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Devarim Deutronomy

   585: Rosh Hashana

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
September 10, 1999 - 29 Elul, 5759

585: Rosh Hashana

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


 586: Ha'Azinu  

Rosh Hashana And The Y2k Bug  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Rosh Hashana And The Y2k Bug

by Rabbi Michoel Green

Are you Y2K compliant?

It seems as though this is the question on everyone's mind these days. What will happen to public transportation, utilities, and communication if the world's computers revert back to the antediluvian year of 1900? Even if the U.S. is for the most part Y2K complaint, what about other countries that rely heavily upon computers but are not prepared? And how will this affect the world at large?

The original Chasidic thinker, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, taught that everything one sees or hears is a lesson in disguise. Nothing occurs at random. It's up to us to decode life's messages and put them to use, creating a world in which G-dliness can dwell and abound.

If every trifling detail in life is intended as an opportunity for self-mastery and growth, then this is especially true with regard to a major, perhaps cataclysmic, world event.

What does this millennium hype all boil down to? A simple computer system error, or oversight, if you will. The computers have been programmed to define years in two digits, i.e. 97, 98, 99. On January 1st of this coming year, 99 becomes 00, and the computer is utterly oblivious to the millennia change. Instead of proceeding to the new year, it regresses back to the beginning of this century.

In a spiritual sense, the Y2K challenge is a familiar one to us Jews. We undergo a similar transition every year. The new year that begins on Rosh Hashana is not simply a new calendar year. It's a whole new era, a new world, as it were. We stand before G-d like the first people did at the dawn of creation and acknowledge G-d's sovereignty. "This is the day which is the beginning of Your creation, a remembrance of the first day" (Rosh Hashana musaf liturgy). The nines are all erased, replaced by a clean slate of zero-zero.

However, in Judaism we never move backward. The new beginning of Rosh Hashana does not mean that we start again and repeat all of last year's mistakes. It's a time to move forward into the new era, to assess last year's shortcomings and improve.

Unfortunately, there is a temptation to go through the High Holiday Y2K shtick every year, attending services on the High Holidays, praying, feeling holy, yet not visiting the shul again until the following year. It's the viscous cycle of not progressing in one's Jewish observance and sense of belonging.

A person may do mitzvot every day, pray, study... the whole nine years. But if he does not grow from year to year by increasing qualitatively or quantitatively in good deeds, then he/she indubitably suffers from the chronic Y2K syndrome.

Let's not be like the computer that wasn't programmed to accommodate change and gets stuck in the same cyclical pattern. This Rosh Hashana, it's time to move up and beyond, to deepen our bond with our Creator by strengthening our Jewish observances.

How does one break the pattern? As any computer expert will tell you, simply start looking at the full four digits. Expand your spiritual horizons. Two digits may have worked for the past but it's not enough now. Consider why we're here and where we're headed... not just on a personal level, but on a global level. It's time we start thinking about what we can do to make the world around us a better place.

Most of all, let's be ready for the change we've awaited for thousands of years: the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption.


Living with the Rebbe

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, 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


A Slice of Life

IN THE ROSH HASHANA "WASHING MACHINE"

by Avrohom Brashevitzky

You're probably wondering what Rosh Hashana has to do with a washing machine and how the two go together. Doesn't Jewish law forbid operating an electrical appliance on a Jewish holiday? Besides, what would a person be doing in a washing machine?

To add to your confusion, let me just mention that the following discussion will also include information about the "spray and wash" or "stain stick" and the soak (pre-wash) cycle prior to actually entering the washing machine.

A Jew doesn't need holidays and "special events" in order to serve G-d. A Jew continuously serves G-d, even when he's tending to his own needs. Even as he eats or sleeps he worships G-d.

That's the good news. Along the way, however, we often accumulate dirt and stains. By doing teshuva ("returning" to our pre-sullied state), by putting ourselves through a spot-cleaning, then pre-wash and finally washing cycle, we come out clean. The culmination of this "laundering" of the soul is on Rosh Hashana.

