One of the strangest things that hit me this year leading up to Yom Kippur, was that this was only the 3rd Yom Kippur where I would be defined as “shomer shabbat”. Only 2 years ago I started? It seems like forever that I’ve been “frum.” It’s amazing how in such a short time I’ve grown so much, and how I view certain things so differently.
Just a few years ago,Yom Kippur was the day I couldn’t eat and had to spend long boring hours in shul. Sure there was the aspect of Teshuva and forgiveness but is basically came down to being tired and hungry. This year in the preparation leading up to Yom Kippur I hardly even thought about the food. I’ve come to realise that fasting on Yom Kippur is merely a means to an end, not the end in and of itself. It’s a day about cleanisng ourselves, about removing all the physical and wordly distractions and reaching the elevated level of angels, of that ultimate Devekut between the Neshama and HaKadosh Baruch Hu – the closest we can get in this world anyway.
And it’s such a great feeling to look back and know that except for the half-hour break during the day’s Tefillah I hardly thought about food, didn’t really get tired or wish to sit down. Instead I was concentrating fully (almost) on the heartbreaking viduy – the neverending list of mistakes I made during the year, and the thing that makes it so painful – the potential for closeness, for the greatest relationship I could wish for, if I would just play my part.
In one sense, having been a “ba’al teshuvah” for a substantail period of time makes the whole Teshuvah process a little bit harder to get into. I look back and remember how 2 years ago I was confessing about things like driving on shabbat, eating blatanlty non-Kosher food and other “biggies”. It’s tempting to look at how far I’ve come and say “You know you’re not so bad anymore. Everything you do is basically ok.” But of course that’s the advice of the Yetser Hara. The fact that I know so much more now means I have an even higher level of responsibility and there are so many things I don’t do now that I didn’t even know about back then (Bittul Torah is a striking example)
I heard from one of my Rabbis an explanation of the pasuk “Kaveh el Hashem, chazak veya’ametz libecha vekaveh el Hashem” along these lines, based on the Sfat Emet. He said it’s easy for a person to get to Rosh Hashanah and think to himself, “You know, I’m basically OK. I keep most mitzvot, I learn every day, I come to Tefillah on time, I treat my friends pretty well. Sure, Rambam wrote 10 perakim of Hilchot Teshuvah, Ramchal wrote Mesillat Yesharim, R’ Yonah wrote Sha’arei Teshuvah, but they weren’t meant for me. The guy who sits behind me in the Bet Midrash, now HE needs help but I’m doing ok.” Forget it. You’ve still got to work to do. Even if you have done Teshuva and raised yourself up now’s not the time to give yourself a pat on the back. Chazak veya’ametz libecha… veKaveh el Hashem. Even more!!
Yom Kippur is definitely a day of emotional contrasts. On the one hand, it’s a unique opportunity to start afresh, to wipe out all the black marks, remove all the stains and begin the year ahead, atoned for, cleansed and pure. On the other hand, the recognition of just how low we’ve fallen is nothing less than tragic.
I think this contrast plays itself out most poignantly in the tefillot of Mussaf. The piyyut of the avodah describing the Kohen Gadol and the entire ceremony performed in the Beit HaMikdash comes to a climax with a song describing the simcha and majesty at the end of the day when the Kohen Gadol, having emerged from the Kodesh Kodashim unscathed, exited the Beit HaMikdash and returned home amidst a scene of great celebration. As we sang and clapped, I thought of the story of the Gemara of how Alexander the Great got off his horse and bowed down to Shimon HaTsaddik – how majestic the appearance of the Kohen Gadol must have been. And more than that, standing in Yeshivat HaKotel we were just a few metres away from where it all happened. (The fact that I had learned the mishnayot of Yoma this year and understood the whole sequence of the avodah also helped matters) At this point we were right there in the Beit HaMikdash on Yom Kippur, after the sa’ir hamishtaleach had been sent away, the korbanot has been brought, the blood sprinkled, incense offered up, Kohen Gadol emerged from the Kodesh Kodashim unscathed, and all of Israel’s sins atoned for. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And then with a flip of one page in the machzor, I was brought back down to the ground. It felt like those great men who composed our Tefillot were saying to me – remember what we had, go back in time and really live it, but before you head gets stuck too high in the clouds, come back down to reality. Put your feet back down on the ground. Look outside the window and see what’s on Har HaBayit today. Look at how far we have fallen. As I read along with the piyyutim comparing the avodah we had just read about to our present woeful state it didn’t take very long for my eyes to start welling up with tears. And at the end of that section came the Ten Martyrs. If that’s not enough to bring somebody to tears I’m not sure what is.
