by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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The medrash also says regarding the term VA'ASI'SEM (Bmidbar 29:2): "Hashem said to the bnei Yisroel, "My children, I consider it as if today on Rosh Hashonoh you were made, as if I created you anew." Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner said, "Teshuvoh is not to improve one's self, but rather to CHANGE ONE'S SELF. Nisht verren besser, nohr verren ANDERSH."

The gemara Rosh Hashonoh 16a says: Hashem says to the bnei Yisroel, "Say IN FRONT OF ME "malchios," verses of kingship, so that you will accept me as King over you; and with what? With a shofar." The Sfas Emes asks, "Why does the gemara ask, "And with what?" It already said that you will accept me as King by saying verses of kingship. There is no indication of a need for any accompaniment to saying the prescribed verses." He answers that the gemara asks, "And with what?" because Hashem said, "Say IN FRONT OF ME." The gemara is asking, "How do we reach the level of being IN FRONT OF Hashem? It answers, "With a shofar." The gemara Rosh Hashonoh 26a says that when we sound the shofar, it is as if we are "lif'nim," in the Beis Hamikdosh, directly IN FRONT OF Hashem.

"DIP THE APPLE INTO THE HONEY" - Why do we use an apple?

1) The Ta'z, Orach Chaim s. 583, s.k. 2, says in the name of the Mahari'l that we allude to the Kabbalistic "holy orchard of apple trees."

2) A commentary on the Matteh Efraim brings the Holy Zohar who says that Yitzchok gave Yaakov the blessings (Breishis 27) on Rosh Hashonoh, contrary to Rashi's commentary that it took place on Pesach. Yitzchok said (27:27) "The fragrance of my son's garments is like the fragrance of the field that Hashem has blessed." The Kabbalists say that this is the fragrance of the "holy orchard of apple trees." Since this took place on Rosh Hashonoh we use an apple.

3) The Nacha'lei Binoh says that "tapuach" equals in gematria "pru u'rvu," and d'vash equals "ishoh." Rosh Hashonoh is a day that is auspicious for prayers for barren couples to be blessed with children.

4) The Imrei Noam Al Hamo'adim vol. 2 says that the gemara Z'vochim 62a says that Hashem looks at the ashes of Yitzchok, who was considered as if he were sacrificed (Medrash Rabboh Breishis Ch. 56) piled on the altar. The pile of ash that collects on top of the altar is called "tapuach" in the gemara Tomid 28b. On Rosh Hashonoh we want to recall the merits of Avrohom's eagerness to fulfill Hashem's will to sacrifice Yitzchok, and Yitzchok's to be sacrificed. We say in the piutim of the first day of Rosh Hashonoh in shacharis, "T'muchim b'deshen SEH AKEIDOH." We rely on the merit of the ash of the bound sheep (Yitzchok). SEH KEIDAH and TAPUACH are equal, each being 494 in gematria.

5) The Chidushei HaGaonim (a commentary on the Ein Yaakov) on gemara Brochos, Perek Horo'eh, says that one who sees himself consuming apples in a dream, may take this as a sign that a good, sweet, prosperous life awaits him.

THE OMENS FOR A SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR (SIMONIM) - The source for this custom is a gemara Krisus 6a. We eat certain items whose names indicate positive concepts (or negative concepts for our enemies) and accompany this with a supplication that it be the will of Hashem that these positve concepts come to fruition. The Eliyohu Rabboh O.CH. #583 says that we should do this both nights of Rosh Hashonoh. The Bnei Yisos'chor (Tishrei, ma'amar 2, #11) says that although some authorities say to do this both nights, he has seen his teachers using the "simonim" only on the first night. He brings from the Holy Zohar that on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh judgment is stringent and on the second day it is lenient. The first day corresponds to Leah whose soul-source corresponds to stringency, and the second day to Rochel whose soul-source corresponds to leniency, (as per commentaries to Breishis 29:17). Since Rochel gave her "simonim" (omens) to Leah, there is only a need to use them on the first night.

"Sheh'ni'h'yeh L'ROSH v'lo l'zonov" - That we should be for a head and not for a tail. The Yeitav Lev in his commentary to parshas B'midbar says that the four letters of L'ROSH, lamed, reish, aleph, shin, are an acronym for "La'asos R'tzone Ovinu SHebashomayim."

