Turning justice into mercy
זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון. כי חק לישראל הוא משפט לאלקי יעקב
Today is the beginning of Your creation; a remembrance of the first day. For it is a decree of Israel, a judgement for the G-d of Yaakov
There are a few lines in the Rosh Hashanah prayers that are seemingly confusing. We say that today is the beginning of Your creation, and then we say it’s a commemoration of the first day. Isn’t that redundant? Furthermore, the next sentence, “For it is a decree of Israel, a judgement for the G-d of Yaakov”, is seemingly incongruous. Now, this happens to be a verse from Psalms. If we look at the previous verse, we do find some relevance to Rosh Hashanah: “Blow [תקעו] in the month of the shofar [שופר], on the covering of the day of our Festival”. How can we make sense of all of this?
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5784”
זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון
Today is the beginning of Your creation, a commemoration of the first day
There’s a well-known dispute between our Sages regarding when the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer says that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua says that the world was created in Nissan. Tosafos are bothered that we rule like Rabbi Yehoshua, and yet on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, we say the phrase, “Today is the beginning of Your creation”. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, Tishrei wasn’t the beginning of Hashem’s creation. Nissan was. How can this be reconciled?
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5783”
The difference between trust in Hashem and complacency
אם תקטלני – לך אייחל, ואם תבקש לעווני – אברח ממך אליך
If you kill me, to you I will commence. If you seek out my sin, I will run away from you, to you
Our Sages tell us the difference between the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and that of a secular court. People who have a court appearance for a capital crime will wear dark clothing, look disheveled, and fear for their life. They will be utterly stressed beyond belief. Rosh Hashanah, the day that Hashem judges the whole world, is different. Jews dress in fine, white clothing, and are cleanly groomed. What’s the reason for this? We are confident that Hashem will perform a miracle and give us a positive judgement.
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5782”
Hashem’s ways of judgement
בארבעה פרקים העולם נידון וכו’ בראש השנה כל באי עולם עוברין לפניו כבני מרון שנאמר היוצר יחד לבם המבין אל כל מעשיהם
On four occasions the world is judged…on Rosh Hashanah all of the world’s inhabitants pass before Him like benei Maron, as it is written: “The One who makes together their hearts, The One who understands all of their actions”
Our Sages teach us that on Rosh Hashanah every individual on Earth passes before Hashem for judgement, like benei maron. What does benei maron mean? The gemarra provides three explanations: like a flock of sheep, like the steps of the House of Maron, or like the soldiers of King David. A flock a sheep refers to when a shepherd wants to count his sheep, he counts them one-by-one as they pass through a narrow entrance. The steps of the House of Maron was a narrow path that not even two people could walk up side-by-side. The soldiers of King David’s army would be counted one-by-one as they went out to wage war. These three explanations seem to all be saying the same thing: Hashem judges every individual on Rosh Hashanah one after the other. What then is their dispute?
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5781”
Tipping the scales
דרשו יקוק בהמצאו קראוהו בהיותו קרוב
Seek out Hashem when He is to be found; call out to Him when He is close
Every person has a mix of merits and transgressions. We are taught that someone who has more merits than transgressions is considered a tzaddik, a righteous person. Someone who has more transgressions than merits is considered a rasha, a wicked person. Someone who is exactly 50-50 is considered a beinoni, someone in the middle. On Rosh Hashanah, everyone’s status is determined. Someone who is ruled as a tzaddik is sealed for life. Someone who is ruled as a rasha is sealed for death. Someone who is a beinoni has their judgement stalled until Yom Kippur. If they repent, then they will be sealed for life. If not, they will be sealed for death.
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5780”
Will you be judged like sheep, steps, or soldiers?
ונתנה תקף קדשת היום כי הוא נורא ואים וכו’ וכל באי עולם יעברון לפניך כבני מרון
Unesaneh Sokef, let us relate the might of the holiness of this day, as it is astonishing and powerful…all of the word’s inhabitants will pass before You like benei maron
Our Sages teach us that on Rosh Hashanah, every individual on Earth passes before Hashem for judgement, like benei maron. What does benei maron mean? The gemarra provides three explanations: like a flock of sheep, like the steps of the House of Maron, or like the soldiers of King David. A flock a sheep refers to when a shepherd wants to count his sheep, he counts them one-by-one as they pass through a narrow entrance. The steps of the House of Maron was a narrow path that not even two people could walk up side-by-side. The soldiers of King David’s army would be counted one-by-one as they went out to wage war. These three explanations seem to all be saying the same thing: Hashem judges every individual on Rosh Hashanah one after the other. There are two obvious questions on this teaching: Why does there need to be a parable of benei maron? Just teach simply that Hashem judges each individual one-by-one. Further, why is this even so? Surely, it’s not beyond Hashem’s capabilities to judge every individual simultaneously. Why indeed is it done one after the other?
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5779”
Receiving life for giving life
ובקצרכם את-קציר ארצכם לא-תכלה פאת שדך בקצרך ולקט קצירך לא תלקט לעני ולגר תעזב אתם אני יקוק אלקיכם: דבר אל-בני ישראל לאמר בחדש השביעי באחד לחדש יהיה לכם שבתון זכרון תרועה מקרא-קדש
When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t finish off the corners of your fields as you reap, and don’t collect the gleanings of your harvest; leave them for the poor and the convert, I am Hashem your G-d. Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, in the first of the month, it will be for you a day of rest, of remembrance, of shofar-blasts, [and] a holy convocation
The end of this week’s parsha describes the various Jewish holidays. In between the holidays of Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, the Torah mentions the mitzvos of peah (lit: corner) and leket (gleanings). When a Jewish farmer is harvesting his crop, there are special mitzvos of tzedakah that he must fulfill. He must leave a corner of his field unharvested, allowing the poor to take as they need. Likewise, when harvesting crops, sometimes some of the produce falls to the ground, known as gleanings. The farmer is commanded to leave those on the ground for the poor to collect. In addition to commanding the farmer not to harvest peah and leket, the Torah adds the injunction to specifically leave them for the poor and the convert. Why are these mitzvos placed here? It seems to serve as some sort of an introduction to the holiday that follows it, Rosh Hashanah. What is this teaching us?
Continue reading “Emor 5778”