Thankfully, throughout the years, I have had help in this area. Together with thousands of other chasidim and Jews from all walks of life, on the last day (i.e. chance) of the year, I had the privilege of having the "stain stick" applied to me. I passed before the Rebbe, handed him a paper on which was written my name (and for married people, the names of family members) and a request for a blessing for a happy new year.

The Rebbe looked at me and at each person with a piercing yet loving look and wished each individual "a kesiva vachasima toiva - to be written and sealed for a good year." For me, this was like a person so carefully treating the stains on a favorite garment before washing it.

On the morning of Rosh Hashana, while most people were either still sleeping or those who were awake were already in shul reciting Psalms and contemplating the closing year, my friends and I would arise as early as 6 a.m. for our "pre-wash."

We would come to the Rebbe's shul, "770" Eastern Parkway, and stand in line. This time, however, we were waiting for a different privilege. A young man would give us a piece of paper with an address written on it, sometimes as far away as a 21/2 hour walk in each direction. With a smile we were off, eager to help people fulfill the "mitzva of the day" - to hear the sounding of the shofar. We would walk to nursing homes, hospitals or to the private home or apartment of an elderly or home bound person who couldn't get to shul. The Rebbe inculcated in us the understanding that the "pre-wash" cycle of our teshuva was facilitated by helping others.

Often, after walking for an hour or two, we would walk up 15 or 20 flights of a hospital or apartment building (no elevators, it's Rosh Hashana!) to sound the shofar for a solitary Jews.

I recall one year when it was pouring (on Yom Tov it is not permitted to use an umbrella). A few friends and I were walking through the rain to Long Island Jewish Hospital. I decided to stop and ask a transit worker who had just finished backing his repair truck into the station if he was Jewish. Had I recognized a Jewish face?

My friends tried to discourage me since we were already soaked. But what would an extra two minutes in the rain do? How do you get wetter than wet? The worker was a Jew who knew little about Judaism. Right there, in the middle of the downpour, I blew the shofar for him.

Upon returning to 770 from our mitzva wanderings each Rosh Hashana, my friends and I knew one thing for sure: there were no comfortable seats waiting for us, no spacious corner in which we'd be able to catch up to the prayers of the rest of the congregation. With thousands of visitors spending the holidays with the Rebbe, the shul was packed with nearly 10,000 people. Yes, when we returned, we knew that we were going straight into the "washing machine."

Everyone referred to the men's section in the lower level of 770 as the "washing machine." Even if you didn't know that's what it was called, all you needed to do was to take one look (a bird's-eye view) of the thousands of human bodies moving, swaying and swishing, and you would see that it truly simulated a washing machine. This is how 770 looked throughout the entire month of Tishrei, but particularly on Rosh Hashana and especially at the blowing of the shofar.

There were so many people wedged into such a small space that if one person moved an inch, the entire center of the shul would move, eventually producing a ripple effect. It was a humbling experience to say the least.

The Rebbe sounded the shofar himself, and everyone present wanted to be able to not only hear the shofar but to see the Rebbe at this pivotal moment when the Jewish people coronate G-d as King.

I vividly remember how everyone, big and small, tall and short (both physically and spiritually) stood together with great anticipation. We awaited the moment when the Rebbe would blow the shofar whose sounds pierced and awakened our hearts to teshuva and to crown G-d and proclaim Him as King over the entire universe.

The "washing machine" was the final touch in the cleansing of our spiritual garments. This is the way a chasid scrubbed himself for the new year. May we very soon experience the ultimate "washing machine" in the third and eternal Holy Temple with the revelation of Moshiach. L'Shana tova!


What's New

ROSH HASHANA SERVICES

There are nearly 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers around the world, in places as diverse as Shanghai, China and mid-town Manhattan. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services under the auspices of Chabad-Lubavitch will be taking place in these centers across the globe. To find out the exact location of services closest to you, call your nearest center or visit www.chabad.org/shluchim.html .

SHOFAR SHO GOOD

The "main mitzva" of the day for Rosh Hashana is to hear the sounding of the shofar. This year, as the first day of the holiday falls out on Shabbat, the shofar will only be sounding on Sunday. Lubavitch Torah Institute for Seniors, based in New York, arranges shofar-blowing in nursing homes and for the home-bound elderly in the New York metro area. They can be contacted at (718) 604-2022. To find out about similar services in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

FREE RENDITION

6th of Tishrei, 5736 [1976]

To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere

G-d bless you all!

