Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rosh HaShana: the release of our inner Yosef haTzadik from prison

"On Rosh HaShana Yosef emerged from prison." (R"H 10b) The Sefas Emes and others teach that within each one of us there is a spark of Yosef hatzadik. During the year that spark of holiness yearns to escape, but it finds itself unable to. Economic burdens, health problems, spiritual turmoil and the petty attractions of this-worldliness all demand our time and attention and form a spiritual prison; our spiritual energy is squandered on all things except that which is truly spiritual. On Rosh HaShana we have a chance for a new beginning. That pent up spark of Yosef hatzadik finally can break free of its shackles and energize us to "rule over Egypt", to overcome all constraints (Mitzrayim = tzar).

I think there is an important caveat that needs to be added to this vort. Chazal tell us "ain chavush matir atzmo m'beis ha'asurim" -- a prisoner cannot free himself from jail. No matter how hard each of us individually try this Rosh HaShana to release that portion of Yosef hatzadik within ourselves, there is no way we can be successful -- unless we help each other. It's not enough on Rosh HaShana to dedicate ourselves to personal improvement; we have to dedicate ourselves to a shared effort. Only by giving and receiving, by pooling our efforts, talents, and ideas, can we break the barriers which constrain our growth.

I was struck by language of the phrase "ain chavush matir atzmo m'beis ha'asurim." Why not say "ain asur matir atzmo..." so that the same term is used to describe the prisoner, "asur", as the prison, "beis ha'asurim"? Why introduce a new term, "chavush"?

A few points of introduction before getting to the answer:

The last Mishna in shas tells us that in the future G-d will grant to every tzadik 310 worlds, hinted at by the pasuk "l'hanchil o'havay yesh", yesh = 310 in gematria.

If we combine the 613 commandments with the 7 Noahide laws we get a total of 620, double 310, equal in gematria to "keser", G-d's crown.

Rosh HaShana celebrates the creation of the world "yesh m'aiyin." The material world is "yesh" = 310. We must work to reveal the hidden G-dliness within the world by doing Torah and mitzvos to reveal the missing 310, the added 310 given to the tzadik, to complete the 310+310=620 of "keser". The focus of our tefilah on Rosh HaShana is malchus, the crowning of Hashem by revealing this keser.

But 310+310 is not just the combination of the spiritual and the material worlds; it is the combination of our individual efforts to bring about that result. 310 worlds are given "l'kol tzadik v'tzadik" -- in the plural -- because it takes my 310 worlds combined with your 310 worlds to bring about the desired "keser"=620.

Returning to our question of why the word chavush and not the word asur is used, I would suggest that it is because "chavush" (spelled without the vav) is also gematria = 310. Chazal were perhaps hinting that "ain chavush (= 310) matir es atzmo," each of us is just half of the crown of keser=620; without each other's help we cannot crown Hashem with his keser, and we cannot truly release our inner Yosef hatzadik.

Wishing everyone a kesivah v'chasima tovah!

1 comment:

  1. great unknown2:10 PM

    My diagnosis: you have more than a קןרטוב of chassidishe blood circulating in your veins.

    כתיבה וחתימה טובה לך ןלכל משפחתך, ותזכו (בלשון רבים) להמשיך לזכות את הרבים ולהיות לנחת רוח לפני הבורא ב"ה