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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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~ ~ The gemara R.H. 2b says "By a king, one day of the year is like the whole year." This can be an allusion to the eve of Rosh Hashonoh. When we are about to appear "by the King," if we repent even on the last day of the year, it cleanses the sins of the whole year. (Chesed l'Avrohom)

~ ~ We do not make "nfilas apayim" during our morning or afternoon prayers of erev Rosh Hashonoh. This indicates that we should have a positive outlook that Hashem will accept our repentance and seal the verdict of our nation for a good year. (Avodas Yisroel - The Holy Admor of Kozhnitz on parshas Nitzovim)

~ ~ The verse in Dvorim 11:12 says, "Mei'reishis Hashonoh ad acharis shonoh," - from the beginning of THE year until the end of A year. Why does this phrase begin with the definitive, "Hashonoh," and end with the general, "shonoh"? At the onset of a new year, "mei'reishis," people charge themselves up spiritually and resolve that there will be major improvements. This will be THE year when I turn a leaf and truly change. At the end of the year, "acharis," it unfortunately turns out to be just another year, "shonoh," similar to previous ones, with no meaningful changes. (The Holy Admor of Satmar)

~ ~ The Holy Zohar (Tikun 6 page 22a) criticizes those who pray for their welfare on Rosh Hashonoh and limit it to their physical needs, saying that they bark like a dog, "Give us sustenance! Give us a livelihood!" Yet we find that our Rabbis include these pleas in the text of our additional prayers in the Amidoh from Rosh Hashonoh through Yom Kippur, "B'sefer chaim ..ufarnosoh tovoh." Perhaps we can explain this and at the same time find merit in the pleas of the bnei Yisroel. The gemara Kidushin 82b states that people's sustenance should have come without having to work. However, "ha'rei'osi maa'say ufikachti es par'n'sosi," - I have behaved improperly and have blocked the conduit of my income. The bnei Yisroel are embarrassed to openly state that they have sinned so they say this in a roundabout manner. By saying that they need sustenance they are in essence saying that they have sinned and regret this. In actuality this is covert confession of sins, permitted even on Rosh Hashonoh. Once we have begun with this text we continue throughout the 10 days of repentance, even when we may overtly state that we have sinned.

~ ~ The mishnoh R.H. 4:2, gemara 16a, says that all living creatures pass in judgment in front of Hashem like "bnei Morone." The gemara 18a explains that this means that they pass in single file. Rabbi Yochonon adds that even though they pass in single file, all are scanned in one go. Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenura in his commentary on the mishnoh quotes the Rambam, who says that to grasp the answer to this seeming contradiction requires very deep understanding. Rabbi Simchoh Wasserman offers an explanation based on an insight into Rashi on parshas Noach. The verse states that Noach was a righteous man "in his generations" (Breishis 6:9). Rashi says that this can be understood in two ways; either that Noach was righteous to a certain level in his generation, and because of that generation he was limited to a certain level, as he was drawn down by his environment's negative influence, and had he lived in the generation of our patriarch Avrohom, he would have been strongly influenced for the better, and would have been much greater, or that he was only considered a righteous person of note in his generation, as almost all others were lowly, and had he lived in the generation of Avrohom, who was very righteous, Noach's level would have paled in comparison.

Says Rabbi Wasserman, as do others as well, that there is no disagreement between these two explanations as to Noach's level of righteousness. Rather, they only disagree what the verse is stressing. All agree that to be a worthy person, Noach would have to be greater if he was exposed to Avrohom, and less worthy when actually compared to those among whom he lived. This is because one is strongly influenced by his surroundings, being drawn downwards by lowly people, and propelled upward when in the company of lofty people, as per the Rambam hilchos dei'ose 6:1, who exhorts us to live among worthy spiritual people, and not among lowly, negative people.

Thus it is only fair to judge a person by taking into consideration his environment, not just his actions. This is the meaning of judging each person individually, taking into account his personal actions, "kivnei Morone," while at the same time taking into account the actions of all those around him, "biskiroh achas," to fairly decide what can be expected of a person living in such a spiritual climate.

~ ~ Rabbi Kruspadai said in the name of Rabbi Yochonon: On Rosh Hashonoh three books are opened, one for completely righteous people, one for completely guilty people, and one for those who are in between. Those who are completely righteous are immediately written and sealed into the book of life. Those who are completely guilty are immediately written and sealed into the book of death. Those who are in between are kept suspended from Rosh Hashonoh until Yom Kippur. If they have merit they are written into the book of life and if they do not have merit they are written into the book of death.

Rashi d.h. "r'sho'im" explains that those who are completely guilty are those who have a majority of sins and a minority of mitzvos, while those who are in between are those whose merits and sins are exactly half and half (d.h. "beinoniim").

