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   488: Rosh Hashanah

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L'Chaim
October 1, 1997 - 29 Elul 5757

488: Rosh Hashanah

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


 489: Yom Kippur  

The Ultimate Car Wash  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The Ultimate Car Wash

Most of us have been to a car wash at least once. The type that is the most fun for young and old alike is the one where you can stay in your car, shift into neutral and be carried along on the conveyor belt.

First, there's a spray of water from a few different sides, then the soap hits the car from somewhere else. Huge rubber things swish back and forth, loosening and then removing dirt and grime. For an extra buck-fifty your car can get a hot wax treatment. The last stage of this type of car wash is when big, squiggly pieces envelop the car and dry it without so much as a scratch. Thirty seconds after the wash cycle has begun, you're driving out in a car that looks like a million bucks. That is, until you realize that the inside of your car still has windows that are smudged, a few wrappers on the floor, an ashtray overflowing with gum wrappers, even some loose coins in the cracks of the seats.

The only way to get the inside of your car clean is to open the door and let some guys with windex, rags and a vacuum jump in and do the rest of the job.

On Rosh Hashana, it is possible to go to the synagogue, sit down, position ourselves in neutral and wait for the conveyor belt to begin moving. The rabbi zaps you from this side, the cantor and/or choir gets you from the other side, then comes the shofar blowing ceremony, the sermon, the Torah reading, and before your know it, the service is over.

We might walk out of shul on Rosh Hashana feeling like a million bucks, all clean and shiny. But eventually it hits us. We aren't any cleaner on the inside than when we walked in. All of those faults and bad habits we had promised ourselves we'd really change this year, are still unchanged. And no amount of sitting in the synagogue, no matter how much the seats cost, is going to change us.

How can we change? Unfortunately, it isn't a matter of letting someone in with rags and cleaning solution. It's much more difficult than that because we're the only ones who can really make sure that we're squeaky clean inside and out. Which isn't to say that change has to be a solitary experience. It certainly is easier when we have help and support from the people around us.

Like a car wash, however, cleaning the interior is intrinsically tied in with "opening up." Once we're open to change we're halfway there. This season of the High Holidays is the time when we contemplate our past behavior, our involvement in Judaism, our goals and values. It is a most appropriate time to begin making the necessary changes in our lives.

Let's open up to Judaism. Try something new. Attend a Torah study class. Read a Jewish book. Experience Shabbat. Try to buy only kosher food. Clean up the interior. Then we'll look and feel like a million bucks.

Based on a Rosh Hashana sermon by Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky - Chabad of Westlake Village, CA.


Living with the Rebbe

The Haftorah of the first day of Rosh Hashana relates the story of Chana, who was childless and came to the Sanctuary to pray. In the merit of her prayers she was blessed with a son--the prophet Samuel.

Eli the High Priest, seeing Chana so immersed in prayer and oblivious to her surroundings, suspected her of being intoxicated -- not from wine, but from the very act of praying.

"I am not drunk," Chana explained. "I am pouring out my soul before the L-rd." Through prayer, Chana's soul was uniting with G-d.


On Rosh Hashana we ask G-d to fulfill our needs. Our requests are spiritual and material: We ask Him to bless us with healthy children, long lives, and an abundant livelihood.

Rosh Hashana is the day of G-d's coronation as King, as we say, "Reign over the whole world in Your glory."

How do we accept G-d's sovereignty? By nullifying ourselves in His Presence. When we are completely nullified before the King, we are unaware of our personal desires, aware only of being in G-d's Presence.

This presents us with a seeming contradiction. If Rosh Hashana is characterized by an absence of self-perception, how can we simultaneously pray for the fulfillment of our personal requests?

When a Jew prays to G-d on Rosh Hashana, his prayer is an extension of the process of coronation. While superficially he may be asking G-d for material blessings, his true intention--whether consciously or subconsciously--is the desire to spread awareness of G-d's kingship in the world. By praying for material blessing, the Jew is merely asking for Divine assistance in fulfilling his G-dly mission on earth.


It was this concept that was unclear to Eli the priest. His contention was that when a Jew prays there is no room for personal requests; the awareness of being in G-d's Presence should be so intense that it precludes anything else. When Eli saw Chana praying for a child, he mistakenly concluded that she had forgotten G-d's Presence.