Why don't we say "she'ni'h'yeh rosh v'lo zonov?" The Ohr Yitzchok answers that this refers to the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos 4:14 that says, "It is preferable to be a tail to a lion than a head to a fox." We are praying that we be connected to a head, L'rosh, even at the low end, rather than being connected to a tail, L'zonov, even at the top level.

The Mishnah Brurah #600 s.k. 4, cites the Maa'seh Rav that the GR"A of Vilna refrained from eating grapes on Rosh Hashonoh, and said that the reason for this is "al pi sode," a hidden kabbalistic reason.

Approximately twenty years ago my son was learning the Prophet Shmuel close to the time of Rosh Hashonoh, and asked me the following: We find in Shmuel 2:25:18 in the story of King David and Novol, that Avigayil sent King David and his men one hundred clusters of raisins for the upcoming Yom Tov. Rashi and other commentaries bring from the medrash that the Yom Tov was Rosh Hashonoh. According to the previously mentioned Ma'a'se Rav, one is to refrain from eating grapes on Rosh Hashonoh, so why did Avigayil send raisins? Two answers might be: 1)Regarding this matter, grapes and raisins aren't to be considered the same, 2)Since the reason is "al pi sode," it is possible that there are different time or location factors, and what might be permitted at one time or location might be prohibited at another.

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvoh 5:4 says that a person should not think that he is forcibly drawn to any specific path, ideology, or action. Hashem has given him free will and choice to do as he wishes. He brings verses from the Prophets to substantiate this. It would seem that this statement of the Rambam is the FOUNDATION of repentance. If a person justifies himself by feeling that he is forcibly drawn to any path, by virtue of environment, his nature, etc., there is no hope of his squarely placing his finger on the true culprit, HIMSELF! I, AND I ALONE, AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY ACTIONS!!!

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvoh 6:5 asks, "Since the Torah states (Breishis 15:13) "And they will enslave them and they will persecute them," why are the Egyptians deserving of punishment?" He answers that since the Torah did not mention any specific person, each Egyptian had the free choice to not persecute the bnei Yisroel. Two questions are raised on this answer. 1) Why didn't the Rambam answer that no specific NATION was mentioned? 2) Why didn't he answer that even with a verse telling us that in the future the bnei Yisroel would suffer servitude, it is not conclusive that it must come to fruition? The gemara Shabbos 55a says that although a prophecy for good must be fulfilled, a prophecy for bad can be averted (through merits and prayer).

Possibly we can answer that the Rambam could indeed have answered that there was no specific NATION mentioned, let alone persons, but he wanted to avoid our making a mistake by inference. If he were to say that no nation was mentioned in the Torah, then we might conclude that if a nation were to be mentioned, even though no specific persons were mentioned, they would be excused. Therefore he said that as long as no specific persons are mentioned, each individual is free to behave properly, even where a specific nation was singled out. Possibly the reason the Rambam did not apply the gemara in Shabbos 55a is because that would only explain why there is free will, as the possibility of rescinding exists. However the Rambam clearly asked "v'lomoh nifra mei'hem, and why did he punish them?" As long as the prophecy was not retracted they deserve no punishment. Therefore, he answers that the prophecy was not pinpointed to any individual, and whoever treated the bnei Yisroel harshly was justifiably punished. A theoretical question can be raised. What if every Egyptian made the right choice and would not have lifted a finger against the bnei Yisroel? What would have become of the verse in Breishis 15:13? If you answer that they would have suffered under the hands of another nation, as there was so specific nation mentioned, then what if every individual of that nation, and all of the nations of the world would have acted properly? We must say that if all the above took place, indeed, Hashem would have retracted, as per the above mentioned gemara Shabbos 55a.

TESHUVOH - The Ramban says that from the verse in Dvorim 30:11 "Ki hamitzvoh hazose" we derive that it is a mitzvoh to repent, to do teshuvoh, for our sins. However the Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 1:1 says that when one repents he is required to also confess verbally that he has sinned. In his Sefer Hamitzvos, positive commandment #73, the Rambam likewise says that when one repents etc. The Minchas Chinuch in mitzvoh #364 derives from the manner in which the Rambam explains teshuvoh, that there is no mitzvoh to repent, but rather, if one is repenting he is required to verbally confess his sin(s) to effect an acceptable teshuvoh. The Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Va'yeilech d.h. "V'omar" gives us a wonderful insight into the logic behind the Rambam's position.