Something else that made this past Yom Kippur an incredible experience was the fact that I was davening in a Yeshiva and not a shul. For the first time it wasn’t a case of looking over my shoulder every few minutes wondering how people would look at me if I started crying, praying silently for too long, or screaming for mercy too loud. I was in an environment where everybody was really in the right mood – they weren’t there because they had to be, because it was the long, boring, hungry day in shul, but because they wanted to be there – and were cherishing the rare opportunity for that renewal of the relationship with their Creator.
How strange it is to think that just a few years ago I stood all day waiting for Yom Kippur to end, now only a few minutes after Havdalah, I was already looking forward to next year.
I guess in a sense the real work begins only after Yom Kippur. On that day the Kedusha is inate, there’s special assistance from Above and it’s pretty easy to do everything right. But once it’s over and we get back to all our creature comforts, it’s a little bit harder not to fall back into all the cracks we’ve slipped through during the year. Hopefully I’ll get to next Yom Kippur and just afew of those Viduys will be a little less relevant.
Originally Posted Oct 09, 2006
Do you remember your first Yom Kippur as an observant Jew?
How has the experienced changed over the years?
Has the fast gotten easier?
Has the daven gotten easier?
In what ways do you have a greater appreciation of the day?
What advice would you give to someone who says they can’t relate to such long davening or to one of the central themes-all the sacrifices?
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our contributors, commentors and readers for writing and reading Beyond BT.
A Kesiva V’Chasima Tova to all!
Rosh Hoshana to Go including Strategies for a Transformative Teshuva.
Chicago White Sox adjust schedule to Accommodate Yom Kippur.
10Q is a website that asks and provides a space to answer Ten Questions from Rosh Hoshana to Yom Kippur. Here are there questions from a few years back.
• What’s a significant experience that has affected you over the past year?
• What is something you would have done differently over the past year?
• What is a major milestone that affected your family in the past year?
• What global event most affected you last year, and why?
• Have you had any experiences this past year that changed the way you thought about spirituality?
• What’s one specific thing that you would like to accomplish by this time next year?
• Is there a part of yourself (physical, emotional, intellectual) that you want to work on in the coming year?
• Is there a specific person, cause, or idea that you want to learn more about in the coming year?
• Is there a fear that has limited you in the past year? Do you think you could overcome it next year?
The following article appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of the Summer Issue of the Klal Perspectives Journal. If you would like to contact the author directly, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Yitzchak Talansky
Rabbi Moshe Weinberger’s article, ”Just One Thing is Missing: The Soul,” must strike a chord in anyone concerned with the malaise affecting our society. However, his presentation of the nature of the problem, its source, and more significantly his ideas for how to deal with it, give pause for thought. To a degree, this is an issue of emphasis, for רחמנא ליבא בעי is surely part and parcel of our religious outlook, and a yiddishkeit performed by rote, devoid of the fire and passion that so characterized previous generations, is hardly what we are striving for.
Having said that, I propose that the problem lies not in the paucity of emphasis placed on experience and connection, but paradoxically, on the overemphasis of these elements. Almost without noticing, we have adopted the strategy of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” But unfortunately, we have entered a losing battle, because in trying to make the experience of Judaism better than the rest, we have agreed essentially to compete on their terms. By “their” I refer to the modern gentile world, which is characterized by a sophisticated as never before appeal to the senses.
