|The Torah Connection: The Beauty & Fright of Rosh Hashanah|
|Written by Rabbi Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg|
One of the interesting aspects of Judaism is that you find unexpected seeming contradictions alive and well in the same context. There are many examples of this. One that comes to mind is that of not saying Tachanun or Selichos (said on fast days) on Tishah B’av – the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.
This is because the pasuk (verse) in Eichah which deals with the destruction of the Temple calls it a mo’ed (a connotation of simchah – joy).
In a similar vein, on Rosh Hashonoh, which is a day of din (judgment), we have festive meals,
whereas on Yom Kippur, which is a day of rachamim (mercy), we fast.
As we know, a person’s time in this world is limited.
His purpose during this time is to gather as much Torah and mitzvos and doing kindness to others as possible. Everything else has no meaning because it does not last.
The problem is that we get involved and tend to forget. Days, weeks, months and years can be lost striving for goals and indulgences which ultimately have no meaning.
The Wake-Up Call
Rosh Hashonoh is a yearly wake-up call. It gets our attention. That is its beauty. It can help us change our direction to a more meaningful and ultimately more rewarding life. The reason it gets our attention is because of the fright involved. One is reminded that there are no guarantees from one year to the next. A new year, a new judgment, a new direction. What was decided last year is no guarantee for the next year. What are on the scales are health, livelihood, sholom, life itself. It is a frightening time but it is also a time of beauty; of tremendous opportunity and potential. “Dirshu Hashem behimatzo, kra’uhu b’heyoso karov.” (Seek out Hashem when He is to be found, call out to Him when He is close.)
“These are the days between Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur”
when He is closer to us than at any other time.
Even in the din itself there is beauty, not just fright. A call to din means that man is important and has meaning, and what he does is important and has meaning. Otherwise, why bother?
Rosh Hashonoh – fright yes, because of all that is potentially on the scales. But beauty also – it shows the importance of man and his deeds, it is a wake-up call that could change one’s whole life and it is the best time to approach Hashem because He is now so close.
1 Tachanun is said after Shacharis and Minchah Shmoneh Esrei (the morning and afternoon davening). It entails an admission of one’s wrongdoings and a plea for mercy. It is said with one’s arm covering the face because of one’s shame. It is not said on Shabbos or Yom Tov or even if there is a private simcha as a Bris or wedding.
2 More extensive and inclusive prayers for forgiveness.
3 The ninth day of the month of Av. Both Temples were destroyed and other calamities in Jewish history occurred on Tishah B’Av.
4 Eichah 1:15
5 Because out of the destruction and ashes, the seed of the future redemption was born. This is the lesson of the very first nevu’ah (prophecy) that Moshe had. “The bush was burning … but was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). This was to be symbolic of the Jewish nation.
6 Indeed, toned down somewhat because of the seriousness of the day.
7 As is amply described in the “Unesaneh Tokef” tefillah (prayer) which always brings tears to one’s eyes.
8 We once mentioned this regarding the vertical Caesar who had everything but in one moment became the horizontal Caesar who had nothing.
9 See Rav Shach on the Hagadah (English) p. 163. “The true meaning of living life is to take advantage of every second and to transform it into a permanent asset for the next world by engaging in Torah study and mitzvos. If one does not do so, what he lives is not really “life” at all, strictly speaking; rather, it is a drawn-out seventy-year-long process of dying!”
10 Isaiah 55:6
11 Rosh Hashonoh 18a
12 Mori V’Rebbi Horav Dovid Kronglas zt”l used to say that one should not waste even one moment of this precious time since each moment is so valuable.