The Pnei Yehoshua asks why the gemara says that on Rosh Hashonoh these and those are written and SEALED, while when the in betweeners are given their verdict on Yom Kippur the gemara only says that they are written, but being SEALED is skipped. He answers with the gemara on the next page. Beis Hillel says that if one is still half and half on Yom Kippur Hashem BENDS to mercy, "ma'tei kla'pei chesed," based on the verse "v'rav chesed" (Shmos 34:6). Thus the ruling for leniency on Yom Kippur is sometimes not in keeping with total truthful judgment. Since Hashem's "seal" is truth (Holy Zohar on the first verse of the Torah, gemara Shabbos 55a), the gemara did not want to mention Hashem's SEALING the verdict, as sometimes the verdict is one of leniency, but not by virtue of the characteristic of EMES.

~ ~ On the 1st day of Rosh Hashonoh we read the parsha of the birth of Yitzchok (Brieshis 21). Yitzchok symbolizes strict judgment. On the 2nd day of Rosh Hashonoh we read the parsha of the "akeidoh," the binding of Yitzchok. This symbolizes clemency, as the stringent judgment characteristic of Yitzchok is bound. This is in consonance with the writings of the Holy Zohar, that the 1st day of Rosh Hashonoh has strict judgment and the 2nd has mercy. (Mo'ore Voshemesh rimzei Rosh Hashonoh)

~ ~ The Holy Zohar on parshas Emor says that Hashem sits on a throne of stern judgment and upon hearing the shofar blasts He then sits on a throne of clemency. Although the basic mitzvoh is fulfilled with just a few sounds, our Rabbis have instituted that we blow 100 sounds. Numerous reasons are given for this number. Perhaps we can say that at the time of sounding the shofar and beseeching Hashem for mercy we should always keep in mind that we have fallen short of what we are capable of doing and the most compelling reason for having a positive verdict is simply that we ask for an undeserved present, GRATIS. The word for this is "b'chinom," whose letters Beis-Ches-Nun-Mem have the numerical value of 100.

~ ~ The sounding of the shofar brings people to repent. This is alluded to in the verse, "V'haavarto SHofar Tru'oh Bachodesh Hashvii" (Vayikroh 25:9), whose first letters spell out the word T'SHUVoH. (Chesed l'Avrohom)

~ ~ One of the best ploys of our evil inclination is inertia, resistance to meaningful change. Year after year we are aroused by the shofar blasts but there is, unfortunately, no real movement. The gemara R.H. 16b explains that we sound the shofar and sound it again to confound satan. Tosfos d.h. "k'dei" brings from the gemara Yerushalmi that satan becomes somewhat confounded upon hearing the first set of shofar blasts, but when he hears the second set he totally loses it, assuming that the bnei Yisroel will surely repent and Moshiach is on his way. He then totally gives up on condemning the bnei Yisroel. Are we worse than satan, who sees year after year that we have not repented, yet upon hearing the sound of the shofar is convinced that this year we have repented? (Arvei Nachal on parshas Emor)

~ ~ An allusion to the confounding of satan and the blockage of his accusations through the sounding of the shofar is found in the verse in M'lochim 1:5:18, "Ein Soton V'ein Pega Ra." The first letters of the words "Soton V'ein Pega Ra" spell shofar. (Rokei'ach hilchos R.H. #201)

~ ~ There is the basic act of sounding the shofar, and the arousal to repentance that it engenders (see Rambam hilchos teshuvoh 3:4). This is alluded to in the gemara R.H. 27b. If one places a shofar within another shofar and blows, if only the sound of the outer shofar was heard, "lo yotzo." If he heard the sound of the inner shofar, "yotzo." The outer shofar is the physical body hearing the sound, while the inner shofar is the soul inside the person who responds to the sound with repentance. "Lo yotzo," - he has not gone out of his previous status, as he has not repented. "Yotzo," he has left his previous status and is a "baal teshuvoh." (Tzofnas Paa'nei'ach on parshas Vo'eiro)

~ ~ The sounding of the shofar is communication without articulating words. It comes from the breath of the depths of a person and is therefore beyond words. (Likutei Torah on parshas Nitzovim)

~ ~ The sonding of the shofar is done through blowing out our breath. Rosh Hashonoh is the anniversary of the creation of man. He became a living creature when Hashem blew the breath of life into him (Breishis 2:7). We reconnect with Hashem by sounding the shofar and showing that we are ready to do all to fulfill his wishes, even to give back our life-breath, our life for Him. (Tzi laTzadik maamo'rei Chodesh Tishrei 2:11)

~ ~ "Oloh Elokim bisru'oh Hashem b'kole shofor" (T'hilim 47:6). Elokim, strict judgment on Rosh Hashonoh goes up to the heavens and we are left with merciful judgment, Hashem, through the sound of the shofar. Elokim is countered by shofar, as the gematria of Elokim is 86, Pei-Vov. In "milluy" its value is 300, Shin. In "ribua," accumulative, i.e. Alef, Alef-Lamed, Alef-Lamed-Hei, etc., it is 200, Reish. These three values equal shofar, 386. (Tzemach Tzadik on parshas R'ei)


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