This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Rosh Hashanah (5767)
Rosh HaShanna is the first and in many ways, the most important holiday of the Jewish year; it commemorates the sixth day of creation; when G-d created man to put meaning and blessing into the world.
But Rosh HaShanna was also day that Adam sinned, brought death (man was supposed to live eternally) to all mankind and was evicted from Paradise which is not a very encouraging message to begin the year with!!
Especially considering that Adam had been created directly by G-d just hours earlier, was sinless and had unlimited spiritual vision. If he sinned, what chance do we have?
And there is another question: The highlight of Rosh HaShanna is making thirty precisely executed trumpet blasts in a hollowed out ram's horn called a 'Shofar'.
Besides the fact that this Shofar announces that Judaism is the only religion that celebrates and sanctifies the creation of the world, it also commemorates and reminds us that man was created to be partners with G-d in maintaining and improving the entire creation…. by doing His commandments!
And the Shofar is the grand commandment!! In fact there is probably no commandment with so many deep kabalistic and esoteric explanations as the Shofar - because all the worlds, upper and lower, depend on it!!
But why with a simple ram's horn? Why not show the importance of man by having the Rabbi give a deep sermon or something uniquely human; why with a ram's horn?
So what about the dark side of Rosh HaShanna and why a Shofar?
To understand this, here is a story. (Sipuri Chasidim, Rav Zevin, Torah, story #204)
Rebbi Menachem Mendel (nicknamed the Tzemach Tzedek) became the third leader of the Chabad movement and had thousands of followers. This story takes place before he was leader.
In addition to his unmatched knowledge in the mysteries and all other aspects of the Torah he was possibly the outstanding expert in Jewish law in his generation.
But he couldn't be compared to his departed grandfather, the first Rebbe of Chabad; Rebbi Shneur Zalman, (nicknamed 'The Alter (old) Rebbe') the author of the masterpieces; 'Tanya' and 'Shulchan Aruch HaRav' that totally revitalized Judaism, whose knowledge was simply above all description or comparison.
So whenever his grandfather saw the need he would visit him and answer any difficult Torah questions that he had…… even after he passed away!!
[This was commonplace to Tzadikim (totally holy Jews): Elijah the prophet appeared and spoke to people thousands of years after his passing. Achia HaShiloni taught the Baal Shem Tov some 2,000 years after his passing. The Alter Rebbe the Baal Shem Tov and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe all regularly conversed with their 'departed' teachers.]
This story takes place after the passing of the Alter Rebbe when his son, Rebbe Dovber (the second Rebbe), had taken his place.
Once the Tzemach Tzedek had several very difficult questions in Torah that troubled him and for which he could not find a solution.
He tried and tried to solve them with no success and as the days passed the problems, instead of dissolving, became even more complex and seemingly unanswerable. But for some reason his grandfather did not appear and assist him as usual.
Early one morning, the Tzamach Tzedek, still burdened by his questions, was walking through the town square of Lubavitch to the shul (synagogue) for the morning prayers, deep in thought.
It was market day and the vendors were busy setting up their booths all around him. The smell of fresh vegetables and the cackling of chickens and other farm-animal sounds filled the busy summer air but the Rebbe didn't notice. He was pondering the Torah questions that were plaguing him.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a voice. "Excuse me Rabbi!"
A simple Jew stood in front of him with his hand on his shoulder. "Rabbi, please excuse me. I need a loan. Can you loan me three rubles until tomorrow morning? I've tried everyone but no one seems to have it. Can you help?"
The Tzemach Tzedek recognized the man. He was an honest, hard working fellow and probably needed the money to buy something for market day. He searched his pockets but they were empty, there wasn't even a kopek.
He apologized, explained himself, and told the fellow that in two hours after he had finished his praying he would gladly give him the loan if he came to his house. But it was out of the question to go back home and get it. He would miss praying with the 'minyan' (the congregation).
The villager understood. He wouldn't dream of interfering with the prayers of such a holy Jew, a Tzadik! We have no idea what such prayers can accomplish… especially when the Tzadik prays with a congregation of other Tzadikim!!