What Rabbi Weinberger essentially advocates is a return to Tevye the milkman. Indeed, it certainly would be preferable if we lived with the kind of everyday relationship with Hashem that he did. But I seriously doubt that short of moving back to Anatevka, we will be able to replicate the feeling of dependency that Tevye had when he mounted his horse, – when we turn on the ignition in our Toyota. The gentile world has very much succeeded in strengthening the apparent causal nexus in life, (to a degree, that actually was their goal,) and we will have to adapt to this new reality. We ignore it at our own peril.
However there’s an even more basic issue. Although there certainly is a prominent place for emotion and feeling in avodas Hashem, one cannot build his religious foundation on it. Human emotion is too fickle; like grains of sand, it blows this way and then that way. One may be inspired to great heights, moved to high levels of deveykus, but then it wears off. By nature inspiration is sporadic, not the solid stuff necessary to build a bedrock of religiosity. The foundation must be built on the solid rock of commitment, and then reinforced with an iron sense of accomplishment. In contrast to emotion, commitment, a firm intellectually based decision to follow a certain path, is by definition, long lasting.
After the first step of commitment, comes connection, which results from involvement, primarily in learning. Not because the laws of a cow that gores will consciously give one a feeling of closeness to G-d, but rather because learning represents the actualization of commitment, which subsequently yields the fulfillment that accompanies accomplishment. For actualizing a commitment is the greatest accomplishment of all, and will naturally be experienced as such, with one critical caveat; people are trained to understand what they’re doing.
This then should be our two pronged educational goal; lorifying commitment fulfilled recasting learning from an endeavor whose sole purpose is defined and measured in terms of intellectual advancement, to one that carries ultimate meaning in and of itself as the fulfilling of a commitment.
To sum up, what strengthens more than anything, a person’s commitment to Torah and mitzvos is a feeling of accomplishment. Rather than increasing the shabbatonim and storytelling quotient in our educational system, we should increase the stress on the accomplishment that is learning.
“The defectors who simply couldn’t go on hiding and faking,” are empty because they have been raised in an environment that inculcates a need to feel constantly “high.” The antidote to this poison is not to try and outdo the other side with an even bigger high, but to reject the whole approach outright. “Lord get me high, get me higher,” sang Reb Shlomo a”h, but he was singing to people who were lost. People who had no commitment, who whose entire frame of reference was secular. This is still employed with some degree of success for that target audience by some in the kiruv industry. But that is not the approach for us. “Lama Nigara?” Because we thankfully, are not starting from ground zero.
Instead we should inform/teach those “who listlessly drag their feet through the motions of avodas Hashem,” who evidently have some degree of commitment, that it is a great and wonderful thing they do. Not a charade, but rather, an incredible accomplishment. Living with Hashem’s dictates, following His Torah, learning His Torah – even without any great kavanos, and intentions, indeed without any intentions at all – there’s nothing more significant in the entire creation. And then to encourage them, that when one does all this with fervor, it’s that much greater. As the Nefesh Hachaim stresses over and over, actions trump intentions, they come first and are more significant even when devoid of feeling.
Yes, we will be going against the tide. In a consumerist world which values experience above all, and has raised the attainment of new and varied experiences to the highest of levels, we will be saying no. But our adherents will come to recognize the joy and value in commitment, of sacrifice, of earning something through self-denial, of sticking-to-it even when you don’t feel like it. They will be energized to try harder, because they will find satisfaction and fulfillment in the effort expended itself, rather than in the experience promised to them.
With the proper training… sacrifice breeds fulfillment.
The reason ”something inside has died,” is not because it was a candle in the wind, but because there’s no longer a candle underneath at all. That being the case, a million sparks and attempts to light it will fail. What is needed is the laying of a solid foundation of commitment, followed by a strong sense of accomplishment. Rabbi Weinberger himself unwittingly alludes to this solution when he writes that “Our communities…..are swarming with Jews….who feel little connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu…..this is apparent to anyone who has taken a peak outside the beis medrash.” Exactly.
