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"May you and yours be blessed with health and happiness throughout the coming year."
"May the blessings of health, peace and contentment be yours."
"May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year."
At this time of year, wishes to friends and family for the upcoming year abound. And our wishes usually contain what we hope we will have in our own lives, health, happiness, prosperity. We are, in essence, blessing our friends and hoping that G-d will hear our blessings and fulfill them.
That's what we want from G-d. But what does G-d want from us?
The Jewish people were commanded to offer to G-d two lambs each day, one in the morning and one in the evening. The whole world and everything in it belongs to G-d, so why does He need our lambs? Is He "hungry" maybe, that He needs two lambs every day?
G-d commanded us to bring sacrifices because He wants us to remember Him every single day - and not just when we need Him. The Midrash (Tana D'Bei Eliyahu) records G-d's clarification of His position in this area. "I am not lacking anything," He tells the Jewish people. "My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you should love one another and respect one another."
We ask G-d for health. All He asks is that we love each other.
We ask G-d for good jobs. All He asks is that we respect each other.
We ask G-d for emotional strength to get through hard times. All He asks is that we honor each other.
We ask G-d for children whom we can be proud of. All He asks is that we be kind to each other.
Day after day, year after year, we present our lists of requests of what we want from G-d and what we want G-d to give to our loved ones.
Like a child let loose in Toys 'R Us, we want this and that, and can't we get one of these and two of those?
And like the ever-patient parent, G-d says to us, "You are all my children. I would be happy to fulfill all of your requests. All I really need to see is that you treat each other with love and respect. That you are sensitive to each other's needs and that you care for one another."
Is this not what our parents wanted from us? Isn't it what all parents want from their children? "Don't give me the cards, the presents, the box of chocolates. Just be nice to each other. Just behave yourselves," our memory tapes replay.
Don't fight. Look, you made him cry! You don't have to like her, but you do have to be nice to her because she is your sister, she always was and she always will be!"
"My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you should love one another and respect one another."
Sisters and brothers, may we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, a year of health and happiness and the ultimate happiness of the arrival of Moshiach, NOW.
Adam, the very first human being, was created on Rosh Hashana. No sooner did he come into existence than he appealed to all of creation - animal, mineral and vegetable - to crown G-d as King of the universe. "Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow, let us kneel before G-d our Maker!" he declared.
In Psalms, Rosh Hashana is described as the day on which "G-d has reigned, He has donned grandeur." G-d's dominion over the entire world was total and complete.
Following Adam's example, we too crown G-d on Rosh Hashana. Every year on this day we accept His sovereignty anew and reaffirm His Kingship.
As related in the Midrash, on Rosh Hashana G-d makes a request: "Crown Me as your King!" "Accept upon yourselves the yoke of My Kingship!" Rosh Hashana is thus unique, for it is the day of G-d's coronation. We crown G-d by blowing the shofar and praying "Reign over the whole world in Your glory."
In fact, each and every Jew has been entrusted with a Divine mission: to imbue his surroundings with an awareness of G-d's sovereignty. Even the youngest Jewish child can play a significant role in crowning G-d King on Rosh Hashana!
Bringing Jewish boys and girls to shul on Rosh Hashana is a time-honored Jewish custom. There the children listen to the shofar and participate (as much as they are able) in the prayer service, making sure to answer "amen" whenever appropriate. When a Jewish child prays with the rest of the congregation, his pure and innocent voice ascends on high, convincing G-d to accede to our request that He be our King.
Furthermore, the children's enthusiasm in answering "Amen" has a positive effect on the adults. Together, young and old proclaim G-d the "King of Israel" and "King of the entire world."
In truth, the prayers of a single Jewish child on Rosh Hashana are so powerful that they can tip the scales, causing G-d to inscribe the entire Jewish people for a good year.
Our acceptance of G-d's sovereignty on Rosh Hashana is not a one-time event. Rather, this coronation extends throughout the year, when every day we reaffirm His kingship.
As soon as we wake up we say, "I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King." Before partaking of food we recite, "Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe." Whenever we are about to perform a mitzva (commandment), we bless G-d's name and declare Him King. Whatever a Jew does, it should always be apparent that he has accepted the yoke of heaven.
May we very soon merit the complete Redemption, for at that time G-d's sovereignty over all of creation will be open and revealed, as it states, "The L-rd shall be King over the entire earth; on that day the L-rd shall be One and His Name One."
