Chazal tell us that the malachim ask Hashem where the hallel is for the Yom Tov of Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur, to which Hashem responds that Klal Yisrael cannot possibly recite hallel on a Yom haDin when the books of judgment are open. What’s the hava amina of these malachim to ask such a question? Don’t they know it’s Yom haDin; don’t we say in our tefilah that even “malachim yei’chapeizun… chil u’re’ada yocheizun…?”
Yesterday we discussed the GR”A’s pshat that the malach which appeared to Avraham after the akeidah was created from his desire to do the mitzvah of offering Yitzchak. I found that the Sefas Emes says that same thing here. Yes, it’s Yom haDin, but, as the Shem m’Shmuel writes, we will still recite a “she’hechiyanu v’keymanu v’higiyanu l’zman hazeh” tonight because we are glad to be at this moment. The Tur quotes the Midrash that a person has to dress nicely, get a haircut, act like it is any other Yom Tov where there is a mitzvah of simcha. It’s Yom haDin, and on the outside we do stand trembling in awe, but b’pnimiyus inside, we all know that Hashem wants it to be a good year for us, and therefore, it is a mo’ed as well. Just like the malach was created by Avraham’s intent to do akeidah, there are malachim created by our desire to say hallel and acknowledge this simchas hayom, even if we cannot bring ourselves to utter the words, because, after all, as Hashem tells them, it is Yom haDin.
On a different theme, there is one other idea I wanted to share. The haftarah we read on Rosh haShana speaks about Chanah’s tefilah for a child. Why after years of being barren did Chanah choose this visit to the Mishkan to daven with such force that she merited to have Shmuel haNavi?
I saw an amazing answer from R’ Avaraham Shapira. The navi tells us that when Chanah’s husband Elkanah saw that she was so despondent and refused even to eat, he said to her, “Halo anochi tov lach m’asarah banim!” “I am as good to you as 10 children would be.” (Shmuel 1:8) Until this moment Chanah felt that Elkanah shared her desperate longing for a child. However, when Chanah heard these words, she realized something had changed. The very fact that Elkanah could give voice to the possibility that he or anything else could be “as good as” having a child meant that he had started down the road to making peace with the idea of Chanah being barren. His passion and longing for Chanah to have a child were cooling. He was starting to accept the “reality” of the situation.
Chanah, however, refused to give up. Chanah knew that there was no “reality” that could not be changed by rachamei shamayim, there was no goal that was out of reach, there was no surrender that was necessary. What was needed was simply more tefilah…
Let’s be real – there are a lot of difficult situations, there is a lot of “reality” that we feel cannot be changed, at least not so easily, and we are not Chanah by any stretch of the imagination. Teshuvah and tefilah do hold the potential to change things by 180 degrees, but that’s an ideal that few of us can reach. For myself and many people it would be an achievement to just be able to move a few degrees in the other direction, or maybe even just stop from tilting even further away from where we should be. The lesson from tefilas Chanah is not that we can accomplish whatever we want through tefilah, but rather that like her, we should never surrender our goals, we should never become less passionate about our commitments and ideals, even if the journey to achieve them is a long and difficult one. A few degrees in the other direction is a good start.
Last but not least, I want to wish everyone true simcha even as we stand in Din, and wish everyone a kesiva (v’chasima) tovah.