Rabbi Dovid Saks
Rosh Hashana 5773
The Torah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashana focuses on the wondrous birth of our forefather Yitzchok. Yitzchok was born when his father Avraham was 100 years old and his mother Sarah was 90. Our Sages inform us that Yitzchok was conceived on Rosh Hashana.
The Torah reading on the second day of Rosh Hashana speaks of the great devotion that Avraham and Yitzchok displayed in obeying G-d’s command that Yitzchok be offered as a sacrifice. Our Sages tell us that this monumental event also occurred on Rosh Hashana.
The Haftorah that we read on the first day of Rosh Hashana relates that the Prophetess Chana was blessed with a son, Shmuel, after many years of childlessness. Our Sages tell us that Chana conceived on Rosh Hashana.
In our history: Yosef was imprisoned for 12 years in an Egyptian dungeon. He was released on Rosh Hashana when he correctly interpreted the Pharoh’s disturbing dreams. Yosef was immediately appointed viceroy of Egypt.
The Jews’ servitude in Egypt came to an end on the Rosh Hashana
before they left Egypt. Rosh Hashana is a day associated with
redemption, deliverance and wishes and aspirations coming to fruition.
It is universally known that the instrument used to sound the blasts on Rosh Hashana is the Shofar. The Talmud relates that the Shofar should come from a Ram because the ram’s horn reminds G-d of the binding of Yitzchok. For the Torah relates that after the angel instructed Avraham not to sacrifice his son, he sacrificed a ram instead. G-d says, “Use a rams’ horn for the blasts so that I remember the binding of Yitzchok and I will consider it as if you offered yourselves to Me.” Shofar grants us a total transformation.
There is a lot more depth to the sounding of the Shofar than a series of sounds and notes. Although there are many reasons given for the blowing of the Shofar, the bottom line is that the ultimate reason is hidden from us. King David regarding the meaning of the Shofar states, “It is a statute.” – A mitzvah that we perform without knowing its ultimate reason. By performing and listening to the Shofar on Rosh Hashana we display our commitment to serve the Almighty – whether we understand it or not. The Chassidic master, the Bnei Yissochar, offers a penetrating thought regarding the benefits of fulfilling the Mitzvah of Shofar on the day of Judgement.
“Although the Almighty recognizes the claims of the prosecuting angels against the Jewish people when they point out the sins the Jews transgressed, G-d in His benevolence and compassion wishes to provide deliverance for Israel. The prosecuting angels ask, ‘How can You be merciful and overlook their iniquity? There is insufficient merit to offset their transgressions.”
Whereupon the Almighty responds, “They fulfill My commands, such as Shofar, whose true reason is beyond human logic. Due to their loyalty; righteousness and justice demand that they be rewarded in kind. Therefore, I extend mercy, forgiveness and compassion even though it appears as illogical justice!”
This is a small glimpse into the power of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana! It is customary on the first day of Rosh Hashana (or thereafter) to go to a body of water and recite certain prayers and symbolically throw away our sins. This custom is called Tashlich – cast off, a term borrowed from the verse in the Book of Micha which states, “And cast into the river all your iniquity.”
One of the reasons offered by the Maharil why we specifically go to a body of water for Tashlich is so that G-d should recall the event of the binding of Yitzchok. The Medrash states that as Avraham and Yitzchok were traveling to the Temple Mount to perform the deed, Satan tried desperately to prevent them from reaching their destination. The Satan created a large river in their path. They both prayed to G-d, “Please save our lives from the raging waters.”
When we appear on Rosh Hashana at a body of water to cast away our sins, we are in essence conveying to the Almighty, that what prevented us from serving Him correctly were the obstacles Satan placed before us which blurred our vision making us unable to withstand and overcome them and serve G-d correctly. Just as our forefathers Avraham and Yitzchok had the fortitude and conviction to triumph over the Satan’s impediments, so too, as we turn a new page in our lives, we will see to it that we serve You with renewed devotion, dedication and commitment following in the path set by our blessed forefathers! In the merit of this we ask to please be awarded with a sweet new year!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos, and a Happy and Healthy Year!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family