This is not about intellectualism per se. It’s about commitment. Intellectualism is for the minority, but then again, the subset of people who can rise to the level of שויתי השם לנגדי תמיד by emphasizing relationship with Hashem, while existing in the modern workplace is just as small as the intellectual elite. But commitment is democratic; everyone can do it, and everyone can feel fulfilled from it. Young and old, male and female, more spiritual types and less spiritual types, ffb’s and bt’s.
Rather than merely noting that “the most sought after speakers and teachers are not known for their scholarship, but for their ability to inspire….by sharing their own experiences and struggles, we should be donning ashes and sackcloth over such a state of affairs! NCSY has won. It has replaced shiurim in our community’s intellectual life. Of course it has, it requires little effort and makes you feel good too. What’s not to like? But… what do you have to show for it, down the road?
Parenthetically, this whole approach has its roots in the twin devils of narcissism, and the need for instant gratification. “How do I feel?” starts with a concentration on “me.” Furthermore “How do I feel?” implies, how do I feel …at the moment. I want to feel close to G-d, and I want it now. Right now. What is actually needed is patience – patience to work slowly over a lifetime to instill in one’s heart the real relationship with Hashem that only comes by going down that road. “The Jew has taught me how to wait,” remarked Henrik Ibsen the Dutch playwrite. Halevai that it would be so today.
There’s an inescapable irony in Rabbi Weinberger’s observations, that the Aish Kodesh himself was bemoaning his lack of soul (understood, at his lofty level.) And at 40 years old no less. The attainment of an ongoing relationship with Hashem, keenly felt, is presented as a fairly simple accomplishment, accessible to one and all. In reality, it’s a madreiga of the highest order. It comes only after a lifetime of hard work.
Going to a shabbaton and being uplifted by the experience is very nice, but it’s fleeting. Viewed in a certain way, it can actually be dangerous because it gives people the impression that they are achieving something, when in reality they are simply answering emotional needs –having little to do with religious devotion, – that find redress in that type of setting. True, NCSY employs this method to great effect, but again, with a particular audience and with a very specific end-goal in mind, moving the kids on to yeshiva. It’s not a model to emulate for mainstream chinuch.
The end result of the kiruv oriented approach is that after 12 years of yeshiva education, and many more years of hearing inspirational speakers, people are left with very little content. No wonder they feel empty.
Incidentally, this approach has ramifications for many areas in life. When a couple expects to be inspired in marriage all the time…..well, we see what the end result often is. Contrast that with the approach that both partners understand that they are in it for the long haul, for better or for worse. That’s a marriage based on commitment, and it looks completely different.
A friend of mine with twenty years’ experience teaching limudei kodesh on Long Island in a well respected Modern Orthodox high school shared with me a few years ago the school’s educational goals. He said that all they try to do is get the kids to Israel. When I inquired as to why they didn’t think they could accomplish anything more substantial in four years, he responded that they were too busy being mekarev the kids to teach them anything. But these kids get to Israel needing more kiruv than ever!
Can this be called successful education? Maybe things would look different if the kids came out knowing something, and appreciating it. If graduating boys knew 10 daf, (20?) and had it drummed into them that this is an amazing accomplishment, an accomplishment for the ages, they would feel differently about themselves and their relationship to Yiddishkeit. If girls knew a whole sefer of Tanach well, maybe they would feel like they are getting somewhere. (This approach is as equally valid for girls, as it is for boys.)
Is the entire phenomenon of daf yomi not an exemplary proof of this approach? Forgive me daf yomi attendees but, it’s not the intellectual accomplishment. (As a pundit once said, when the Romans outlawed Torah learning, they didn’t have daf yomi in mind.) It’s the experience of learning, of fulfilling a commitment, – ingeniously celebrated with glossy saturation PR campaigns, and attendant mass gatherings. The results speak for themselves.