The Chidushei hoRI"M explains a mishnoh dealing with teshuvoh, which is brought in the gemara Yoma 85b, according to the Ramban and the Ramban. The mishnoh says that one who says, "I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent," is not afforded the opportunity to repent. (The reason for this seems to be that since the person relied upon the opportunity to repent to sin in the first place, the instrument which helped bring about his sinning, namely the opportunity to repent, cannot be used as an instrument to cleanse the sin.) If one says, "I will sin and Yom Kippur will cleanse my sin," Yom Kippur is ineffective. The Chidushei hoRI"M asks why in the case of repentance is "I will sin" mentioned twice, while in the case of Yom Kippur it is only mentioned once. He answers according to the Ramban who posits that there is a mitzvoh to repent, there is a possibility that a person who has never sinned will sin in order to have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvoh of repentance. This only holds true by the first sin. However, if a person sins a second time, relying upon the cleansing powers of repentance, it is obvious that the second time he is misusing this power, hence rendering it ineffective. However, since the cleansing process of Yom Kippur is not the fulfillment of a mitzvoh but rather a gift, relying on Yom Kippur to bring about forgiveness renders the power of Yom Kippur ineffective even when sinning the first time. How do we explain this mishnoh according to the Rambam? Since the Rambam does not consider repenting a mitzvoh, why does the mishnoh mention it twice? In hilchos teshuvoh 4:1, the Rambam quotes our mishnoh verbatim except that "I will sin and repent" is mentioned only once. This is in keeping with his opinion that there is no mitzvoh to repent, hence a person renders teshuvoh ineffective even when sinning and relying on teshuvoh the first time. Most likely, this was also his text of the mishnoh. Commentators raise a serious question on the position of the Ramban. Our verse, "Ki hamitzvoh hazose," refers to the mitzvoh of learning Torah according to the gemara Eiruvin 55a, so how can the Ramban apply this verse to teshuvoh? Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner in Nefesh Hachaim answers that this gemara is not contradictory to the Ramban. He says that Talmud Torah itself cleanses sin just as repentance does. This is why in Shmoneh Esrei in the blessing of repentance we say, "Hashiveinu ovinu l'sorosecho ...... v'hachazireinu bis'shuvoh shleimoh l'fo'necho." Why is returning to the Torah mentioned here? We see that the study of Torah is also a form of repentance. Similarly, the Sefer Oros Y'mei Rachamim, page 143, says in the name of Rav Aharon Kotler zt'l, that the learning of Torah is a component of the teshuvoh process. We can see this from the continuation of the theme of teshuvoh as mentioned in the verses that follow. Verse 14 says, "Ki korov eilecho hadovor m'ode B'FICHO," which refers to verbal confession, "U'VILVOVCHO laasoso," which refers to regretting the past and committing to do that which is proper in the future. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says on these words, "A'rei koriv l'chone pisgomo b'veis mid'r'sheichone" - the word of the Torah is close to you in your study halls. We see that the study of Torah is a component of the teshuvoh process. Perhaps another proof can be brought for the correlation between the study of Torah and teshuvoh. Verses 12 and 13 say, "Lo vashomayim hee, v'lo mei'eiver la'yom hee." The Targum Yerushalmi says on "Lo vashomayim hee," do not say that you need someone like Moshe who ascended to the heavens, to bring you the Torah; "v'lo mei'eiver la'yom hee," do not say that you need someone like Yonah who traveled the ocean, to awaken your heart to repentance.

Since our verse is discussing repentance, why would it enter one's mind that it necessary to have someone like Moshe to bring us the Torah, since that is not part of the teshuvoh process? Indeed, we see from here that Torah learning is integral to the teshuvoh process. Although the Rambam does not count teshuvoh as a mitzvoh min haTorah, he also discusses the attitude and approach to limud haTorah in the final chapter of hilchos teshuvoh. Why does he place these matters in hilchos teshuvoh? This also seems to indicate that the learning of Torah is a component of teshuvoh.

