified that as he was put in line for the gas chambers, he was singing and dancing for joy. He had the privilege of dying as a Jew. That was his biggest simcha.

The whole year we talk about Moshe Rabbeinu. We read the Torah about all the laws that Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu. On Rosh Hashanah we make no mention of Moshe Rabbeinu. Instead we read about Avraham Avinu. Avraham was the first ger; he recognized Hashem and proclaimed His Kingship to the whole world. We don't read in the Torah very much about the mitzvos that Avraham Avinu performed. We read about his steadfast dedication to belief in the Creator of the World. He believed and he wanted the world to believe, and he was willing to sacrifice everything for his love of the Ribono Shel Olam. On Rosh Hashana we go all the way back to Avraham Avinu and we become converts and renew our dedication to Yiddishkeit and Hashem.

The first thing we have to realize on Rosh Hashana, is how proud we are to be Jewish. When we hear the shofar we rejoice in our coronation of the King. On this day we have the privilege of giving Hakadosh Baruch Hu some nachas. This is what Ezra told the Jewish people. "For the joy of the Lord is your strength": the fact that Hashem is joyous with you is your power to be victorious on this Day of Judgment. You will win the court case because of your bond of love with the Creator. You are the only nation that loves Hashem, and Hashem loves you. Once you develop a love relationship with the Ribono Shel Olam, you will automatically want to please Him. Therefore, Rosh Hashana has to precede Yom Kippur. First you have to coronate Hashem as your King. Then, on Yom Kippur you can rekindle a firmer commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

The first step is to be happy you're a Yid. Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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