Indeed, the approach that Rabbi Weinberger advocates, is playing out before our eyes within the modern American yeshivas in Israel. Each succeeding yeshiva that opens, waters down its content a little more in the interest of kiruv. The end result is that this year, there is a new “yeshiva” opening that unabashedly announces on its web site that it offers gemara for a grand total of one hour a day, four days a week. Mind you, this is not a yeshiva for slow learners, or for intellectually challenged students. They are trying to get kids who are heading to the finest of colleges. Their pitch is…kiruv.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all panacea, and each one will find the path that suits his neshama. But the path to emunah for our generation, is the emunah gained from detecting and concurrently participating in the commitment that has characterized klal yisrael since its inception. As a matter of fact, this idea is inherent in the very meaning of the word “emunah.” which is correctly translated as “unswerving,” or “steadfast,” and relates to actions.
אל אמונה ואין עוול or ידיו של משה אמונה עד בא השמש
The English word “faith” represents a Christian concept.
As a program for school curricula, I propose that this emunah can be gained in two complementary ways;
appreciation of limud torah. When a student is involved in learning, over time he slowly perceives that he is part of an unbroken chain of commitment stretching more than three thousand years. In this commitment he is joining thousands of others great and small, he is in the same game and on the same team with the likes of Rava and Abaye, Rashi and Tosfos, the Vilna Gaon and R’ Akiva Eiger, as well as with untold thousands of simple but committed Jews just like himself. This should be stressed and brought out in the classroom, for it bestows a sense of transcendence.
history. Students who know Jewish history, – and secular history as well to provide context, – will be overwhelmed by the commitment that Klal Yisrael has shown to its ideals in myriad situations and places. This, too, affords them a context in which to see themselves as part of something larger than their individual selves.
“Making use of the methods commonly used in outreach such as storytelling, music, shabbatonim etc.” will lead to a completely superficial educational experience. Rather than the warm brand of experiential Yiddishkeit R’ Weinberger espouses, we need to get back to basics.
1. Explain to your children how Hashem actively seeks ways to forgive, and will forgive them – even if the best they can do is want to do teshuva.
2. Remind them that Yiddishkeit is not all-or-nothing – that their aveiros do not invalidate their mitzvos or diminish Hashem’s love.
3. Model the virtue of personal growth by sharing your own goals to improve a particular mitzvah or middah, or by working to improve something together with your children.
4. Urge them to privately recall something they wish they could undo, and reassure them that now is their opportunity to erase whatever they regret.
5. Share your personal stories of Hashgacha Pratis with your children to demonstrate Hashem’s direct involvement in your family’s day-to-day lives.
6. Encourage your children to focus on two or three things they truly appreciate as constant reminders of Hashem’s benevolence in their own lives.
7. Sincerely ask your children for mechilah during the Yomim Noraim to teach that everyone can make mistakes, and are equally worthy of being forgiven.
8. Suggest they undertake a small goal to improve their Yiddishkeit with reassurance that the most proper and effective way to grow is through small, obtainable steps of self-improvement.
9. Make a special effort during the Yomin Noraim to model Hashem’s middah of patience, compassion and forgiveness in your interactions with your spouse and children.
10. Show your children they are the center of your world. Postpone a meeting or ignore a phone call to make time for them so they’ll feel cherished and can comprehend that Hashem, too, considers them the center of His world.
For for more information about Priority-1’s training programs, resources and consultations for parents and educators, please call 800-33-FOREVER or visit http://www.priority-1.org
In the BT parenting recipe post the author wrote:
Very little interest in grades at school – middos are all that matter to me on their reports.
To which Ron Coleman commented:
I cannot comprehend how one can teach children “middos” while teaching them that grades — which for most people are the best evaluations we have of how kids are doing in school, which includes the (ethical) components of diligence and responsibility — don’t matter. The acceptance of mediocrity is a major cultural issue in our community and I strongly disagree with this suggestion.
Do you prioritize either middos or grades?
How do you put grades in their proper perspective?
How about students that work hard and still end up with “C”s?
Is effort and improvement more important than grades?
Dear Rabbi and Morah,
Hi and thank you for taking on the challenge of teaching my child this year. I am entrusting you with a precious gift that Hashem gave given my family and I know that you will do your best to help my child grow and reach his/her potential. I know that your classroom will probably be overcrowded this fall and that you have probably only had about 3 days of the entire summer not involved with school or your summer job.
I want you to know that you are appreciated. You have dedicated yourself to a system designed by Yehoshua ben Gamla that was meant to help our community’s children grow in their learning. I know that you feel your job is never done. I know that behind any trip to the grocery store, Target, a walk in the park on Shabbos, or minyan lurks the shadow of an impromptu parent-teacher conference. You have taken on the responsibility of children other than your own and this shows how big your heart really is.
I also want you to realized that my child, like most, is an individual. He might not learn the same as the other kids. She might not be as social as the other children. He might feel that that he is always picked last for sports during recess. She might love to draw. He might be the one that says, “Stop it!”, when the others are picking on someone and you are out of the room. She might give her snacks to another girl, who only brings a sandwich for lunch.
As an educator, I know that you value the positive influence you can have on my child. As a parent, I value the time and effort you put into your work. Many schools stress the importance of a partnership between teachers and parents. If we both have the goal of helping my child become the best person they can be, then we are bound for success.
As a person enters the Yommim Noraim there are two, possible paths and feelings that they may experience:
The teshuvah process starts with our supplications during Slichos the week before Rosh Hashannah with prayers such as “To us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukah”. The days of Slichos pass with deep introspection as the “Day of Judgment” looms ever closer. A sense of trepidation envelops us as we consider how will the scales of Judgment on this day be balanced? Will there be enough mitzvos to tip the scale of merit or the opposite, chas v’Shalom? Will we be written on the book of Life or ……
Rosh HaShannah arrives. While we partake of apples dipped in honey, angles tremble in the celestial spheres above – the world is being judged. Our prayers reflect their trembling and we fill them with supplication. Who can be found without flaws on this awesome day? We beseech Hashem to silence the Accuser and to bless our year with an abundance of life, children and sustenance. The shofar cries forth mirroring the sounds of the soul’s sobbing for deliverance.
The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent with a keen awareness of how “Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedukah avert the severity of the decree!”. We work to add merit to ourselves so that any accusations can be erased and these merits can seal us in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year. We seek the forgiveness of those whom we may have wronged so that we may also be forgiven by Hashem in turn.
Yom Kippur is spent with tears of remorse as our prayers recount our sins and we lament our past. Neliah offers the last opportunity for teshuvah as “the gates of prayer are closing”.
Rosh Chodesh Elul ushers in the “month of accounting”. We take stock and reflect on how the past year was spent in avodas Hashem. It marks the second ascension of Moshe Rebbainnu on Har Sinai to receive the Second Tablets; “Just as the first 40 days were days of auspiciousness, so too are the days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom HaKippor”….. We take advantage of Elul representing an “Ari Miklat”, a “city of refuge” where we utilized our time to complete any lacking in our avodas Hashem and to propel us forward to a state of “All of you are standing this day….”
With three weeks of introspection as well as increasing in Torah, prayer and gemilas chassudim – we turn to Hashem during Slichos and pray “The merciful Judge who answers the poor – answer us!”. While we indeed pray “To us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukah” – our “shamefacedness” is from recognizing Your greatness. We feel transparent like a candle flickering under the blinding light of the sun at high noon. “unto You is Tzedukah” – we do not request to be judged measure for measure and receive only a limited shining of Your countenance [which would be “Tzedek”, “judgment”] but rather we pine for Your tedukah – an unearned and unlimited radiance of Your Shechinah [“Tzedukah”]. The month of Elul and the week of Slichos provides us the general preparation needed to enter into the coronation of our King:
The Shofar blasts forth as we completely submit to Your will. Yes, we request an abundance of blessings for life, children and sustenance but only so that we may fulfill Hashem’s ultimate desire to have a dwelling place in this material world.
