Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova!

As we are winding down in the final hours before the start of Rosh HaShana tonight, I wanted to take a moment and say a few things. I hope that all of you have a great year, that we reflect on the previous year, and know how we can do better in the upcoming one.

I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about this upcoming chag:

The Piasencza Rebbe, Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira, tells a parable to help understand this time of year:
There was once a king who sent his tax collector to collect unpaind dues from the people of a certain villiage. Ten miles from the villiage the wealthy members of the community went out to greet the taxman; he was so overwhelmed by the joyous greeting that he removed 1/3 of the taxes. Five miles from the villiage the middle class members went out to greet him; he again removed 1/3 of the taxes from the bill. And then, one mile from the villiage, the poor came out to greet the taxman with songs and dancing, so he again removed the last 3rd of the bill. So too on Rosh HaShana, when the great people of our community plead to God to forgive our sins, that will remove 1/3 of our debt.
The Piaseczna Rebbe continues and suggests that this is our relationship to Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and the seven days inbetween them. The work that we do in preparation of the upcoming holiday and during Rosh HaShana itself, we can have 1/3 of all of our sins forgiven. And another 3rd if we remember these lessons during the next seven days, and Yom Kippur will clean our slate completely if we head into the day with the proper trepidation and humility for our previous regresses.

This year, since the first day of Rosh HaShana falls out on Shabbat, we do not blow the shofar as usual; so it may be harder for us to get into the mood of the day without one of the most important rituals. The removal of the shofar is due to a 2,000 year old decree found in the Mishnah RH 4:1:
When the holy day of Rosh Hashanah fell on a Shabbat, in the Temple they would blow, but not in the medinah (surrounding area of Jerusalem and countryside).
The usual explination is that the Rabbis did not want people to break the laws of Shabbat by carrying their shofar to be used on Rosh HaShana. Fine, but there's a deaper idea here too. The Netivot Shalom (R' Shalom Noach Berezovski) connects the mishna above to the idea of "Bilvavi Mishkan evneh - In my heart I will build Him a Temple". This year on Rosh HaShana, we may not use our medina - our surrounding body - for shofar blowing, but we will use our hearts to blow the shofar on Shabbat.

From Jerusalem, wishing you all long life and happiness, Chag Sameach u'Metuka!

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