In fact the entire world exists only by virtue of such prayers! He would wait; that way he would get his loan and the world would have its prayers. He shook the Rebbe's hand, thanked him, said he would see him in a couple of hours and watched as the Rebbe continued on his way.
But when the Tzemach Tzedek arrived in the Shul and took out his prayer shawl to prepare for prayer he hesitated.
Something told him that he made a mistake.
He thought to himself; "That fellow probably wanted the loan in order to buy merchandise for the market day, if he waits for me he'll lose money. But on the other hand, he told himself, how would I find him now? And if I run home to get the money I'll certainly have to pray alone! Maybe he'll get a loan from someone else… but probably not.
But he knew that all these considerations, as correct and logical as they were, would not give this fellow the three rubles he needed.
He put down his prayer book. Exited the synagogue, went home, got the money, returned to the market place and began searching for the villager.
But it wasn't easy. The market was packed and it was very difficult to make out faces or to find anyone but he persisted until he saw the man walking about aimlessly looking at the wares in the other stalls.
He gave him five rubles, received an I.O.U. and returned to the synagogue.
The prayers had already finished and the room was almost empty. He was also a bit weary from all the running he had just done so it took him a while to get in the mood again to begin praying.
But as soon as he put on his Tallit and Tefillin (phylacteries)……the Alter Rebbe suddenly appeared before him!!
Beaming with joy, he answered his questions one at a time and then added;
"One who gives a loan to or does a favor for his fellow man with a whole heart and without any ulterior motives with love, as it says in the Torah, "Love your friend as yourself"…… the gates of the highest spiritual realms open for him.
Now we can understand our questions.
True, the final day of creation was the day that sin, death and destruction entered the world via man, and were it not for this the world would have remained pure as G-d made it.
But that is exactly the point of Rosh HaShanna. G-d didn't want the world to remain as it was; He wanted man to 'elevate' it.
As G-d made it the world was meaningless. And the only way to change it is by man's FREE WILL. Only man has free will to, either change the world and make it holy, positive and good by following the Creator's instructions, or just be part of it.
Adam wanted to change it…. But he thought he could do his own way….. by eating from the tree. He wanted to use the physical world to serve G-d and wasn't afraid even of death! But he made a big mistake. His ulterior motives blinded him.
The Torah tells us that wanted……. Spirituality. He wanted to be like G-d; elevated about the mundane creation (Gen. 3:5).
Something like how the Tzemach Tzedek in our story almost opted for the spiritual realms of prayer but when he reversed his priorities and thought of others before himself, he revealed the true goal of man: above even death (the Alter Rebbe appeared to him).
In other words; the physical coins of charity were 'higher' than the spiritual emotions of prayer..
This is why we celebrate Rosh HaShanna with the lowly Shofar - to show that THIS physical world (like the charity in our story) is holiest, and the purpose of man (who was created on this day) is to reveal this HERE and rise above even death (as it was before the sin of Adam).
This will be fully accomplished only by Moshiach (Tanya chapt. 37). Then the 'sin' of Adam will be erased with the Raising of the Dead.
And for this we pray three times a day "Raise the Dead" and "Sound the GREAT Shofar to free us".
This great Shofar of Moshiach, explains the Lubavitcher Rebbe, will be the result of the pleading souls clothed in Jews who are so lost in exile that they don't even KNOW they are Jewish!
Something like the needy villager in our story pleading for money!
On that day Moshiach, like the Tzemach Tzedek in our story, will disregard all spiritual considerations and help each and every Jew (and through them all mankind) to have all they need spiritually and physically.
Then the true purpose of creation will be revealed.
So this Rosh HaShanna when we hear the Shofar we must all think only one thing - we want Moshiach NOW! And we are willing to do EVERYTHING in our power, even just one more good deed, word or even thought, to bring him - even one moment sooner.
Wishing all our readers a happy, healthy, successful, meaningful, blessed, sweet and HAPPY new year with
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