Our Rosh Hashana vort is being sponsored by Avraham and Miriam Deutsch of Efrat who dedicate Special L’Shana Tova wishes for our brethren, the former residents of Gush Katif, as well as wishing Zahal and Kol Am Yisrael L’Shana Tova! To the Deutsch family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
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 forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Last year’s vort began with this author asking, how was Rosh Hashana 5781 different from all previous Rosh Hashanas in our lifetimes, and perhaps unique, up until that time, in our history?
This year, the first day of Rosh Hashana 5782 turns out to begin on the evening of Yom Sh’lishi (Monday evening).
On Rosh Hashana, we have dual feelings; of Simcha for the annual coronation, or re-coronation of Hashem as our Melech, the King and Creator of the World in all of its aspects.
Baruch Hashem that, unlike last year, when the first day of Rosh Hashana fell out on Shabbos, we will be able hear the Shofar blown on both days of Rosh Hashana which will once again rock Satan’s attempts to prosecute a case against Am Yisrael.
This author has managed to keep quite a few “handout vorts” from years past and a vort caught the eye, entitled “The Main Point” which is cited from the sefer, “Growing Each Day,” by Rabbi, Dr. Abraham J. Twersky, MD, Z”l:
Rosh Hashana marks the day on which man was created, and that was the sixth and final day of Creation….
To understand this…, one must understand what Hashem’s “works” really are. He did indeed will millions of details of Creation into existence for the five days preceding the appearance of man on the scene. But were these his “works?” If an artist spends a few days purchasing paints, canvases, brushes and easels, setting up his studio and adjusting the lighting, would one call these achievements his works? His works begin when he puts brush to the canvas.
Man is Hashem’s brush, with which He effects His Will in the world. Everything created before man, from the amoeba to the supernova, is there to enable him [man] to fulfill his Divine purpose — to put himself in the Artist’s [Hashem’s] Hands [as it were] and make himself an instrument of Hashem’s works.
But what if man — what if Am Yisrael acts contrary to his Divine purpose as Hashem’s “paint brush?” What about when anything goes, i.e. the “wild, wild west” where deceit in word or deed is portrayed as truth and righteousness; when unnatural sinful acts by man, i.e. same-genderism, termination of life in the womb or at birth become the “new normal;” when dual standards prevail within the Am based on factional bias or lust for political power; disdain for spirituality and much more.
To repeat a thought this author has regarding Parshat Re’eh;
This author wonders, how much of the hate and loathing of Judaism and spirituality, as well as manifestations such as bogus “two-state solutions” and the like by secular Jews are outward expressions of subconscious feelings or perceptions that ones’ faults and transgressions are such that one is soo far from the ways of Hashem, as to feel beyond redemption, to have given up hope of ever achieving closeness to Hashem?
To excerpt from a vort on Rosh Hashana by Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, Z’l, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva in his sefer, “Inspiration and Insight, Volume 2, Discourses on the Holidays and Other Themes” (pages 80 – 81):
As we sit in Shul prior to the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, every one of us rises high above the vanities of everyday life and finds himself in a totally different world. We sense the spirituality of the moment and this impels us to focus on our purpose in this world. The earthly desires which are so enticing, at the moment of trial are perceived as trivial and lacking substance — which indeed, they are.
On this day, we ponder our spiritual successes and failures of the past year. Hashem has tested each of us in a variety of ways. One can rest assured that every effort he expended in his struggles with his yetzer hara is an immeasurable source of merit. And what of our failures? This awesome Day of Judgement is a time when we can and must strive for improvement.
R’ Segal cites a Rambam (ibid):
There is an allusion to the Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashana: “Awake, O sleepers, from your sleep! Arouse yourselves, O slumberers, from your slumber! Scrutinize your deeds! Return with contrition! Remember your Creator! Those of you who forget the truth in the futilities of the times and let your years elapse in futility and emptiness… peer into your souls, improve your ways and your deeds. Each one of you should abandon his evil way and his bad thoughts.” (R’ Segal citing Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 3:4)
On Rosh Hashana, one should be forever cognizant of what is transpiring Above… As Rambam writes in that same chapter:
Just as a persons’ merits and sins are weighed at the time of his death, so too, are the merits and sins of all who enter this world weighed each year on Rosh Hashana. One who is found to be righteous is sealed for life. One who is deemed wicked is sealed for death. As for one who is evenly balanced [between good and bad deeds], his fate is suspended until Yom Kippur. If he repents he is sealed for life and if not he is sealed for death.
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz refers to the Satan when he writes in his sefer “Majesty of Man” (pages 28-29):
We do not have the perspective of the Satan to know exactly how close we are to redemption. But we must bear in mind that every little bit of extra effort on our part could be the Teshuvah which tips the Heavenly scale to the side of merit for ourselves, and for all of Jewry. It is within our grasp — we need only to reach for it.
So, how does Rosh Hashana ritual and spirituality work in this unique and distressing period of the corona pandemic and its variants?
Here again, as with last year, are excerpts from an article written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech of Aish HaTorah in March, 2020 entitled “God and the Coronavirus”:
…The ultimate decision of life or death remains, as we make clear every year on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when our fate is sealed, with the Almighty.
That is why I’m amazed that of the countless suggestions for how to counter and to cope with the coronavirus we hear so little of the word God and the possibility that this global pandemic brings with it a profound divine message.
The 10 Commandments are the biblical source of the most basic system of ethical and moral behavior. They represent the primary justification for our continued existence on earth. And the commentators took note of a remarkable number. In the original Hebrew, the language in which the commandments were inscribed by God on the two tablets, there are exactly 620 letters.
620 would seem to be a number with no particular theological significance. It would’ve been perfect and readily comprehensible if there were exactly 613 letters in the 10 Commandments. Those are the numbers of mitzvot given to the Jewish people in the Torah. The 10 Commandments are the principles inherent in all of Jewish law. But what is the meaning of 620 letters? The rabbis explained. While the number of mitzvot for Jews is 613, the number seven represents universal law – what is commonly referred to as the seven laws of the descendants of Noah, required as a minimum for all of mankind. And 620 of course is the sum of 613 and seven, the totality of divine guidance for both Jews as well as the rest of the world.
The word corona – as in coronavirus – comes from the Latin word for crown.
The commentary does not end there. 620 is the gematria, the numerical value, of an important Hebrew word, keter, which means crown. A keter – a crown – is placed on top of every Torah scroll. The symbolism is obvious. The crown above the Torah demonstrates the relationship of the 10 Commandments to the rest of the Torah. From the 10 – in number of letters 620 – we have the principles which subsequently found expression in the entirety of the Torah.
The keter – the crown – is the most powerful symbol of our connection with God.
The word corona – as in coronavirus – comes from the Latin word for crown.
Perhaps we need to consider the world’s present affliction[s] not just in the context of a disease caused by pathogens but as a divine message reminding us that we have been given our lives to invest them with meaning and virtue as defined by God’s 10 Commandments.
Rabbi Leibowitz provides what this author sees as the perfect close to this Rosh Hashana vort, writing (sefer “Majesty of Man,” page 29):
May this be the year in which the Satan’s fears, and our hopes and prayers, are realized.
May we, the B’nei 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 and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
May You, All of My Brothers and Sisters, be Inscribed and Sealed for another Year of Life… Now and always! L’Shana Tova!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.