According to the Ramban why is there no brochoh instituted for the act of teshuvoh? The Beis Yitzchok Y.D. #168 s.k. 12 answers that a blessing is never instituted for a mitzvoh that can only come about through an aveiroh first being committed. An example for this would be the mitzvoh of "hashovas g'zeiloh," the returning of an object that one stole. The Bircas Aharon on Brochos maamar 308, answers that a mitzvoh which is done only by the mind and not in action requires no brochoh. An example for this would be "bitul chometz." Although a blessing is said prior to the search for chometz on the night of the 14th of Nison, nevertheless, no blessing is made at the time of bitul on the morning of the 14th.

Perhaps another answer might be that a person does make a blessing on the act of repenting. The mishnoh in Pirkei Ovos 2:10 and the gemara Shabbos 153a say that a person should repent a day before his death. In practical terms this means that he should repent daily. We make a daily blessing (save Shabbos and Yom Tov) of "Horotzeh bis'shuvoh."

Is teshuvoh effective for non-Jews? The Medrash Tanchumoh in parshios Tzav and Haazinu derives from the words "Yiso Hashem ponov EILECHO" (Bmidbar 6:26), that teshuvoh only applies to the Jewish nation. There seem to be contradictions to this from the teshuvoh of Odom Horishon (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer ch. 20), Kayin (M.R. Breishis ch. 22, Targum Shir Hashirim 1:1), and from the story of the repentance of the people of the city of Ninveh, as related in the book of Yonah. As well the Targum translates the words "Im teitiv s'eis" (Breishis 4:7) as "If you will better yourself your sin will be forgiven."


1) The Shem miShmuel in his writings on Yom Kippur page 126 says that although a superficial teshuvoh does not help for non-Jews, one done from the depths of the heart will be effective. This is a bit difficult to understand since a Jew's teshuvoh is also ineffective if done superficially as clearly stated in the Rambam hilchos teshuvoh 2:2, "Ad she'yo'id olov Yodei'a taalumos etc." However there are indications from the gemara Kidushin that just a passing thought of repenting is considered a level of teshuvoh.

2) Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman in Kovetz He'oros explains that although regretting good that one does also negates the good, regretting the bad that one does negates the bad in a more powerfully effective way. Even if one can delete the rewards he would otherwise have received for his mitzvos by regretting having done them, nonetheless the positive spiritual effect the mitzvos had upon him remain. He is still a refined elevated person. The special gift of the efficacy of teshuvoh for wrongdoing is that it not only wipes out the sins and their accompanying punishments, but that it also cleanses the soul from the negative effects of the sins. This level of cleansing does not apply to a non-Jew according to the Medrash Tanchumoh.

3) Perhaps another answer can be given based on a Medrash Vayikro Rabboh 29:6. In T'hilim 81:4 it says, "Tiku bachodesh shofar." The medrash says that when the shofar is blown one should be drawn to repent through BACHODESH, "CHADSHU maa'seichem," and through SHOFAR, "SHAPRU maa'seichem." This play on words tells us to repent through renewing our actions and improving our actions. What are these two levels? (There is a beautiful answer given by Rabbi Yitzchok Blazzer of St. Petersburg in Kochvei Ohr.) Possibly CHADSHU means to have such a major change in attitude that a person is considered a different person with a new set of values. Indeed the gemara Rosh Hashonoh 16b says that Rabbi Yitzchok says that four actions bring one to repent. One of them is a change of name. The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 2:4 when listing these four actions says that changing one's name means that the person is considered a totally new person, "acheir hu." The medrash also tells us that if a person has not gone to such an extreme there is still a level of repentance through just improving one's actions, SHAPRU maa'seichem, albeia that this is a much lower level of repentance. Perhaps the lower level does not apply to non-Jews but if a person goes through a total change he is considered another person and thus the sins he has previously done are not his. Indeed the people of Ninveh repented to the extreme, even removing a stolen beam which they built into the central structure of their homes (gemara Taanis 16a), thereby destroying their home, to return it to its rightful owner, an act which goes beyond that which is required to repent, as it is sufficient to replace the beam with a similar one. This demonstrates a total change in the person. We can say the same about Odom's and Kayin's repentance. Perhaps this is the intention of the above-mentioned Sheim miShmuel.

4) Possibly another answer can be offered based on the gemara Yoma 86a which says that when a person's repentance is brought on by a great love of Hashem, "teshuvoh mei'ahavoh," his previous sins are turned into merits. If his repentance is brought on by fear of retribution for his sins, "teshuvoh mi'yiroh," then his sins are cleansed but do not become merits. Perhaps the level of "teshuvoh mei'ahavoh" only applies to bnei Yisroel and not to non-Jews. However, non-Jews still have the opportunity to repent on a level of "teshuvoh mi'yiroh."

