Saturday, September 28, 2019

it's not about the past

If the avodah of Rosh haShana is to review the past and do teshuvah on what we messed up during the previous year, then it would make the most sense to celebrate Rosh haShana on the last day of the year.  On the last day we could take stock of all that transpired over the previous year and make an accounting of where we did well and where we fell short.  But that's not what we do.  We celebrate not on the last day of the year, but rather on the first day of the year, before anything has even transpired in that new year yet.  How does that make sense?

Secondly, if you notice, our Rosh haShana davening actually does not have in it viduy, we don't klap al cheit, we don't say slichos on Rosh haShana.  All that is part of the avodah of Yom Kippur, but is not part of Rosh haShana.

So what is the avodah of the day?

Meforshim explain (see for example, the Sifsei Chaim, or the Sichos of R' Noson Tzvi Finkel) that Rosh haShana is not about the past, but rather it's about the future.  What do you want the new year to be?  What are your she'ifos for the future?   That's what you need to consider on day #1.

That is what the din of the day is all about: firstly, because a person is defined by his/her aspirations.  You may not get there, but you at least have to know where you are going.  And you have to ask Hashem help you get there. Secondly, and this is where teshuvah fits into the picture, our aspirations are inevitably shaped by where we are coming from and where we are currently holding.  The triple AAA baseball player hopes next year to move up to the majors, but the player on some low level minor league team is nowhere land can't realistically have that same dream.  If you come to the table with last year's baggage, it is hard to aspire to something radically different this year.  It's hard to ask Hashem, "Let me become a baki in sha"s this year," when you are coming to the table with a history of barely keeping up with daf yomi.  Hashem is not going to give a person a mission that will inevitably end in failure or be an exercise in futility.  It's a struggle to overcome the past, but that's what teshuvah is all about.

Around two weeks ago I did a post on the word "avah," and the question of how to understand the pasuk in our parsha speaking about the person who rebels against Hashem, "lo yoveh Hashem slo'ach lo."  How is it possible that G-d should not want to forgive even such a person?

The problem is I put the comma in the wrong place.  What actually makes the person rebellious is that, "Lo yoveh," he, this rebellious individual, does not want, comma, 'Hashem slo'ach lo," for G-d to forgive him (Mishne Sachir quoting Kreizer Rav of Sanz).

G-d is willing to forgive anyone.  All we have to do is want that forgiveness.

So that's what the next two days of Rosh haShana is all about -- finding amidst the nigunim, the chazzanus, the piyutim, the speeches, the tekiyos, one real moment of introspection, one moment where we really desire to be forgiven, one moment when we actually have a desire for true growth in the coming year and ask Hashem for help.

Hopefully we will all be successful in finding at least one moment like that and making the most of it.


  1. so, four errors to correct:

    -- excessive ([too*] unrealistic) aspiration
    -- deficient aspiration
    -- excessive hishtadlus (going it alone, 'without' Hashem)
    -- deficient hishtadlus .

    for four types of double-deviance:

    one with excessive aspiration, and excessive hishtadlus; he charges onto har ha'bayis with bricks, mortar and trowel, and is amazed at his arrest.

    [one with] excessive aspiration, but deficient hishtadlus: he dreams of har ha'bayis on his couch, and of the Shechinah calling him, calling him, calling him by name.

    one with deficient aspiration, but excessive hishtadlus; he hopes to crack open a text once-a-month and lay it keenly before him, and so carries a sefer in his hand for 29 days straight, everywhere but the bathhouse;

    deficient aspiration, and deficient hishtadlus: he too hopes to open a gemara monthly and buys a calendar to that end, and then lays it [the calendar] in a drawer he's not sure which...

    *is "realistically" too limiting, too naturalistic a term, given that Hashem can effectively will supernatural (superhuman) results?

    take "one moment" now, looking forward, than the last moment of life, looking back...

  2. "ask Hashem for help"

    to what may the soundings of Rosh haShanah be compared? not to the trumpet blasts for remembrance of every other rosh chodesh, Bamidbar 10:10, but to the trumpet call of 10:9 that's sounded when an enemy reigns*, the trumpet call for remembrance at Vayikra 26:19, when Hashem will shvar'ti**/break the pride of our might [the tekiah]. for on Rosh haShanah we've leftover troubles; the yetzer ha'ra has invaded and oppressed during the previous year...

    does looking at a copper snake save (Bam. 21:8)? does sounding [hearing] a silver trumpet? or do these require the addition of "aspirations" to do their trick, a desire for relief and renewal ("teshuvah" and "growth"), looking and listening to the Judge in heaven?

    *b'artz'chem, vs the trumpeting when peace presides (Vayikra 26:6), when no sword will so much as cross b'artz'chem

    **hinting to the sh'varim sounds of the shofar