Based on letters of the Rebbe Chai Elul and Gimmel Selichot 5746
Days of Awe: New Caledonia
by Rabbi Ben Tanny
A person's earnings for the coming year are determined in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. (Talmud, Beitza 16a)
The plane taxied slowly to the airport terminal and then came to a stop. I strapped on my backpack, picked up the Torah scroll, and headed to clear New Caledonian customs. As I had expected, a man met me at the exit gate. He was thrilled to see me with the Torah. "It has been so long," the man said. "May I carry it?"
I handed him the Torah which he held reverently for a few seconds. Then his face lit up with the biggest smile. "We are so delighted you could come," said the man. "We are maybe 150 Jewish people here mostly from Algeria and Tunisia. It has been a long time since we have had a rabbi and a Torah."
"I am not a rabbi," I corrected him. "I am an 18-year-old studying in a Rabbinical seminary. Perhaps one day I will be a rabbi."
"Yes, but you can read from the Torah. You know how to blow the shofar, lead the prayers, and put up some mezuzot. We here cannot do this very well. We are isolated on this island."
The man's name was Abraham. I knew this from having spoken to him on the phone. Other than knowing his name, I knew nothing about him though I'd learn a lot as he welcomed me to stay in his home for the following weeks.
Abraham spoke with me in French. I understood most of what he was saying with my Montreal Quebec French, though there were some differences. When we needed clarification we switched to broken Hebrew. Abraham had never been to Israel but his parents had taught him some Hebrew when he lived in Algeria.
The truth was I had not wanted to come to New Caledonia for the High Holidays. I had just spent almost an entire year of intensive study in Australia and was scheduled to fly home to Montreal. I wanted to see my family and friends. There was also a synagogue in Montreal that had offered to pay me $800 to conduct services over the High holidays.
But two weeks before the end of the school term a call had come through. The Jewish community of New Caledonia wanted a rabbi for a few weeks. The senior yeshiva students laid a "guilt trip" on me. I was the only student in the yeshiva who could lead a service, blow shofar, and speak French. In addition, they knew that I had solo backpacked around Europe, so they thought I might just be crazy enough to go solo to this French Polynesian island.
After a large dose of hearing that I was the only one who could do the job, I agreed to go. I found someone who would lend me a small Torah scroll provided I insure it. Also, as requested by the community, I purchased 10 mezuzot and 50 kipot on the agreement that they would pay me back for everything.
Though I wouldn't earn the money I could have earned in Montreal, I imagined that I would at least have some fun exploring the island. But upon arriving in New Caledonia, I wasn't so sure about that.
In the week preceding Rosh Hashana, I visited Jews in and around Numea. I affixed 10 mezuzot to door-posts, put tefilin on people, helped a boy find a yeshiva in Israel, and even had an interview with a local newspaper. I was kept busy teaching Torah and it seemed as if all 150 Jews wanted to meet and talk with me.
I was asked to sit through a number of community meetings and I gave my two cents when asked, and sometimes even when not. At one point they were discussing building plans for a new synagogue and mikva. One of the big donors did not want to give any money towards the construction of the mikva. "If you have money for just a synagogue or a mikva, Jewish law requires that you build a mikva," I explained. It took a little more convincing, but in the end he agreed to contribute.
I finally did get a few days break in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. A wealthy community member rented for me a wave runner for a full day. I rode from one island to the next, stopping off to snorkel in the reefs teaming with magnificent coral and fish life. The next day he gave me a plane ticket to one of the smaller neighboring islands. I cycled around, exploring native villages where people lived in grass huts, caves filled with bats, and deserted white sandy beaches. I picked green coconuts to drink and found plenty opportunities to escape into my own tropical paradise.
When I got back Abraham set me up to go spear fishing with one of the local champions he knew well. Needless to say I didn't spear anything but the fisherman gave me half his catch to take back for Abraham to cook for us. It was a delightful change from canned tuna.
The two and a half weeks flew by. As Abraham drove me to the airport, I sat in the car thinking; "Even if I did not make any money I accomplished a lot and had a great time. The money made in Montreal would have been nice, but I got to have an incredible experience." In addition, I had a direct flight to Montreal and would please G-d see my family in the next 24 hours.
"We are very thankful that you came and for all your help," Abraham said, as he bid me good-bye. "We want to give you something as a token of our appreciation." He handed me an envelope. In the envelope there was $1000 Australian which equaled $800 Canadian based on the exchange rate at that time. I had just received the same amount of money that I would have earned had I forgone New Caledonia and gone home to Montreal.
