שבת טעם החיים ראש השנה-האזינו תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Rosh HaShanah-Haazinu 5772
Wake up and see the Light
היום הרת עולם היום יעמיד במשפט כל יצורי עולמים, today is the birthday of the world. Today all creatures of the world stand in judgment. (Mussaf of Rosh HaShanah)
As we approach Rosh HaSshana, we have this sudden urge to repent from all of our sins. We feel the need to make “New Year’s resolutions,” even if we have no idea how we will carry them out. Where do these ideas come from? Is it possible for a person to sin the whole year and then “cram for the test,” i.e. effect a full repentance at the last moment?
Rosh Hashanah is the conception of repentance
It has been said that Rosh HaShanah is referred to as the “head” of the year and not the beginning of the year, because the head is the most vital organ of the body. A cyclist wears a helmet on his head, because he wishes to protect his most precious asset. Rosh HaShanah sir the most important day of the year, as how we pray and act on this day will set the tone for the rest of the year. Rabbi Chaim Friedlander zt”l writes in Sifsei Chaim that on Rosh HaShanah, one is given his תפקיד, his purpose for the coming year. At the beginning of the year HaShem provides us with the necessary tools to accomplish our mission for the upcoming year. The Rema (Orach Chaim 583:2) cites the Yerushalmi that states that one who sleeps on Rosh HaShanah will sleep the entire year. Many people sleep on Rosh HaShanah and yet they are very awake throughout the year. Rather, the idea of this statement is that if one is not cognizant that Rosh HaShanah is the foundation for the upcoming year, then he will miss out on his mission for the year. Rav Shimon Schwab writes that HaShem cast a slumber on Adam HaRishon when he created Chava and we never find that he woke up. Matan Torah, Rav Schwab writes, is when the Jewish People woke up. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4) writes that although the commandment to blow the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a Scriptural decree, there is an allusion to the idea that the Shofar serves as a wakeup call. Based on the Rambam we can suggest that since Adam HaRishon fell asleep on Rosh HaShanah, we are required to blow Shofar on Rosh Hashana to wake us up from our slumber. By sounding the shofar and being cognizant of our mission for the year, we are deemed to be awake on Rosh HaShanah and throughout the year.
Thoughts of Repentance deem a Jew to be righteous
Rosh HaShanah is referred to in our prayers as הרת עולם, the birthday of the year. The word הרה is literally translated as pregnancy. A pregnancy is the preparation for the ultimate joy of birth. The word הרה in Hebrew is similar to the word הרהור in Aramaic. There is a term in the Gemara called הרהורי תשובה, thoughts of repentance. The Gemara (Kiddushin 49b) states that if a man declares that he will marry a woman on condition that he will be righteous, even if he was thoroughly wicked, the marriage is effected, because perhaps at that moment he was מהרהר בתשובה בדעתו, he contemplated thoughts of repentance. This is a different sort of repentance than the process described by the Rambam and Rabbeinu Yona, where one must regret the past, leave the sin, accept not to sin in the future, and confess his sins. The Gemara in Kiddushin is referring to an instantaneous repentance. This is the repentance without preparation. Similarly, on Rosh HaShanah we have not necessarily performed true repentance, but we have הרהורי תשובה, thoughts of repentance. Following Rosh HaSshana we are given the opportunity to perform proper repentance, in the days referred to as עשרת ימי תשובה, the Ten Days of Repentance.
The Day of Judgment is the Beginning of the Repentance Process
The Sfas Emes writes that the Ten Days of Repentance correspond to the Ten Utterances with which the world was created and to the Ten Commandments. Every day of the Ten days of Repentance illuminates one Utterance and one Commandment. The difference between each day of these days of repentance is akin to the Gemara’s statement that the place of one who repents cannot be touched by a righteous person, because the one who repents is a on a higher level than the righteous person. The renewal of the year, writes the Sfas Emes, is more powerful than the world was at the time of creation. We can deduce form the words of the Sfas Emes that the birthday of the world is on a lower spiritual level than the Ten Days of Repentance. Furthermore, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 12:15) states that initially HaShem contemplated creating the world with justice. When HaShem saw that the world would not be sustained with justice alone, He joined compassion to the justice. We can interpret this statement to mean that initially HaShem desired that man should be able to repent with thoughts of repentance alone. However, when He saw that this sort of repentance would not be sustained, He created compassion. This serves as answer to the question of why we have Rosh HaShanah prior to Yom Kippur. Logically, we should have Yom Kippur first and gain atonement for our sins, and then be judged mercifully. The answer is that HaShem desires that a person begin the repentance process, and when the person realizes that his repentance is insufficient, HaShem has mercy on him and allows him to perform a proper repentance during the Ten Days of Repentance.
Rosh HaShanah Illuminates the Darkness
Rosh HaShanah, the Medrash (Medrash Tehillim §27) states, is referred to as light. There are various forms of light. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim) writes that a prophet who has an occasional prophecy is compared to infrequent lightning bolts in the sky. One lightning bolt illuminates the horizon, but it is only temporary. A prophet like Moshe, however, had constant prophecy, similar to consecutive lightning bolts. Similarly, on Rosh HaShanah we are given bursts of illumination, which provide the impetus to contemplate repentance. The salvation, however, culminates with Yom Kippur, when we have undergone the complete repentance process. HaShem should allow us to “see the light” of Rosh HaShanah and begin to repent, and then He will grant us full forgiveness on Yom Kippur.
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parashah
In this week’s parsha it is said (Devarim 30:20) אמרתי אפאיהם אשביתה מאנוש זכרם, I had said, ‘I will scatter them, I will cause their memory to cease from man.’ This verse alludes to Shabbos, as the word אפאיהם is associated with the word איפה, baking, hinting to the mitzvah to bake challah for Shabbos. The word אשביתה contains the word שבת. The words מאנוש זכרם allude to the statement in the Gemara (Shabbos 118b) that one who observes Shabbos properly, even if he worshipped idols like in the days of אנוש, will be granted forgiveness. Thus, the word זכרם, memory, alludes to the idea that his sins will be erased from memory.
Speak about the hard times even at a Simcha
Someone once asked Rav Menashe Klein of Ungvar, zt”l, “I don’t understand. Every time the Rav speaks –even at a simchah—he mentions the horrors of his suffering at the hands of the Nazis, ימח שמם.
Why does the Rav always mention this? At the very least, it seems to be more in keeping with the joyous character of the simchah to speak of joyous experiences.” “You are making an error.” Rav Klein gently replied. “On Kiddushin 66 we find that when Yannai HaMelech returned from conquering sixty cities he made a great celebration and invited all of the sages. He said to them: ‘Our fathers ate salted vegetables when they built the Beis HaMikdash. We too shall eat pickled vegetables as a memorial to our fathers.’ They served preserved vegetables on golden tables… We see from here that one is obligated to mention the hard times, especially during times of joy. “But don’t think that I made this up on my own,” the Rav elucidated, “We see that one is obligated to always mention the hard times from Rabbeinu Bachya’s commentary on Parashas Vayishlach. He brings the verse where Yaakov says, ‘I crossed the Yarden with my staff…’ and writes: ‘From her we see that one is obligated to mention the days of difficulty in times of ease so that he considers how much better things are and praises HaShem that things are better. Shlomo HaMelech also said in Koheles, ‘On a good day, be of good temperament; on a bad day, see.’ This is actually a single statement of instruction: on a good day, in addition to being of good temperament, one should ‘see’ the bad days.” Rav Klein concluded, “Rabbeinu Bachya’s language is ‘one is obligated.’ This is an essential part of proper praise to HaShem. This is similar to the obligation to eat the bitter herbs on Pesach. We eat marror, since without recalling our difficulty the praise to HaShem for taking us out of Egypt would be incomplete…” (www.Dafdigest.org)
The Divrei Chaim Casts His Bread Upon The Waters
The Divrei Chaim, Rav Chaim Halberstam of Sanz was approaching a busy train station in Vienna surrounded by his chassidim. Suddenly he stopped and mentioned to his chassidim that he hears the sound of crying and asked them to locate the source of the crying. One of the chassidim walked in the direction that the Rav pointed him to and he found a young girl, who was well-dressed, but whose eyes were red from crying. It was apparent that she had been crying for a long time.
The chassid asked her what was wrong and the girl, who was the daughter of a non-Jewish minister, told him that she was supposed to travel home by train, but her money had been stolen, and now she was stranded. She had been sitting there crying for a long time, but no one had paid any attention to her. “What will I do now?” she said, beginning to cry again, “How will I get home?”
The chassid went back to Rav Chaim and explained to him the source of the crying. Immediately, Rav Chaim took some money out of his pocket and said to the chassid, “Return to the girl with this money and tell her that Rabbiner Halberstam sent her the money.” The chassid did as instructed, and the girl happily accepted the money as she wiped away her tears.
Years later, R’ Shmuel, a Sanzer chassid, came to R’ Chaim with a tale of woe. R’ Shmuel owned a thriving boot factory and one of his clients was the Hungarian army. The army had recently ordered a large supply of boots for the approaching winter. A jealous non-Jewish competitor decided to take matters in his own hands and informed the army general that R’ Shmuel’s boot were made out of inferior materials and R’ Shmuel was a liar and a thief, just like the rest of the Jews. The army general was more than willing to accept these anti-Semitic trumped-up charges and informed the Hungarian government. R’ Shmuel was now facing serious charges and faced imprisonment.
Rav Chaim listened and then told R’ Shmuel, “Don’t worry at all. Go to the justice minister in Lemberg and tell him that Rabbiner Halberstam said that you’re not guilty and these are false accusations.”
R’ Shmuel traveled to Lemberg, but the justice minister was not in his office. He remembered Rav Chaim’s reassurance not to worry and decided to go to the justice minister’s home. To his surprise, the justice minister allowed him in immediately and allowed to tell him his story. He ended his story with the words, “Rabbiner Halberstam told me to come to you and tell you in his name that I’m not guilty and these are all false accusations.”
The minister was silent, but his wife, who had also listened to the story, turned to Rav Shmuel and asked with great interest, “Who told you to come here?”
“Rabbiner Halberstam,” said Rav Shmuel, who was surprised by her interest.
“Rabbiner Halberstam of Sanz?!” she asked excitedly.
“Yes,” Rav Shmuel replied, now even more curious why this non-Jewish woman was so interested in his Rebbe.
“Do who know who that is?” she said to her husband. Once, when I was a girl, I was stuck in the Vienna train station when all my money was stolen. I sat and cried there for a full hour, and not one person in the crowded train station paid any attention to me, except that Rav – Rabbiner Halberstam. He heard me crying and gave me enough money to buy a ticket to travel home. He’s an angel of G-d, this Rabbiner Halberstam, and I’ll remember him as long as I live. If this angel of G-d is supporting this man, he is surely not guilty.”
When Rav Shmuel left Lemberg, after he was cleared of the charges, he immediately traveled to Sanz and told Rav Chaim the story. Rav Chaim smiled and said, “This is what it means when it says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it.’ When you act appropriately to every person that was created in the image of HaShem, you will only gain. And this is not referring to only important people…” (Leorum Neilach) (www.Revach.net)
Pesach on Rosh Hashanah
In the dread moments before blowing the shofar every Rosh Hashanah, Rebbe Shalom of Belz, with inspired elation, would deliver words of instruction and exhortation to the assembled chasidim. On one such occasion, speaking of the miracles wrought for the Children of Israel before the Exodus, he quoted the verses which tell of how G-d sent Moshe to bring them out of Egypt.
In response to Pharaoh’s question of “Who exactly will go?” Moshe answered,
“We will go with our young and with our old; with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go.” (Shemos 10:8-9)
Pharaoh finally called for Moshe and said: “Go, serve G-d; only leave your flocks and herds behind. Your little ones also shall go with you.”
To this Moshe replied, “Our cattle too shall go with us; no hoof shall be left behind; for we will take some of them to serve G-d therewith.” (Ibid. 24-25)
No one understood the relevance of those verses to the moments before the blowing of the shofar….
Having quoted these verses, Rebbe Shalom recited the benediction which precedes the blasts of the shofar, performed the mitzvah, and went on directly to the Mussaf prayer, as usual. The chasidim were wonderstruck. No one understood the relevance of those verses to the moments before the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, but they held their peace, thinking it unseemly to ask their rebbe for an explanation.
One of his chasidim, Reb Elimelech of Tlust, was accustomed to journey to Belz every year for Rosh HaShanah and then to proceed to visit Rebbe Meir of Premishlan after the holiday. On this occasion, as soon as he stepped over the threshold of the tzaddik’s room in Premishlan, Rebbe Meir said, “Elimelech! Please repeat for me the Torah discourse that the Belzer Rebbe delivered this year before the shofar was blown.”
The chassid told him what Rebbe Shalom of Belz had said and added that all those who heard it were at a loss to see the connection between Rosh Hashanah and the dialogue that preceded the Exodus.
A decree was at the point of being promulgated which would have wrought havoc with the lives of little Jewish children….
The Rebbe from Premishlan at once waxed eloquent in praise of the discourse which the Rebbe from Belz had given: in his profound insight he had penetrated through all the heavens and had averted ominous decrees that had threatened Israel; through his words on Rosh Hashanah he had proved to the Almighty: “Father! In your own holy Torah it is written that no evil shall hold sway over Israel!”
Seeing that the dazed Elimelech had no conception of what he was talking about, Rebbe Meir added, “Let me explain to you what the intention of the holy Rebbe from Belz was: You see, on Rosh Hashanah this year, when all of Creation was arraigned before the Heavenly Court, Satan, the Prosecuting Attorney, was most outspoken in his accusations of Israel. In fact, a decree was at the point of being promulgated which would have wrought havoc with the lives of little Jewish children. But the Rebbe of Belz argued fervently that these children would grow up and serve their Maker.
The next design was a decree of extermination to be issued against the cattle of Israel. The tzaddik of Belz did not let that pass either, arguing that “we will take some of them to serve G-d therewith”. And in this manner he mitigated the verdict, by quoting the verses which spell out the argument between Pharaoh, representing Satan, and Moshe, the tzaddik of the generation. Thus the decree against the cattle of the Jews was also averted.
“However,” concluded Rebbe Meir, “since the tzaddik of Belz made no mention of birds, this year will see an epidemic affecting them, because the decree hanging over them was not annulled.”
And so it was. That year a contagious disease struck the domestic poultry of the Jews of those parts, but neither man nor beast was affected.
The Master Key
The Baal Shem Tov once instructed his disciple Reb Wolff Kitzis to study the kabalistic kavanos on which he would meditate while blowing the various blowing blasts of the shofar, in readiness for the prayers of Rosh HaShanah in his synagogue. Reb Wolff studied the mystical significations of the Divine Names associated with this mitzvah, and made notes of them on a sheet of paper which he put away in a pocket, so that he would be able to read them while blowing the shofar. The Baal Shem Tov was not pleased by the fact that he had committed these secrets to writing; the sheet of paper slipped out of its pocket and was lost.
The awesome moment drew near. Reb Wolff searched his pockets in vain, and was obliged to blow the shofar without knowing which divine mysteries to meditate upon. This grieved him no end, and he wept with a broken and humbled heart.
After the prayers the Baal Shem Tov said to him: “In a king’s palace there are many chambers, and each door has its own particular key. But there is one implement which can open all the doors, and that is — the ax. The kabalistic kavanos are the keys to the gates in the World Above, each gate requiring its own particular kavanah — but a broken and humble heart can burst open all the gates and all the heavenly palaces.”
Reb Zvi of Portziva used to lead the congregation for the solemn Mussaf prayer on Rosh HaShanah in the synagogue of Reb Yossele of Torchin, the son of the Chozeh of Lublin.
He was once asked by Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger: “Perhaps you could repeat me some Torah teaching which you heard from the mouth of Reb Yossele?”
“I do not remember any Devar Torah,” said Reb Zvi, “but I do recall a story. One Rosh HaShanah, just before the shofar was to be blown, Reb Yossele entered the Beis Medrash and said to his congregation of chassidim, some of whom were no doubt thinking at that auspicious moment of their requests to the Almighty for the coming year: ‘I am not going to rebuke you with words of mussar; nor am I going to teach you a Devar Torah; I am only going to tell you a story.
“‘In a certain city there lived a learned and wealthy wine-merchant who was honored one day by a visit from the local rabbi. Feeling deeply privileged, the host went out of his way to show his guest every due mark of respect. He quickly sent his servant down to the cellar, where he was to fill a bottle of wine from the middle barrel of the third row — for this was the choicest wine he owned. He himself continued to maintain scholarly conversation with his distinguished guest, but when he had waited a surprisingly long time for his servant to return, he begged to be excused, and hastened downstairs himself to find out what was amiss. He was stunned by what he saw there. Some of the barrels had been left uncovered; others were being drained of their precious contents because the taps had been left open; broken bottles jutted out of the puddles of wine on the floor; and the servant was nowhere to be seen. He returned to the house, sorely grieved by the serious damage which his servant had caused him, and began to look for him and call him by name. The servant finally answered — from a cozy nook over the fireplace, where he was sprawled at his leisure. And from up there he called out to his master: Listen here! I want you to increase my salary by so and so much; it isn’t near high enough …’ ”
Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger thanked the storyteller warmly.
”Now that is what I call a fine parable!” he exclaimed.
The Ten Days of Repentance
“Whatever penance you prescribe, rebbe! Fasts, self-mortification, ascetic exercises, anything — so long as I can atone for my sins!” insisted a certain penitent who had just confessed his long list of transgressions in the hearing of Reb Mordechai of Lechovitch.
“And will you in fact undertake everything I instruct you to do, without turning left or right?” asked the tzaddik.
“Every single word!” exclaimed the penitent.
“In that case,” said Reb Mordechai, “make sure that every morning you make your breakfast of fine white bread, roast chicken, and a casserole of meat and vegetables. Wash it down with a bottle of good wine — and do exactly the same in the evening. See to it that you sleep in a bed that has a cozy eiderdown, and don’t even contemplate undertaking (God forbid!) anything resembling self-mortification. When you have done this for a whole year, come along here and we’ll see then what to do next.”
The penitent was wonderstruck. He had prepared himself to hear a forbidding list of fasts and ritual immersions and ascetic exercises such as rolling in the snow and who knows what else — and here the tzaddik had ordered him to wallow in the luxuries of This World! Was it possible that he would ever atone for his sins through such a penance? But there was no alternative: he had to obey the tzaddik.
Back at home, he discovered that whenever he sat down to his rich repast, he was tortured by the same thought: “Here I am, a sinner who has repeatedly rebelled against his Maker; I have dragged my soul from its heavenly source down into the mire of impurity. How, then, can I delight in the pleasures of This World and pamper myself with choice delicacies? What I deserve is to bite on a mouthful of gravel, to chew bitter penitence herbs!’
At every meal he would go through this torment, shedding bitter tears and finding no peace. And though he had been a man of robust build, by the time the year was over he had shrunk to a wretched skeleton. Barely did he have the strength to make the long journey to Lechovitch.
The tzaddik took one look at him and said: “Enough!” He then prescribed him a different lifestyle for him, and the man completed his days in joy and serenity. [A Treasury of Chassidic Tales” (Artscroll).]
Going Fishing on Rosh HaShanah
Rav Naftali of Ropshitz once spent Rosh HaShanah with the sainted Chozeh of Lublin. When the time to recite Tashlich arrived, Rav Naftali was delayed and could not walk to the river until the Chozeh had already returned. As he prepared to leave, the Chozeh asked him, “Where are you going?” To which Rav Naftali replied, “I’m going to see if I can fish some of your sins out of the water because your sins are greater in merit than my mitzvos!” (http://www.partnersintorah.org/jewish-holidays/roshhashana)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Rosh HaShanah-Haazinu 5772
Is sponsored lizeicher nishmas HaRav HaGaon Reb Menashe ben HaRav Eliezer Zev Klein zt”l, who was niftar 28 Elul 5771. זכותו יגן עלינו ועל כל עם ישראל
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Kesiva Vachasima Tova and a Gut Gebentched Yohr
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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