Our Rosh Hashana 5774 Vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch of Efrat who wish Kol Am Yisrael L’Shana Tova! To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your continued kindnesses. Avraham and Miriam, may you know only simcha, success, good health, nachas from your children, and only good things in the year to come and to at least 120 years.
Friends, you can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua. Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
This Vort for the Chaggim starts out just before Rosh Hashana of 5773, at Rabbi Barak Saffer’s home on Shabbos Parshat Ki Tavo. Rabbi Saffer, by the way, is Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva Mivaserret, just outside Yerushalayim. Along with Rav Saffer’s family and this author were a few of his Talmidim from the Yeshiva. After dinner was concluded, Rav Saffer held a Tish with theTalmidim and myself.
During the Tish, Rav Saffer cited a gemara in Mesekhet Brachot, daf 7a (Artscroll Mesekhet Brakhot 7a1) as follows:
Yishmael ben Elisha Kohen HaGadol was in the Kadosh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies) on Yom Kippur. And Hashem, Kovei’yokhel (as He was), while “sitting on a high and lofty throne,” spoke to him (Yishmael ben Elisha Kohen HaGadol) asking for a Brakha.
A Brakha? How does Hashem, our Creator, the Ruler of the World who sustains everything, animate and inanimate mili-second by mili’second — How does Hashem need a Brakha from man? And there is even another gemara (Mesekhet Megillah, page 25a1 Shottenstein edition citing Mishnah Perek 4, posuk 9) which comes down hard, disparagingly and equates as a heretic (for exclusion of sinners), one who would utter a statement “All good men will bless You!” Hashem “needs” our Brakhot?
But there is another understanding regarding Hashem’s request of Yishmael ben Elisha Kohen HaGadol as the latter served Hashem in the Kadosh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur. That understanding is: Hashem wants, needs to hear the Tefillot of the Kohen HaGadol, on behalf of His Treasured Nation — Klal Yisrael, in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. And He wants and needs to hear the fervent tefillot and Teshuva of Kol Klal Yisrael.
Footnote #5 (Artscroll Mesekhet Brakhot 7a1) cites an understanding by Ben Yehoyada based on Proverbs 19:17:
“He who is gracious to the poor has lent to Hashem.” Similarly, one who tenders a request on behalf of the Jewish people is considered as if he had done so on behalf of Hashem himself. Thus Hashem said “Bless me”… “When you plead on behalf of the Jewish people, I will deem it as if you were blessing Me.” (Nefesh HaChaim 2:2)
In footnote #6 (Artscroll Mesekhet Brakhot 7a1), R’ Yishmael ben Elisha (as rendered by Rashi), indicates:
“Upon my conclusion of this blessing… He Nodded to me with His Head, demonstrating His approval” [i.e. seemingly a euphemistic acknowlegement] as if answering “Amen.”
But anyone who reads this author realizes that there’s much more to this story.
Fast-forward to the Rosh Hashana Mussaf Tefillah just before Unesaneh Tokef, Melekh Elyon (The Supreme King).
In eleven stanzas, the attributes of The Supreme King are noted.
Then, suddenly, the last two stanzas refer to Melekh Ev’yon (Artscroll Rosh Hashanah Makhsor, Pages 476-477):
Melekh Ev’yon (The Destitute King) who withers and descends to the grave, to the pit and the nether world fatigued without satisfaction — how long shall he reign?
Melekh Ev’yon (The Destitute King) sleep darkens him, deep slumber shrouds him in darkness, the void blackens him — how long shall he reign?
In the context of the Tefillah, do we understand that “The Destitute King” also refers to Hashem? How can that be? How can we refer to our Creator, the Owner of All, the Ruler of the World who sustains everything, animate and inanimate mili-second by mili-second in this way?
Artscroll’s explanation of Melekh Ev’yon (The Destitute King) (Artscroll Rosh Hashanah Makhsor, Page 476):
The destitute king [i.e. man]. Having described Hashem’s greatness in lyric terms, we contrast to it man’s utter limitation. The word Ev’yon derives from Avah, desire, because an Ev’yon is so poor and helpless that he desires everything.
Sleep darkens him. Man cannot function for long without sleep, which itself makes him helpless. How then, can he fail to acknowledge helplessness before Hashem?
If we are contrasting Kings: Hashem, The Supreme King, with man, the use of the word Melekh, i.e., Melekh Ev’yon (The Destitute King), then would seem to contrast between Kings, i.e. Hashem, and earthy kings, heads of states. Lacking spirituality, an earthly king, head of state — politician, is so poor and helpless that it seems that he desires everything and everything is fleeting and changeable. And this fleeting and changeability represents lack of satisfaction with one thing, so substitute it with another — man-made laws. As that famous Shakespearian line goes, “fair is foul and foul is fair, creeps from this petty pace from day to day.” Man-made laws and doctrines are changeable so, thus we could seem to understand why Hashem assigned 70 melakhim as intermediaries — 1 to each of the 70 primary nations while He holds a direct link to Am Yisrael.
But there is another understanding of Melekh Ev’yon. That it DOES refer to Hashem, that while we, the B’nai Yisrael, are in Galut, that Hashem Kovei’yokhel (as He was), is in Galut as well, and bereft of his bride, of the B’nai Yisrael, his chosen people. For it is we who remain collectively distanced — sequestered from Him by way of our deeds, speech, thoughts, internal discord and disunity, as well as lack of spirituality. Yes, Hashem is our Creator, the Ruler over All of the Universe. But might He be destitute, bereft because of our continuing sins? Can we now fathom and comprehend the gemara from Mesekhet Brakhot cited by R’ Saffer in his Tish with his Talmidim as to why Hashem, Kovei’yokhel, spoke to Yishmael ben Elisha Kohen HaGadol asking for a Brakha?
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
L’Shana Tova! May You, All of My Brothers, Sisters, be Sealed, for a Year of Life, Health, Simcha, Success and only good things… Now and Always!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.