At the young age of 18, my trip to New Caledonia had helped me realize that I could not make one penny more or less than what G-d had intended for me. I did the right thing by coming to help the New Caledonian community, I had an awesome experience, and I received the exact amount of money that was destined to be mine.
Read more of Rabbi Ben's adventures at travelingrabbi.com
- (Back to text) The Talmud (Beitza 16a) states that the amount a person will earn for the year is determined in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, except for one's expenditures in honor of Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and for the Torah education of one's children.
Whatever the Weather
In this beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book, a young boy and his lively family enjoy every type of weather that G-d sends their way. And at the end of Whatever the Weather, it becomes clear exactly how snow, wind, rain and sunshine benefit the whole world. A great way to explore nature and increase a child's appreciation for G-d's universe. This newest release from HaChai Publishing was written by Shainy Peysin and illustrated by Emily Owens.
Freely adapted and translated from a letter of the Rebbe
18th of Elul, 5735 (1974)
Rosh Hashanah is the "head" of the year, hence a source of direction and instruction to guide the Jew's conduct each and every day of the year, as the head directs all the limbs of the body.
Being that Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of the creation of the first man, Adam, the progenitor of all mankind, it behooves us to reflect earnestly and deeply on the teachings of Rosh Hashanah, as these are explicitly or implicitly indicated in the Torah.
The Talmud states: "The first person was created on the eve of Shabbos. Why? It may be likened to a king who built a palace, perfected it, arranged a feast, and then invited guests... Such is the way of the Holy One blessed be He, Who created... the whole world with wisdom and all worldly needs (and then he brought in guests), namely, Adam and Chavah (Eve).
Yet, the Torah also declares, "Man unto toil is born," and that every person should live by the credo, "I was created to serve my Creator."
How are these two contradictory ideas about the purpose of man to be reconciled? If man is G-d's honored "guest" who finds everything ready and prepared for him, how can he at the same time be a "servant" who has to serve G-d constantly, and in a manner of real effort (toil)?
One explanation of the apparent contradiction is that precisely the combination of both characteristics provides a profoundly meaningful instruction in life, down to everyday living, which expresses itself in several aspects:
- It was expected of Adam and Chavah - which is a guideline for every Jew, man and woman - that even when they find themselves in a situation as if in a royal palace, which is provided with not only all requirements, but also "to perfection," and they are invited to it as honored guests, it behooves them to make of it a service to G-d, the Creator of the whole universe.
The highest degree of this achievement is found in Moses, as the Torah tells us. For, while the Torah testifies that "No other prophet arose in Israel like Moses, to whom G-d made Himself known face to face," yet, when he attained his highest degree of perfection, or, as our Sages expressed it, when he reached the "fiftieth portal of understanding," he was still "Moses, G-d's servant."
On the other hand, as it has often been pointed out, a Jew serves G-d not only through prayer, Torah study, and doing mitzvot, but also - to quote Maimonides - with his eating and drinking... and in all his deeds, even sleeping. For a Jew must prepare himself before going to bed in a way that his sleeping is elevated thereby to the status of Divine service - which is one of the reasons, indeed the deeper content, of the Shema before retiring to sleep.
- A second aspect, which likewise has to express itself in the daily life, is that G-d gave Adam and Chavah - and through them to all Jews, men and women, to the end of posterity - the capacity and ability to "serve," that is, to add something to the "palace" with all its requirements, notwithstanding the fact that these were created by G-d, with Divine wisdom.
Thus, however good the state of affairs is around a person and with the person, everyone can (hence, must) bring it to a higher degree of perfec-tion, to the extent of - to quote the remarkable expression with which the Torah describes man's contribution to Creation - becoming a "partner with the Holy One blessed be He in the work of Creation." In other words, he is capable of contribu-ting so much that the Torah, Toras Emes - the Torah of Truth, declares him qualified as a "partner."
- With the above aspects in mind, every Jew should find it easier to do what must be done in order to rise ever higher in all matters of Torah and Mitzvos (commandments), and Judaism in general, in full accord with man's purpose and life's destiny - I was created to serve my Creator. Let everyone just consider the wonderful powers with which G-d has endowed every Jew, even to become a partner - not in a small thing, and one thing, but - in the entire universe, created by G-d's Wisdom!