Not so, was Chana's reply. Her longing for a child was not a personal desire, but a wish to fulfill a greater mission in life. This is evident in the vow she made, that if G-d would bless her, the child would be given over for a life of total service of G-d. Chana wasn't asking G-d to fulfill her personal request; she was praying for G-d to fulfill His own needs!

So too is it with us on Rosh Hashana. Although our petitions are personal in focus, the true essence of our prayer is to unite with G-d.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, Volume 19


A Slice of Life

Prayers
by Yitta Mandel

When we met Reb Yoel, his eyesight was already poor. Yet, he would try to make a few dollars by going to cemeteries and asking people there whether he could "make a molei" for their departed relatives. When Reb Yoel became totally blind and could no longer earn any money, my mother-in-law undertook to provide him and his wife with food for Shabbat as well as for their weekly needs. When my husband's family was sitting shiva [the seven days of mourning], I asked to be the one to do the mitzva on that occasion.

The trolley-car brought me to a dilapidated house in Brownsville, Brooklyn. With the shopping bag in my hand I ascended a flight of creaky stairs. As I opened the door of their one-room apartment, I was greeted with great joy by the couple. Apparently they had been looking forward to this visit. Reb Yoel and his wife apologized repeatedly for having troubled me and they asked me to take a seat. With each dish and each package of food that I took out of the shopping bag, Reb Yoel and his wife showered me with new blessings. As I walked back to the trolley-car, I felt grateful to my mother-in-law for having taught her children such beautiful mitzvot.

Years later we were informed that Reb Yoel had passed away and that he had bequeathed his holy books to us. It was among these books that I found a great treasure. It was a prayerbook printed in the year 1834.

The beautiful leather binding was still in almost perfect condition. Many pages were darkened at the bottom from constant turning, bearing witness that the prayerbook had been used for a lifetime of Sabbath and daily prayers. The name of the owner, Rochel Segal, had been inscribed, apparently by her husband, in neat small Hebrew letters, whereas "her posuk" [a verse from the Bible beginning and ending with the same letters of her name] was printed elaborately in letters about three times as big.

It was not hard for me to find a most meaningful message engraved on those 140-year-old pages. Rochel Segal was not satisfied with an ordinary prayerbook. She practiced hidur -- the enhancement and beautifying of a mitzva. And the prayerbook was not merely an object for display; it was put to constant use. Last but not least, the words of the Torah were printed on the front page in prominent, eye-catching letters, overshadowing her own name. Otherwise, the prayerbook contained the same prayers we say today, except for one additional prayer, meant to be recited by expectant women, asking, in the name of our sainted mothers, for an easy delivery and a healthy and G-d fearing child.

Rochel Segal probably died more than a hundred years ago, yet her prayerbook left an immortal message. What happened to her clothes, her jewelry, her furniture, her grave, her family? I do not know, but her prayerbook is here to portray her life. How did she find the time to pray regularly? Possibly she was well off and had steady help. The small letters of her name indicate that nonetheless she remained humble. She may have enjoyed hobbies and outings with friends, but her appointment with her Creator took place regularly and devotedly.

But perhaps she was poor. What was her day like? There was no electricity then to put a washing machine into action, a mixer into beating batter, a radiator into heating a house. The family laundry took days. Wooden floors had to be scrubbed on hands and knees. Cooking and baking were done without gadgets, and coal and lumber had to be brought up from the cellar before the stove could be heated. Even a water faucet was not part of the kitchen. And yet, not mentioning the task of child-raising, there was time left to reach for a prayerbook three times a day.

I am in the second half of my life, but my prayerbook is not prepared yet. I may pray from one prayerbook or another, but I am ashamed to admit that none of them have the badge of honor of steady use on the bottom corners of their pages. My youngest child has been in school for several years now, and I could divide my day, diversified as my activities may be, in such a way as to set aside regular times for praying. When I am tired I often lie down and make a telephone call. It is rarely a five minute call, although it could very well be if I would limit my conversation to necessary messages only. Sometimes I put down the receiver after half an hour of chatting, tired and regretful that I have wasted my time and the time of my listener. I could have said a few chapters of Psalms instead, which would have given me new courage to face my tasks and the wonderful refreshing feeling which always results from prayer.