The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent striving for deeper levels of intimacy with Hashem through our teshuvah, tefillah and tedukah. We seek to repair our relationships since those who are beloved to the one we love, become beloved to us.
Finally, Yom Kippur arrives. We sing our viduy as we are cleansed with the sweat of our mitzvos and tears of joy – we have returned to who we really are and are united completely with our Heavenly Father. Yes, the gates are closing with Neliah – let them close – so that Hashem can be completely alone with His beloved bride – Klal Yisrael.
Two paths – each a 100% “kosher” derek in avodas Hashem. One emphasizes fear of Hashem; the other – love of Hashem. One emphasizes the lowliness of a person; the other – the greatness of Hashem. Each has an advantage the other doesn’t but:
Whereas tears unlock the gates of Heaven, joy bursts through its very walls….
May our teshuvah merit that we experience the sound of the Shofar HaGadol and surely we will be blessed with the ultimate of blessings – the return of our exiles to Zion and the building of the final Beis Hamikdash with the heralding of the complete Redemption.
Originally Posted Sept 21, 2006
Rosh Hoshana is almost here and the focus of the day is on the creation of the world and on Hashem as our Melech or King. How is this different then the creation we recognize every Shabbos? Secondly, how are we to understand this concept of Malchus or Kingship, and how is it different from the Malchus we accept twice a day when we say Shema?
Shabbos is focused on the initial creation of the world. We recognize Hashem as the creator of the physical world and the fact that creation was completed on the seventh day. Rosh Hoshana is focused on the creation of the plan for the world. According to the Ramchal, the plan is that G-d created a world where His presence would be hidden to some degree, and the world needs to strive to clearly recognize His presence and absolute control of the world. The key obstacles for developing that awareness is our own sense of self and control.
On Rosh Hoshana we recognize the plan, clarify the plan, and renew our wholehearted committment to it. A key component is the recognition of the Planner Himself, because in the plan of the creation, the King and our recognition of Him is intrinsic. The Kingship we accept on Rosh Hoshana is the recognition of the force behind the plan and his absolutely central role in all aspects of the plan. In the Shema we commit to the service that comes in the wake of the acceptance of the plan.
Every year when we recognize and recommit, we have the opportunity to redefine our role. The King stands ready to assist us in fulfilling the role which we can shape to some degree. This assistance takes the form of judgment.
Imagine a CEO who always did right by you. He tells you that next week you’ll have your yearly review, where your role will be assessed, your commitment measured, and you’ll receive constructive criticism on how to achieve your personal success. Any smart person would welcome that meeting, and prepare by exhibiting awareness of their deficiencies coupled with improvement strategies.
This is the self judgment of Rosh Hoshana, recognizing what we need to do to fulfill our role properly. When we perform this self-judgment properly, the King accepts our self-assessment. Put in its proper perspective, this judgment can be filled with joy as we anticipate with excitement our renewed commit to a deep and meaningful life.
Rabbi Dessler says that the first day of Rosh Hoshana is judgment for those fully committed to having a key role, while the second day is for those who will assist those who are fully committed. The first day is the performance review for the executives, with the second day is for the worker bees. This is an opportunity for all of us to join the executive class.
Although Rosh Hoshana is one of the ten days of Teshuva, we don’t perform the key ingredient of viduy (confession) on that day. Perhaps the reason is that to really do Teshuva properly (with regret and commitment to the future), we need to be very clear on the overall plan and our chosen role. On Rosh Hoshana we define the parameters of our Teshuva through our re-committment. On the days through Yom Kippur we start actualizing our role by working on our deficiencies through the full process of Teshuva.
It’s an awesome day with great potential for a bright new beginning. May we all merit to take full advantage of the opportunities it brings.
PS – Here’s a link for 3 Rosh Hoshana shiurim.