- The said contribution cannot be achieved in full measure through a limited, sporadic service, rendered on special occasions, or at certain times; but - only through a way of life which expresses itself in every-day service, by consecrating every act, word, and thought to be for the sake of Heaven, and consonant with the principles of know Him in all your ways - so that G-dliness clearly pervades all details of even mundane matters, and, as noted above, even while eating and drinking, etc. on an ordinary working day of the week.
- In the area of "to serve my Creator" there is the well-known directive to serve G-d with joy, and also with deep, inner elation derived from the realization of being privileged to serve G-d.
May G-d grant everyone success in the efforts to achieve all the above, and in the way of joy and pleasure.
May G-d eliminate anything that might hinder it, G-d forbid, by "working salvation in the midst of the earth," in an obvious and revealed manner - including the essential,
To grant every Jew and all Jews a good and sweet year in all respects and in all aspects.
With blessing for a Kesivo vachasimo toivo for a good and sweet year,
ADAM means earth. In Genesis 2:7 we read of the creation of Adam: "Then the L-rd G-d formed the man (adam) from the dust of the earth (adama)."
ADINA is Hebrew for "delicate" or "refined." In I Chronicles 11:42, we read of a warrior known for his bravery in King David's army, Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite. In more recent times, Adina is used as a feminine name.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On the eve of this new year, 5772, we would like to wish the entire Jewish People our sincerest blessings for a k'siva vachasima tova, l'shana tova u'msuka - to be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year, with blessings from every letter of the Hebrew Alef-Beis. May this year be:
A year of "Arise and have mercy on Zion,"... uplifted in matters of Moshiach and the Redemption... faith in G-d and Moses His servant... traveling with the Heavenly clouds... Revealed Wonders; Wonders in Everything... the building of the Holy Temple... trust; Great wonders... the true and complete Redemption; Dignified Wonders... victory... the seventh generation is the generation of Redemption...King David lives and is eternal; "Those who rest in the dust will arise and sing and he will lead them"... Moshiach is coming and he has already come... the revelation of Moshiach; "He will redeem us"... "And they believed in G-d and in Moses His servant"; "This one will comfort us"; the wonders of true freedom... a new song; an abundance of good (Rambam); the king shall live; inscribed and sealed for a good year... the harp of Moshiach; learning Moshiach's teachings; the coming of Menachem who will comfort us... the King Moshiach; wonders... revealed miracles... a double portion; treasures... the completion and end of exile... the revelation of the Infinite Divine Light; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived," wealth, materially and spiritually; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space," paratzta - 770; Your servant David will go forth; the ingathering of the exiles... acceptance of his sovereignty by the people; Rebbe - Rosh B'nei Yisrael; peace... a new song... Moshiach's shofar... unity of the Torah, unity of the Jewish people, unity of the land of Israel; Resurrection of the Dead... "A new Torah will come from Me"
Give ear, O heavens and I will speak; listen, O earth to the words of my mouth (Deut. 32:1)
The Divine service a Jew is asked to perform involves the fusion of two opposites. We must serve G-d with simple faith and accepting G-d's authority, which stem from the essence of the soul and transcend our understanding. But our Divine service must also involve our conscious powers of intellect and emotion. They too must perceive G-dliness. The bond which the essence of the soul shares with G-d must be extended into the realm of the conscious powers, so that we will serve G-d with more than simple faith. We will also be able to understand G-dliness, love Him, and hold Him in awe.
(Likutei Sichot, Vol. 4)
The essential G-dly potential within a Jew allows him to be simultaneously "close to the heavens" while he is immersed in the application of Torah to worldly concerns. His state of spiritual elevation elevates, without negating, his existence within the material world.
(Sichot Kodesh, Ha'azinu-5751)
I will heap misfortunes upon them; I will use up My arrows on them (Deut. 32:23)
Comments Rashi, "My arrows will be spent, but they [the Jewish people] will not be spent." All the nations who have oppressed the Jews throughout the ages will eventually be punished with extinction, but the Jewish people will exist forever, despite the persecutions against them.
The Jews of the tiny village near the town of Ushamir suffered terribly under the heavy hands of the dictatorial manager of the lands they leased. He worked them to the bone, though nothing they did ever pleased him. Things were bad enough in normal times, but when he decided to vent his rage, life became completely unlivable, for the manager would cut their salaries without a second thought. This manager was, sad to say, actually a Jew.
No one knew where he had come from or what his past was, but as far as the present was concerned, it was a known fact that his tie to Jewishness was in his origin only, and even that was a burden to him.