What will I leave behind someday? My wardrobe--I hope it will be of some use to somebody. My pictures--do they have much to say? My letters--perhaps there is some good in them.

After that, I hope there will be my prayerbook to testify that I have served G-d with prayers as I should have; as I could have with but a little willpower?

I gave the prayerbook from Reb Yoel and his wife to my daughter whose name is Rochel. But I still see it in front of me and I hope that I will remember the lesson that was engraved with love on its yellowed pages. In fact, I feel that of all the blessings the elderly couple gave me on that day I delivered food to them, this was the greatest blessing of all.

Reprinted from A Woman of Valor, published by the Lubavitch Foundation of London


A Call To Action

Keren Hashanah

There is a special Tzedaka Fund called - Keren Hashana, established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, under the auspices of Machne Israel for the purpose of ensuring its participants with the Mitzvah of giving Tzedaka every day. This fund disburses Tzedaka to charitable causes, every single day, on behalf of all those participating in this fund. Thus we are assured us that Tzedaka is given by all participants every single day of the year. (See Likutei Sichot Vol 2 p. 651.)

We trust that you would want to participate in this fund, established and nurtured by the Rebbe for many, many years. Indeed, the Rebbe would speak every year about the fund and encourage everyone to participate.

The number of days in the upcoming year 5758, is 354. Accordingly, the contributions to Keren Hashana should be in the amounts of 354 (dollars, quarters, dimes etc.).

Make checks payable to Machne Israel-Keren Hashana. Mail to: 770 Eastern Parkway - Brooklyn, NY 11213. You will receive your receipt directly from Machne Israel.


Listen to the sounds of the Shofar

The "mitzva of the day" on Rosh Hashana is to hear the sounding of the shofar. If you are house-bound or hospitalized and will not be able to attend Rosh Hashana services where the shofar will be sounded, call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center to find out if one of their volunteers can visit you and help you fulfill this important mitzva.


The Rebbe Writes

Following is a free translation of the Rebbe's Letter to the entire Jewish people 18th of Elul, 5750 [1990]

...Apropos of preparedness for the new year, it is well to reflect on the dual contents of every year: there is the general significance to each and all incoming years; and there is the special significance connected with certain specific features of a particular year, whereby the year differs from other years.

One such noteworthy feature of the incoming new year is that the two days of Rosh Hashana occur on Thursday and Friday, erev Shabbat, leading directly into the holy Shabbat, thus emphasizing and affirming the mutual character of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat.

The Rosh Hashana days -- the awe-inspiring days -- fill every Jewish heart with a holy trepidation that permeates one's whole being. The elevated perception of holiness is experienced not merely during many hours highlighted by preparation for and performance of the day's specific mitzva, namely, the sounding of the shofar; or the special prayers and supplications of Rosh Hashana, and the like; but it is a continuous experience throughout the entire duration of the two-day period of Rosh Hashana that permeates a Jew with the holy Rosh Hashana spirit.

And this inspiration finds expression in the conduct of every Jew -- man, woman, and child -- in addition to the general tendency to be more circumspect in behavior, what with spending hours in shul, abstaining from "unnecessary talk," utilizing every available minute in saying Psalms, and the like -- to the extent that even the meals of Rosh Hashana, which have been referred to in terms of "eat sumptuous foods and drink sweet beverages," are affected by the Rosh Hashana spirit of holiness (as stated in the conclusion of the verse), "for this day is holy unto Hashem."

Similar to it is the holiness of Shabbat: "You shall keep the Shabbat because it is holy." The G-dly holiness of Shabbat pervades every Jew, through and through, so that one feels different and inspired throughout the twenty four hours of Shabbat in all one's activities.

There is a well-known principle in our holy Torah: "What is repeated three times acquires the force of chazaka [permanence]." The term is derived from the word chozek, strength, and carries an assured presumption that having occurred three times, it will take hold and continue the same way.

If the principle applies to non-obligatory matters, it is certainly true in regard to matters of holiness that already have the quality of everlasting Torah endurance, where each action has a lasting and perpetual impact.

How much more so in the case of Rosh Hashana which is designated, literally, the head (rosh) of the year, not just the "beginning" of the year. This means that in addition to being the beginning of the year it is (also, and essentially) the " head of the year."

Just as the head directs all the organs of the body, and it is only in this way that each organ carries out its purpose in the fullest measure, also as an organ per se -- so Rosh Hashana directs and animates each and every day of the year in all particulars of the daily life.

Hence it is understandable that since there is a chazaka in the state of holiness mentioned above, it exercises a very strong influence on the entire year, so that all one's activities, in each and all days of the year, are carried out under the strong influence of the sublime holiness of the first three days of the year.

May the Almighty grant that every one of us, in the midst of Klal Yisroel [the Jewish People], should firmly resolve and act in accordance with the perceptions outlined above, and in a manner indicated at the head of this week's Torah portion starting: "You are standing firmly this day before Hashem, your G-d..." in your firm commitment.

Indeed, this resolve in all its aspects will bring about an ever growing measure of Hashem's blessings in general, and the Rosh Hashana blessing in particular: To be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually.

And more especially -- the blessing "for which we hope every day and all day" -- the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu, of whom G-d says, "I have found my servant David," very soon in our own days.

With esteem and blessing for a K'tiva vachatima tova and for a good and sweet year...


What's New

HIGH HOLIDAY AWAKENINGS

Chabad Lubavitch Centers around the world invite all Jews to participate in meaningful and moving High Holidays services filled with explanations, insights, inspiring Chasidic stories and warmth.

For reservations and information in Manhattan call Chabad of the Upper East Side at (212) 717-4613, Chabad of the Upper West Side at (212) 864-5010, Chabad of Midtown at (212) CHABAD-1, Chabad at NYU and Lower Manhattan at (212) 998-4114, Chabad of the Financial District at (212) 766-3633. For referrals in the rest of the New York area, call Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 953-1000. Outside of New York call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center or use the "DIRECTORY icon on the Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace website - www.chabad.org to find a Chabad Center in/near your area.

SUKKOT SPECTACULAR

Your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center will also help you celebrate the upcoming Sukkot holiday, beginning in the evening of October 15. All centers can provide information on how to build a simple sukka, and will assist you in obtaining lulav and etrog sets.

You can also check the site of the Sukkah Center - www.sukkah.com for purchasing Sukkos and/or any of your Judaica needs. [Put in a good word... tell them you heard about them from us - Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace].


A Word from the Director

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.


Thoughts that Count

Rosh Hashana

The literal translation of Rosh Hashana is "head of the year." Just as the head effects the rest of the body, so too does Rosh Hashana effect the rest of the year. On Rosh Hashana we resolve to better ourselves in the coming year. Also, the service of Rosh Hashana revolves around recognizing the sovereignty of G-d, which establishes an even deeper connection between man and G-d that is carried over throughout the year.

(Likutei Sichot)

This is the day the world was created

(from our Rosh Hashana prayers)

Actually the world was created on the 25th of Elul, five days earlier, and Rosh Hashana is the day that man was created. A human being has the unique ability to bridge the material and spiritual worlds, and thereby transform this physical world into a dwelling place for G-d, which is the purpose of creation. No other being has the choice to accept or reject His sovereignty, and when we accept Him by learning the Torah and observing the mitzvot, we are making this world a dwelling place for G-d. Thus, we are fulfilling the purpose of creation.

(Sichot Kodesh Nitzavim-Vayeleich)

You shall cast all their sins into the depths of the water (Micah 7:18-19)

It is customary on the first day of Rosh Hashana to approach a body of water and to shake out our pockets, symbolically casting our sins into the water. By standing before water, we are reminded of our purpose in this world. Initially, G-d created a world that was completely covered in water, but then decreed the emergence of dry land so that man would have an appropriate setting where he could properly serve G-d.

(From Tashlich, Mesorah Publications)


It Once Happened

Reb Yissachar Dov of Radoshitz took longer than usual on Rosh Hashana to join the congregants for the blowing of the shofar. When he finally came out of his room, he told his Chasidim the following:

"Let me tell you a story about my Rebbe, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin.