Greeting and Blessing:

...We will briefly dwell here on a further point which distinguishes this year's Rosh Hashanah from others, namely, that this year Rosh Hashanah is the "head" of a Leap Year. And herein, too, a further distinction:

Not all Leap Years in our Hebrew Calendar are the same. This year has the distinction of having the maximum number of days that any Leap Year can have - 385 days.

On a previous occasion, it has been pointed out at some length that the purpose of a Leap Year in our Torah-Calendar is to make up for the "deficiency" in the days of previous years, in order to bring into harmony the Lunar year with the seasons of the year (determined by the Solar year), though the annual seasons are also, of course, determined by the Creator, as Torah declares: "(The seasons of) sowing and reaping, cold and heat, summer and winter, shall not cease."

Moreover, not only does the Leap Month make up the deficiency of the past, but it also gives an "advance" on the future.

This year, as noted above, the Leap Year is of maximum dimension.

It is a well-known principle that all that we see or find in the realm of matter, in the physical world around us, are replicas of the spiritual counterparts in the sublime Supernal Worlds from which they descended. The same is especially true also in this case.

The order of having to make good and equalize the number of days, in the plain sense, in the material world, is due to the fact that this is the order in the spiritual realm, where "each day has its task to perform." This is also the special instruction for us in respect of the task each has to accomplish in the areas of "Man unto toil is born," "All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven," and "Know Him in all your ways"

...In light of the above it is clear that the preparations and service expected of a Jew for the new year-in the days before Rosh Hashanah, particularly during the days of Selichos; on Rosh Hashanah itself; and during the Ten Days of Teshuvah (Repentance), especially on the Holiest Day (Yom Kippur) - have to be on the order of the Leap Year: To make good those aspects of the service where there has been a deficiency in the past year, and bring perfection into the other areas, indeed even to the extent of an "advance" on the future.

And all this should be carried out in the fullest, maximum measure.

Moreover, as has often been emphasized - since G-d requests and expects a Jew to do a certain task, it is certain that He has provided him with all the necessary capacities and means to carry it out in actual fact, and, furthermore, to do it with joy and gladness of heart, and all matters of Divine service should be carried out.

***

Our Sages of blessed memory say that the Ten Days of Teshuvah are the time referred to in the verse, "Seek G-d when He is found, call on Him when He is near." This "nearness" is described as the "near-ness of the Source of Light to its spark."

And comes after the auspicious days of the month of Elul, when the "King is in the field" and shows a gracious countenance to all who come out to meet Him.

May G-d, the Source of Light and Source of Blessing, indeed be gracious to everyone, man and woman, and bless them with Hatzlocho [success] to carry out the said service in the best, maximum way, thereby carrying out in the fullest measure the realization of the ideal for which we pray in our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers: "And reign, Thou alone, O G-d, our G-d, over all Thy creatures..." by acclaiming Him as Our G-d (Elokeinu), in response to His request, "Make Me King over you," and involving also all creation, thus bringing about His Kingship over all and everywhere,

So that He will, also in a revealed man-ner, "work relief in the midst of the earth,"

Especially in light of the continuation of the said prayer that "...on Mount Zion, the abode of Thy Glory, and in Jerusalem, Thy Holy City,"

Which are always the "abode of His Glory and Holy City", also in the present days of the Golus -

G-d's reign be revealed, in the true Re-demption through our Righteous Moshiach,

With esteem and blessing for Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Leshono Toivo uMesuko


Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't

1 Tishrei, 5760

Positive mitzva 72: the offering of higher or lower value

By this injunction we are commanded to offer a sacrifice of higher or lower value (according to a person's means) for certain transgressions: defilement of the Santuary or its hallowed objects, an oath of utterance, or a false oath concerning testimony. It is contained in the words (Lev. 5: 1-11): "And he shall bring his forfeit...and if his means suffice not, etc."


