Next Sunday night begins Rosh Hashanah - the holiday celebrating man's
consciousness, for Rosh Hashanah is not the anniversary of G-d's creating
the universe, but of the creation of Man. Therefore it is fitting that we
utilize this holy-day to elevate our consciousness to the pursuit of
goodness, for that is what Hashem demands of us. One of the major
difficulties in changing our patterns of life, is that we basically
consider ourselves "good people." We are civilized, charitable, loving and
kind people. We don't see ourselves as evil wagers of war upon G-d and
upon man, we are basically proud and generous promoters of goodness, so,
what is there to change?|
We can gain an insight from the Torah's description of the meeting between our Patriarch Avraham and Avimelech of Gerar. The Torah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (B'rayshit [Genesis] 21:1-34) ends with a renewed peace treaty made between Avimelech and Avraham. But in order to the renewal we must first understand the original peace treaty made between them. Let me set the scene for you from B'rayshit 20:1-18, the chapter immediately prior to the reading on the first day of Rosh Hashanah..
Avraham and Sarah were relocating their home after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They had to travel through Gerar, part of Philistia, which was known for its "law-abiding" adherence to an upstanding code of civil law and were coming under the jurisdiction of King Avimelech. Now, Avimelech was known to have an eye for beautiful women, in fact, included in his harem were women that were once married to other men. Avimelech was not so crude as to bed a married woman, no, he was civilized, and would never consider taking the woman of another man. But, somehow that woman's husband would conveniently lose his life, leaving the door open for Avimelech's legitimate advances.
Protocol forced Avraham to pay his respects to Avimelech, so he introduced Sarah as his sister to avoid any threat to his life. Avimelech immediately desired Sarah and had her brought, against her will to his harem. Before he could do anything with Sarah, Avimelech fell asleep and had a strange dream. In his dream, G-d came to Avimelech and warned him that Avraham was a prophet of great stature, and any abuse to Sara his wife, would of anger G-d.
Avimelech got up from his bed and called for Avraham and Sarah and with great indignance, demands to know why Avraham lied to him, and almost caused him to sin with Sarah. Avraham answered Avimelech;
"Vayomer Avraham - And Avraham said:
Avraham came to a civilized part of the world, known for their law-abiding character. These were good people, yet he eluded the truth about his relationship with Sara because he knew that his life was in jeopardy. "There is no fear of G-d in this place, and they will slay me over the matter of my wife."
Being civilized is a wonderful framework to live by, but what happens when there is a conflict with what I want and being civilized? My desires and not my morality will usually win out. It is the "awe" of G-d that holds man back from his own hungry desires. Morals based on civilized behavior can change, as we in this generation have seen so often.
I grew up in the sixties, when the call words of my generation were, "make love not war." Those words to my parents generation were "prost," or boorish. In my youth, abortions were wrong and practically unheard of for upstanding members of the community. And if one did submit to an abortion, there was a prevailing sense of shame and one tried to keep it secret. Today, abortion is a moral right, and if someone actually believes that it is wrong, he is labeled a right-wing, religious fanatic.
Having the fear of G-d, or let us use a more pleasing terminology, being G-d conscious, is the only true message of Judaism to the Jew or to the Gentile. Realizing His presence in the most mundane or secular aspects of our daily lives is what Rosh Hashanah is all about.
Being a civilized individual is wonderful, if that is all that you can reach for. But we the Jewish people have more than just being civilized to offer the world, we offer being G-d conscious - which has responsibilities that go beyond just being basically kind to your wife and children, or concerned about the ecology. It is our obligation to discover our own place in a created world, that is watched over by none other than the Melech Malchay Ham'lachim (the King of kings), Hakodosh Boruch Hu (the Holy One Blessed Be He).
So when we have to put food in our mouths, we must be G-d conscious. When we consider throwing that Kleenex out the car window, we must be G-d conscious. When we choose a mate, we must be G-d conscious. When we consider how much it's worth being a member of a Shul (synagogue), or a Jewish community, we must be G-d conscious.
Let us come together and question our existence and our role in G-d's plan. Let us be strengthened by the work that we must do together to leave every opportunity, for our children's and our grandchildren's generation, to successfully traverse the pathways of life.
As the Torah teaches us about it's own character:
On behalf of my entire family, I wish you all a K'tivah V'chatima Tova, May you all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tova,
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig