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Accepting the Yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom on Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is a time for introspection. One should realize how far he is from the path of the Torah and recalculate his route so that he may travel through life properly.

One of the reasons that we find it difficult to accept upon ourselves the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom, however, is because it seems to be a very heavy burden to bear. Actually, though, this is a grave mistake and this entire attitude is a ploy of the Yetzer Hara to discourage us from becoming true, Torah observant Jews.

The prophet Yesha'ayahu reprimands the Jewish People, in the Name of Hashem, and proclaims, "But you have not called upon Me, O Ya'akov; for you have been weary of me, O Yisrael" (Yesha'ayahu 43:22). Chazal interpret the passage in its simple form and declare, "He works hard all day and is not tired, but when his friend calls him to prayer he says that he is exhausted!" This indicates that he is only weary when it comes to things related to G-d and His service.

The Dubner Magid has a novel interpretation of this passage, which he explains with a parable, of course (I once heard this from Harav Yeruchem Gorelick z"l). A businessman made a short visit to someone in another town. Since he was very anxious to meet his friend, he rushed to his home as soon as the train arrived at the station and he asked the porter to bring his bags to the address where he was staying.

While talking to his friend, the businessman noticed through the window that the porter was dragging two heavy suitcases towards the house. He opened the window and began shouting at him, "You made a mistake. You brought the wrong bags. Examine the tags properly and exchange these bags for the right ones."

The host was surprised at his friend's sense of perception and asked him, "How could you tell that those bags were not yours? The porter is still far away and I can barely even see the suitcases, let alone identify them."

The businessman smiled and replied, "Simple. I saw how hard he was working to shlepp those bags and I know that my luggage is not that heavy. Since I just came here for a day or two, I am traveling lightly. I could tell by how hard he was exerting himself that he was not bringing my belongings but someone else's.

Similarly, concludes the Magid, serving Hashem is meant to be an enjoyable experience which brings one phenomenal pleasure both in this world and in the World-to-Come. Yet people have the wrong attitude and find it a heavy burden. Hashem reprimands us and says, "If you are weary with Me, then you have not called upon Me properly. My bags are not that heavy and they don't knock you out. On the contrary, true spirituality provides physical strength and emotional stability. Correct your attitude and you will find how easy it is to serve Me. Recognize that all of the good which you have and want comes from Me. Then you will have a totally different approach to Torah and Mitzvahs and will perform them with true joy."

Some months ago, I related that Reb Moshe Feinstein ztvk"l used to say that one of the reasons that many of the generation of European Orthodox Jews who came to the United States lost their children to religion was because of a grave mistake they made in child education. Encountering the difficulties of being observant in "the New World," they raised their children with the dictate that "es iz shver tzu zein a Yid - It is difficult to be a Jew." They tried to implant in their children the willpower to serve Hashem even under trying conditions. While this may have worked in Europe, where things were basically hard for everyone anyway, it didn't work in America where the choice of living a difficult life as an observant Jew or living a life of "fun" as a non observant one was readily available for everyone.

Instead, what they should have shown their children, said Reb Moshe, was the beauty and thrill of serving Hashem and observing His mitzvahs. They should have emphasized the happiness and the spiritual and emotional tranquility the religious Jew has as opposed to the confusion and instability the non observant experiences. For example, spending Shabbos with the family brings countless blessings in this world which the Sabbath laborer misses out on - besides the reward and punishment in the World-to-Come.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, it is of prime importance that we recognize the bliss in living a religious life and not let the Yetzer Hara dissuade us with his guile. How lucky we are to be members of the Chosen People and to be privileged to be among those closest to the Creator of the Universe. Let us appreciate our position and teach our children, by example, to cherish our Heritage. Then we will be blessed with a year of happiness, health and success in all of our endeavors and we will be truly content in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Kesivah vechasimah tovah.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel