GOOD MORNING! If Rosh Hashana (which begins Wednesday evening, September 28th) is when we get inscribed in the Book of Life and Yom Kippur is the day we are forgiven for our transgressions -- wouldn't it seem to make more sense that Yom Kippur should come before Rosh Hashana? Since the Almighty established the order of the holidays in the Torah, it behooves us to ask the question and look for an answer.
The essence of Rosh Hashana is to recognize our relationship with the Almighty. It is incumbent upon us to internalize that He is the King, the Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor of the universe. Until we recognize our Creator and internalize the magnitude and consequences of our actions, we cannot truly seek to change ourselves or to seek atonement. With our intellectual and emotional clarity that the Almighty commanded us to do His mitzvot, then it is possible for us to ask for forgiveness for our shortcomings in fulfilling them.
This idea is emphasized in the Musaf (additional) service which is structured around three themes: Malchuyot (Kingship), Zichronot (Providence) and Shofrot (Revelation -- the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai).
The Book of Our Heritage clarifies:
In the Kingship section we acknowledge God's creation of all existence, His active supervision of the entire universe, and our acceptance of His eternal rule. It is our job on Rosh Hashana to make God our King.
In the Providence section we proclaim our understanding that: (1) the Creator has a one-on-one relationship with every human being, (2) God cares about what we do with our lives and sees and remembers everything, (3) there are Divine consequences for our actions.
In the Revelation section we accept the Torah as if it were given once again with mighty shofar blasts. We also await the final redemption which is to be heralded by the "shofar of the mashiach (messiah)."
In short, Kingship -- God is everything. Zichronot -- he cares us about us and knows what we are doing and interacts with our lives. Shofros --he gave us instructions for living (the Torah).
Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. Unlike the secular New Year which is often celebrated by partying, drinking to excess and watching a little ball descend a tower in Time Square, the Jewish New Year is celebrated by reflecting upon the past, correcting one's mistakes, planning for the future, praying for a healthy and sweet year and celebrating with holiday meals.
Rabbi Nachum Braverman writes, "On Rosh Hashana we make an accounting of our year and we pray repeatedly for life. How do we justify another year of life? What did we do with the last year? Has it been a time of growth, of insight and of caring for others? Did we make use of our time, or did we squander it? Has it truly been a year of life, or merely one of mindless activity? This is the time for evaluation and rededication. The Jewish process is called "teshuva," coming home -- recognizing our mistakes between ourselves and God as well as between ourselves and our fellow man and then correcting them."
On Rosh Hashana we pray that we are inscribed in the Book of Life for life, for health, for sustenance. It is the Day of Judgment. Yet, we celebrate with festive meals with family and friends. How can we celebrate when our very lives hang in balance? Ultimately, we trust in the kindness and mercy of the Almighty ... that He knows our heart and our intentions and with love and knowledge of what is best for us, will accordingly grant us a good decree for the new year.
At the festive meal both nights of Rosh Hashana it is customary to dip the challah, specially braided bread, as well as an apple, into honey symbolizing our hopes for a sweet year. There is a custom to eat various Symbolic Foods -- primarily fruits and vegetables -- each one preceded by a request. For instance, before eating a pomegranate, "May it be Your will... that our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate." Many of the requests are based on "plays on words" between the name of the food and the request. Since these "plays on words" are lost on many who don't know Hebrew, there are those who have added their own requests. My favorite: before eating a raisin on a celery stick, "May it be Your will ... that I receive a raise in salary."
Another custom is Tashlich, a symbolic casting off of transgressions. It is done after the Mincha, the afternoon prayers, on the first day of Rosh Hashana -- and on the second day when the first day of Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbat. Remember -- these symbolic acts help you relate to what you need to do in life, to awaken your emotions and passions; they are not an end in themselves.
It is worthwhile to get a copy of the Rosh Hashana Yom Kippur Survival Kit to get a better understanding of the holiday, the prayers, the prayer services and the opportunity that is afforded to you to grow in spirituality, to come closer to the Almighty, to perfect yourself and to perfect the world! It is available at your local Jewish bookstore or via Amazon.com.
Torah Portion of the Week
October 1, 2011: Ha'azinu
The Torah portion is a song, a poem taught to the Jewish people by Moshe. It recounts the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the 40 years in the desert. Jewish consciousness, until the present generation, was to teach every Jewish child to memorize Ha'azinu. In this manner we internalized the lessons of our history, especially the futility of rebelling against the Almighty.
The portion ends with Moshe being told to ascend Mount Nevo to see the Promised Land before he dies and is "gathered to his people." By the way, this is one of the allusions to an afterlife in the Torah. Moshe died alone and no one knows where he is buried. Therefore, "gathered to his people" has a higher meaning!
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"The Rock! His deeds are perfect for all His ways are just" (Deut. 32:4).
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, once asked someone how things were going for him. Replied the man, "It wouldn't hurt if things were a bit better."
"How can you possibly know that it wouldn't hurt?" responded the Chofetz Chaim. "The Almighty knows better than you. He is merciful and compassionate. If He felt it would be good for you for things to be better, He definitely would have made them better. Certainly things are good for you the way they are."
Things are not always the way we wish them to be, but they are always for our good. This awareness will give you an elevated feeling in your life. You have every right to try to improve your situation. However, whenever you do all you can to try, and the situation is still not the way you would wish, work on internalizing the consciousness that the Almighty is doing for you what is in your best interests.
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 30
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Guatemala 5:34 - Hong Kong 5:54 - Honolulu 6:02
J'Burg 5:48 - London 6:23 - Los Angeles 6:22
Melbourne 6:05 - Mexico City 7:07 - Miami 6:52
New York 6:23 - Singapore 6:40 - Toronto 6:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
What man actually needs
is not a tensionless state,
but rather the striving and struggling
for some goal worthy of him.
-- Viktor Frankl
With Deep Appreciation to
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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