"One Rosh Hashana the Chozeh remained an extra long time in his study. He felt unable to leave and join his Chasidim for the blowing of the shofar; he was heartbroken at the thought that he had to his credit no single merit which would give him the strength to go ahead this special mitzva. Finally he remembered that he had, in fact, one merit in his favor: in the course of the previous year he had not spoken one angry word.

"On one occasion, it almost happened that he lost his temper. His attendant had forgotten to prepare water next to his bed so that he would be able to wash his hands in the prescribed manner in the morning. He had decided to reprimand the attendant for his negligence -- until the Chozeh recalled the warning of the Sages, "He who is angry, it is as if he worshipped idols."

The Chozeh thought to himself, "For the sake of the mitzva of washing my hands in the morning I am going to allow myself, G-d forbid, to become an idolator?" He had therefore said nothing.

"When the Chozeh reminded himself that he had this one merit to his credit, he went ahead with the blowing of the shofar."

Upon completing the telling of this story, Reb Yissachar Dov proceeded to lead his own congregation in reading Psalm 47 which speaks of the majesty of the Creator and which serves as the introduction to the blasts of the shofar.


Reb Zvi of Portziva used to lead the Musaf prayer on Rosh Hashana in the synagogue of Reb Yosele of Torchin, the Chozeh of Lublin's son.

He was once asked by Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger: "Perhaps you could repeat for me a teaching which you heard from Reb Yosele?"

"I do not recall any words of Torah," said Reb Zvi, "but I do remember a story. One Rosh Hashana, just before the blowing of the shofar, Reb Yosele entered the shul and told his Chasidim, some of whom were undoubtedly thinking at that moment of their own requests to the Almighty for the coming year, "I am not going to rebuke you, nor am I going to teach you Torah. I am only going tell you a story.

"In a certain city a learned and wealthy wine-merchant lived who was honored one day by a visit from the local rabbi. The host went out of his way to show the rabbi great respect. The merchant quickly sent his servant down to the cellar, where he was to fill a bottle of wine from the middle barrel of the third row -- for this was the best wine he owned. All the while, he engaged in a scholarly conversation with his distinguished guest.

"When the merchant had waited quite a while for his servant to return, he excused himself and quickly descended to the cellar to find out what had happened. He was shocked at what he saw there. Some of the barrels were uncovered; others were being drained as their taps had been left open; broken bottle were lying in the puddles of wine on the floor; and the servant was nowhere to be seen.

The merchant returned upstairs, very upset at the serious damage which his servant had caused him. He began to look for the servant, calling him by name. The servant finally answered, from a comfortable place over the fireplace, where he was sprawled at his leisure. From up there, the servant called out to his master, 'Listen here! I want you to increase my salary by so and so much. It isn't nearly high enough...'"

Reb Yitzchak Meir of Ger thanked Reb Zvi warmly.

"Now that is what I call a fine parable!" he exclaimed.


It was the custom of Reb Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch on the first night of Rosh Hashana to deliver a discourse on the philosophy of Chasidism, followed by fiery words of inspiration to his Chasidim.

One year, when he had completed his discourse on the eve of Rosh Hashana, he turned to his Chasidim and said, "Today we have to make ourselves ready to greet Him Whom we address in our prayers as "our Father, our King." A father likes to see a pure heart; a king likes a clean garment."

The Reb Menachem Mendel went on to explain that the Divine mission appropriate to the New Year season was for every person to purify his heart, and cleanse his "garments," for this word in Chasidic usage signifies the soul's three means of self-expression -- thought, word and deed.

"Every man is accompanied by two angels," he continued. "When, after the evening prayers of Rosh Hashana, the angels hear each person sincerely wishing his neighbor, 'May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year,' they soar aloft and appear as defense attorneys in the heavenly Court. There, they plead that the well-wishers be granted a good and a sweet year."

Reb Menachem Mendel concluded his own words with the blessing, "May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year."


Moshiach Matters

Rabbi Saadia Gaon gives as the tenth reason for sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashana: To recall our faith in the future resurrection of the dead. As it is said: "All you inhabitants of the world, and you who dwell in the earth; when an ensign is lifted on the mountains you shall see, and when the shofar is sounded you shall hear." (Isaiah 18)


 489: Yom Kippur  
   
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