Dear Readers,

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Shana Tova – a year ahead filled with abundant blessing, good health, and happiness.

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback you have kindly shared with me over the course of year – it is greatly appreciated!

PIease forgive me but I have taken the liberty of resending last Rosh Hashanah’s Dvar Torah.  Its message, though, remains as pertinent as ever.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום

Ben Goodman

Seeing the Whole Picture

The Zodiac sign for the month of Tishrei and one of the prominent icons of Rosh Hashanah, are weighing scales.  Their meaning and significance are far-reaching and encapsulate many fundamental aspects of the Chagim.  Weighing scales also impart an elementary rule of judgment: perspective.  Good judgment means being able to assess the relevant factors while seeing the whole picture.  Every area of life, without exception, constantly calls for our judgment.  Thankfully, we have the luxury of riding on the coattails of our Sages, whose keen outlook and perspective have saved us time and time again.

A prime and timely example is Rabbi Yisroel Salanter (1810-1883), who in the process of reshaping our approach to Rosh Hashanah, saved us from untold calamity and misfortune.

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821) writes based on the Zohar HaKadosh, that our sole focus on Rosh Hashanah, is Hashem’s Kingship.  It is our responsibility to acknowledge Hashem’s omnipotence, reaffirm our acceptance of Him as our King and long for universal recognition and acceptance of His authority.  Rosh Hashanah is not the time to show concern for our own needs and on the contrary, doing so detracts from our dedication and commitment to His Will.

Rabbi Salanter, though, writes that while the Zohar HaKadosh’s description of the essence of Rosh Hashanah remains the same, its practical application does not.  The words of the Zohar HaKadosh were intended for earlier generations, for people of immense spiritual stature who knew how to set aside their own worries and concentrate exclusively on Hashem.

Nowadays, however, a person beset by personal worry or anguish, does not possess the presence of mind to concern himself with the needs, so to speak, of Hashem.  Therefore, if we were to stand before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah and direct all our prayers towards the universal acceptance of His Kingship, we would effectively be testifying that we do not believe that we are standing in judgment.  Rabbi Salanter explains that this ‘testimony’ would undermine our ‘prayers’ for Hashem’s Kingship and create a Heavenly accusation against us.  If we truly understood the implication of the Day of Judgment and how our entire future hangs in the balance, Hashem’s Kingship would barely appear on our radar.

Therefore, writes, Rabbi Salanter, our work on Rosh Hashanah is to truly comprehend that we are standing in awesome judgment before Hashem, and consequently, beg from Hashem everything that we need for the coming year.  By doing this, not only are we being true to ourselves, but we are also acknowledging and accepting Him as our King, making ourselves aware that He is our provider and that our lives are in His hands.

This Rosh Hashanah may Hashem look favourably on all of Klal Yisroel and may we merit a year ahead filled with tons of blessing in all areas of our lives, so that we can serve our King with all our hearts and all our souls.

In memory of the Neshama of Reb Asher ben Tzvi Haynoch

L’iluy Nishmas Aidel bas Avraham

In memory of the Neshama of Devorah Leah bas Moshe