T'KIAS SHOFAR --- Ten reasons for the mitzvoh of hearing the blowing of the shofar, by Rav Saadioh Gaon:

1) Rosh Hashonoh is the day that commemorates the creation of the world and it is called the day of the "coronation" of Hashem. As it is customary to sound a trumpet at a king's coronation, we also blow the shofar on Rosh Hashonoh.

2) The shofar blast marks the beginning of a period of amnesty which is known as The Ten Days of Repentance. Repentance is based upon the fact that since people have been given free-will, and our actions are not pre-ordained, we must take responsiblity for our actions. The ability to repent teaches us that our future is not bound by our past and that by changing our behaviour we have the ability to change our past.

3) When the Jews accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, the sound of the shofar is described as "continuously increasing and very great" (Exodus 19:19). The shofar serves to remind us of the revelation at Har Sinai and therefore to renew our commitment to Hashem and to accept that Torah morality is absolute and given by Hashem, and does not depend on human understanding.

4) The prophets called out to the Jewish people and aroused them to improve their ways. The shofar reminds us of the admonitions of the prophets and their calls to repentance. We should be aware of the fact that Hashem communicated with us through the prophets, and displayed through them His desire to perfect us rather than to punish us.

5) The shofar reminds us to pray for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh where trumpets and shofars were sounded. Just as Hashem manifested His presence in the world in specific places like the Beis Hamikdosh, he also manifests His presence at special times, such as the ten days of repentance.

6) The shofar (preferably a horn of a ram) reminds us of the binding of Yitzchok (akeidoh) when Avrohom demonstrated his absolute faith in Hashem by being prepared to sacrifice his son. Hashem demonstrated His absolute love for Avrohom by having him sacrifice a ram in Yitzchok's place.

7) The sound of the shofar inspires fear in the hearts of those who hear it. It allows one to dwell upon fear of punishment, to progress from there to fear of doing evil and then to fear of Hashem.

8) The shofar reminds us of the day of judgment at the end of days and inspires us to pray for the perfection of the world, all of mankind, and of the Messianic period.

9) The shofar inspires us to yearn for the ingathering of the exiles that will be heralded by the sound of the shofar. "T'ka b'shofor godol l'cheiru'seinu, ...... v'so neis l'kabtzeinu." There will be absolute unity among the Jewish people. 10) The shofar recalls the resurrection of the dead which will be accompanied by the sound of the shofar. As Hashem is the Source of all life and the Creator of all existence, so also He has complete control over life and death.


~ ~ 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. (Zvi 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)


Vayikra, Ch. 23, v. 22, 24: "U'v'kutz'r'chem lo s'cha'leh pas sodcho, Bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh" - The M.R. Vayikra 29:2 brings the verse in Yirmiyohu 39:11, "Ki e'e'seh choloh b'chol hagoyim ach os'cho lo e'e'seh choloh," and comments that the nations who totally end their fields, i.e. harvest everything for themselves and leave nothing for the poor, I will bring to an end. However, the bnei Yisroel who do not end their fields, i.e. they leave over that which the Torah prescribes (two of these items are mentioned in our verse), I will in turn not bring to an end. The M.R. ends by saying that with this interpretation we understand the juxtaposition of "lo s'cha'leh pas sodcho" to "bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh." The M.R. requires elucidation, although it is clear that the last words come to answer why some of the laws of agricultural charity are placed in the middle of the listing of Yomim Tovim, between Shovuos and Rosh Hashonoh. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains the M.R. by predicating the verse in Thilim 9:9, "V'hu yishpote teiveil b'tzedek u'l'umim b'meishorim," that Hashem judges the world with righteousness. The gemara R.H. 16b and Yerushalmi R.H. 1:3 say that Hashem judges a person "ba'asher hu shom" (Breishis 21:17), as per his present status. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH proposes a novel interpretation that this not only means "his present status" in relation to his future status, as was the case with Yishmo'eil, but also in relation to his previous status, i.e. if he sinned a while back and more recently has not sinned, he is judged more leniently, and also conversely, if he has fulfilled many mitzvos earlier, and more recently has not done so, he is judges less favourably.