It was the week before Rosh Hashana and the tzadik (righteous person), Rabbi Mordechai Dov of Hornistopol arrived in the town of Ushamir for Shabbat. It was his custom during the month of Elul to travel through all the nearby towns and villages to arouse the hearts of the people to the worship of the Creator and urge them to return to Him in full repentance.
Hundreds of Jews from all the neighboring settlements streamed to Ushamir to spend Shabbat together with the rebbe. Among those who came were many Jews from the nearby village. After Shabbat, the people were given an opportunity to speak to the tzadik to receive his blessings.
The residents of the next village decided amongst themselves that this would be a chance to tell Reb Mordechai Dov about the manager. With great sorrow the rebbe listened to their heartbreaking story. He was particularly distressed when he heard that the man was a Jew. "Wait till tomorrow, and we'll see what is possible to do," the rebbe told them.
The next day, right after the morning service, Reb Mordechai Dov asked his attendant to get the carriage ready. He then told the carriage driver to travel to the neighboring village. The inhabitants of the village who were at that very time preparing to return home, were very surprised.
In great haste, they, too, jumped into their wagons and followed the tzadik. A veritable caravan of wagons set out, the carriage of Reb Mordechai Dov leading the way. When the caravan reached the shtetl the tzadik inquired where the manager lived, and instructed his driver to proceed there.
When the villagers saw the caravan with the tzadik in the lead, they emerged from their homes and stood outside in anticipation. All the while, the tzadik was very withdrawn, saying nothing. When they saw from afar the large and beautiful mansion which was the residence of the land manager, all the people drew to a halt. "What is the tzadik going to do?" they wondered. "What will he say to that wicked one?" they asked one another. "Perhaps with the gaze of his holy eyes, he will turn the manager into a pile of bones," they thought, hopefully.
Standing on the porch, watching the scene, in all his glory, pipe in mouth, stood the land manager, his entire appearance reeking of arrogance. Yet, as the caravan approached his house, one could see the questioning look of wonder cross his face: What was the meaning of this procession?
Reb Mordechai Dov asked that his carriage halt just in front of the house. Behind him stretched a long line of wagons as far as the eye could see. The tzadik lifted his eyes and beheld the beautiful mansion. He noticed that the manager was studying him intently. The tzadik looked in his direction with a steady and unwavering glare. Reb Mordechai Dov got down from the carriage and walked toward the mansion. The others, eyes focused on the tzadik, didn't budge. Reb Mordechai Dov reached the door and after a few seconds, the door opened up from inside.
The tzadik and his attendant entered the house. Only a few minutes passed and the tzadik and his attendant left the house, climbed up on the wagon and departed. What happened inside, the people heard later from the attendant who reported that from the moment the manager had opened the door and until they departed, not one single word was spoken!
With a small nod of his head the manager motioned for them to enter and pointed to a chair for the tzadik to sit on. He, then sat opposite them. The tzadik put both hands on the table, straightened his back and lifted his pure eyes, to look directly into eyes of the evil dictator.
At first, the manager returned his gaze with a hard, defiant look. But gradually as the seconds turned into minutes, his glance began to soften. The gaze of the tzadik, however, which had started off soft and merciful, gradually became deeper and harsher.
Then, the eyes of the manager grew moist; a large tear rolled down his cheek. At that moment the tzadik rose from his seat, and without a word walked to the door. The manager remained motionless in his seat, as if nailed to his place, unable to even accompany his guest to the door.
That day the tzadik remained in the village. Everyone who had not been in Ushamir that Shabbat now was able to receive the tzadik's blessing. Towards evening, when the house in which the tzadik was staying had emptied of all the people, a bowed figure was seen approaching the house. It was the manager. He entered the house in an agitated state, as if pursued by demons. For the next two hours he was closeted with the tzadik.
That Rosh Hashana a new and unexpected worshipper appeared in shul. It was of course, the manager. For the holiday, he stood practically motionless, wrapped in talit and praying, and weeping copious tears.
From that day on, the estranged and despotic manager changed into a true repentant and a friend of his fellow Jews.
In the Amida prayer recited daily throughout the year, we beseech G-d for the true and complete Redemption. In the Amida of Rosh Hashana, we intensify our prayers with five blessings in which we implore G-d to sanctify His Name on the Holy Temple, for His sovereignty, for the kingship of the house of King David, and similar references to the Redemption. Thus, throughout our Rosh Hashana prayers, we should surely pray for the complete Redemption!
(The Rebbe, 2nd day of Rosh Hashana 5744-1984)