In earlier generations the majority of people were involved in agricultural pursuits, both Jews and non-Jews. Thus in the winter, when the larder is full and there are no agricultural activities, one can occupy himself with his true interests. The majority of bnei Yisroel will busy themselves with Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos, while the majority of non-Jews would indulge in all sorts of inappropriate activities. When spring comes and one must involve himself in the field, there is no major difference in the activities between these two groups, as all must plow, fertilize, sow, etc., leaving little time for either doing mitzvos or for sinful indulgence. It is therefore most surprising that Hashem has placed Rosh Hashonoh, the day of judgement towards the end of the agricultural season, when the mitzvos of the bnei Yisroel wane and the sins of the non-bnei Yisroel also wane. Why not have Rosh Hashonoh in the spring shortly before Pesach, when the "ba'asher hu shom," recent behaviour, of the bnei Yisroel's mitzvos are the strongest, and the "a'veiros" of the nations are the strongest?

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers with the gemara B.B. 11a. The gemara relates the story of Binyomin "hatzadik," the righteous Binyomin. He administered charity in his community, distributing it to the needy. During a year of famine a woman approached him, imploring him to give her some charity. All funds had been exhausted, as it was a year of famine. He told her that the coffers were empty. She responded that if he would give r no charity, she feared that she and her seven children would die of starvation. He responded by digging into his own funds and helping her. Later, while still quite young, he became deathly ill. The administering angels in heaven appeared in front of Hashem, pleading his case. "Master of the world, You have stated, 'Whoever sustains even one person it is as if he has sustained the whole world' (mishneh in Sanhedrin 37a, M.R. Bmidbar 23:6, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. 48). How then can Binyomin the righteous, who sustained a needy woman and her seven children die at such a young age?" The negative decree was immediately destroyed, and 22 years were added to his life. It is obvious that notwithstanding this great act of kindness, Binyomin was a very righteous man, as he was called "Binyomin the righteous" before he responded so charitably. If so, why weren't his other meritorious acts sufficient grounds to grant him long life? It seems that righteousness alone is insufficient to guarantee long life. However, by his doing an act that extended others' lives, he in return was also granted an extension to his years, "midoh k'neged midoh," reward in kind. We now understand why Hashem placed Rosh Hashonoh towards the end of the agricultural season. This gives us the opportunity to leave over "leket, shikchoh, pei'oh, ol'lose," and "perret" for the needy, thus sustaining them and in turn being a merit to extend our lives. These particular objects are different from tithes and Trumoh, in that tithes and Trumoh may be given to the recipient of your choice, thus directly benefiting the giver as well. However the items mentioned in our verse are left to any person who deems himself poor, with no control by the farmer on whom the recipient will be, whether he is worthy in the eyes of the farmer or not. So also in kind we activate a similar response in heaven, that our lives be extended even if we are not so worthy.

This is the intention of the M.R. Because the non-ben Yisroel takes all for himself he has no merit to be dealt with in such a kind manner, but the bnei Yisroel who do not annihilate (take all produce for themselves) the field will in turn not be destroyed, as per the verse in Yirmiyohu 30:11.

Although it does not offer an understanding of this M.R., possibly another answer to the MESHECH CHOCHMOH's question of why Rosh Hashonoh does not occur before the agricultural season begins is that Hashem is not ready to judge a person only when he has free time to study the Torah and fulfill a limited amount of mitzvos. The acid test of the Torah knowledge one has in practical application, if it has permeated his being, in the realm of mitzvos between man and man, "bein odom lacha'veiro," takes place during the agricultural season. We then see if he treats his workers fairly, paying them on time, honouring his financial commitments, not overworking them, selling and buying these goods in an honest and fair manner, and giving and leaving of his produce for the less fortunate. Then, and only then, is Hashem ready to judge us.

Ch. 30, v. 11: "Ki hamitzvoh hazose" - The Ramban says that these words teach us that it is a mitzvoh to repent, to do teshuvoh, for our sins. However the Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 1:1 says that when one repents he is required to also confess verbally that he has sinned. In his Sefer Hamitzvos, positive commandment #73, the Rambam likewise says that when one repents etc. The Minchas Chinuch in mitzvoh #364 derives from the manner in which the Rambam explains teshuvoh, that there is no mitzvoh to repent, but rather, if one is repenting he is required to verbally confess his sin(s) to effect an acceptable teshuvoh.

The Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Va'yeilech d.h. "V'omar" gives us a wonderful insight into the logic behind the Rambam's position.

Vayikra - Ch. 23, v. 24: "Bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh y'h'yeh lochem shaboson zichrone t'ruoh" - The gemara R.H. 16b says that any year in which there is no shofar blowing at the beginning negative things will happen by the end of that year, because satan has not been confounded. Tosfos d.h. "she'ein" says in the name of the Baal Halochos G'dolos that the gemara does not mean that the shofar was not blown because Rosh Hashonoh fell on Shabbos and the Rabbinical decree to not blow was the cause for not blowing. Rather, the shofar was not blown because of not having a valid one or the like, something beyond the people's control, or surely by virtue of negligence.

This deserves an explanation. Although we know that "o'ness," a happening beyond our control, is not considered as if it were done when transgressing a negative command, and also does not give us credit for fulfilling a positive mitzvoh, as it was nevertheless not done, but why is there justifiably room for punishment for not doing the mitzvoh, since it was beyond our control?

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains that the sounding of the shofar is different from other positive mitzvos. The sounding of the shofar brings our remembrance in front of Hashem in a positive fashion, and it is similar to atonement on Yom Kippur. (Perhaps we can add that the Holy Zohar (parshas Emor) says that when the shofar is sounded Hashem gets up from His throne of stringent judgment and seats Himself on His throne of clemency.) We can thus equate the sounding of the shofar to medicine taken by an ill person. If by circumstances beyond his control the medicine goes missing, although he is not to blame, nevertheless, the medicine was not ingested and the health disorder was not treated. Similarly, without the sounding of the shofar we are lacking this most crucial medium for invoking Hashem's mercy, and satan's accusations and condemnations remain. (See Sha"ch on Ch.M. #21.) If so, how do we differentiate between not blowing the shofar because of circumstances beyond our control and not doing so because of protecting the sanctity of Shabbos? In either case we lack the elixir of "t'kias shofar"?

What is the "magic" of the shofar? The gemara R.H. 16a says that sounding a RAM'S horn brings the merit of the total self-negation of Yitzchok and his total subordination to Hashem's will, a trait which we have inherited. We likewise have accepted the lot of being tormented, shamed, beaten, and slaughtered by the heathen nations of the world for our clinging to Hashem's Torah. This is the merit of the "a'keidoh," symbolized by the "replacement" ram whose horn we sound. Our unbridled love for and commitment to Hashem propel us to forsake all the "perceived" advantages in pursuing the ephemeral pleasures of this fleeting world. This is a two-way love, expressed in our tefillin containing verses of our thanks to Hashem for all He has done for us, and likewise, Hashem's tefillin contain verses of praise for His beloved nation (gemara Brochos 6a). Similarly, Hashem exhorts us to take revenge for the honour of the bnei Yisroel against Midyon (Bmidbar 31:2), while Moshe delivers this message as a call to arms for Hashem's honour (verse 3).

Given the knowledge of the monumental accomplishments of sounding the shofar on the awesome day of judgment to bring us into the pale of merciful judgment, it would seem to be a most tragic folly to push off this mitzvoh for any reason. Yet, when Rosh Hashonoh falls on Shabbos and there is the remote fear that one among millions of bnei Yisroel might carry his shofar through the public domain, a desecration of Shabbos, the Rabbis ruled that the whole nation should forego the advantages of sounding the shofar. Why?! Shabbos testifies to Hashem's creating the world and being Master over it, and our being His committed subjects. Our Rabbis have decided that no matter what the cost, even to forego the sounding of the shofar, to allow satan to condemn us, we must do all that is within our power to avoid even an accidental desecration of Shabbos, which is in turn a desecration of Hashem's Holy Name, so great is our love of Hashem.

In truth, all the nations of the world should practice a ritual that testifies to Hashem's creating the world. Yet, only the bnei Yisroel do this, and to the maximum degree, as demonstrated by restraining from sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashonoh. This unbridled love of Hashem is the greatest dramatization of our personal "a'keidoh" to sanctify His Holy Name! This brings about appeasement of Hashem and as easily as the sounding of the shofar itself, counters satan's accusations and condemnations.



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