A Word from the Director

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; "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"... "The nations shall walk in Your guiding light"; "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; revealed miracles... a double portion; the completion and end of exile; "Humble ones, the time of your Redemption has arrived"; "Jerusalem will dwell in open space"; 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"


Thoughts that Count

Dipping an apple in honey on the eve of Rosh Hashana

In the Talmud (Shabbat 88) the Jewish people is likened to an apple: "Just as the apple is formed before the tree's leaves, so too did Israel declare 'We will do' before 'We will learn' [at Mt. Sinai]." Another reason for this custom is that Isaac gave his blessings to Jacob on Rosh Hashana. As explained in Kabbala, when Jacob said "Behold, my son's scent is the scent of the field," he was referring to a field of apple trees. (Divrei Tzadikim)

Covering the shofar (ram's horn) while the blessing is recited

On Rosh Hashana, the shofar is sounded to recall the Binding of Isaac. When Abraham built the altar on which to sacrifice his son, he hid Isaac until the very last second, lest the Satan throw a rock or a knife at him and render him unfit as an offering. For this reason the shofar is also covered until the very last minute. (Kadmut HaZohar)

Acceptance of the yoke heaven (kabalat ol)

Throughout the year, when a Jew accepts upon himself the yoke of heaven (especially by reciting the Shema), he establishes the foundation and starting point for his conduct the rest of the day. However, when we accept G-d's sovereignty on Rosh Hashana, it not only forms the foundation of our Divine service but is the essence of the day itself. (Likutei Sichot)

Accepting G-d's Kingship

On Rosh Hashana we accept G-d's kingship over the world, metaphorically erecting a "structure of sovereignty." To construct a physical building, three building materials are used: stones, earth (dust) and water. In the spiritual sense, these correspond to the letters of the prayer book, a sense of humility, and our tears. By reciting our prayers humbly on Rosh Hashana and with tears that come from the heart, we establish G-d's Kingship over all of creation. (Sefer Maamarim Kuntreisim)


It Once Happened

A well-known preacher once came to Berdichev before Rosh Hashana and requested permission from the head of the community to preach. "I am a widely-acclaimed preacher," he said, "and consider myself worthy of preaching in the shul of Reb Levi Yitzchak."

"I would gladly allow you to preach in any other shul. If, however, you wish to speak in Reb Levi Yitzchak's shul, you must ask him for permission."

The preacher went to the Rebbe and presented his request. "I will grant you permission on condition that I say a few words before your speech," said the Rebbe. Word spread quickly that a visiting preacher would be speaking in Reb Levi Yitzchak's shul on Rosh Hashana and that the Rebbe would speak to the people beforehand. Crowds of people flocked to the shul and listened attentively as the Rebbe made his introduction.

"Master in Heaven, today is the Day of Judgment. The Satan will come before You to accuse the Jewish people. Do not listen to him, for You have written in Your Torah, 'One witness shall not suffice to accuse in judgment.' "

This visiting preacher has come to preach in our city. Should his words contain accusations against Your people do not hearken to his words. Do not accept him as a second witness. He is unfit to pass testimony for he has a personal interest in the matter. He is preaching only because he is in need of funds to marry off his daughter.

"However, if his words are commendable to Your People, listen to them, though he is only one witness. Our Sages have taught us that while the testimony of a single witness is not sufficient to obligate a person, it is sufficient for a vow to be taken. And, you have made a vow to our forefathers..."

The preacher was at a loss for words. The talk he had prepared was filled with fire and brimstone, condemning the people for their many faults. He forfeited his chance to speak and the crowd dispersed.

After Rosh Hashana, Reb Levi Yitzchak himself collected money for the needy preacher and provided him with the funds necessary to marry off his daughter.

***

The high holidays were approaching. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev and Reb Yisrael of Koznitz were planning their service in the upcoming days. Among the topics they discussed was who would blow the shofar first. They agreed that Reb Yisrael would be given that distinction since he would customarily begin his prayers early.

The morning of Rosh Hashana had just begun, and the Rebbe of Koznitz ascended the bima to blow the shofar. Concealed by his talit, he sensed a disturbing, negative response from preventing him from blowing the shofar. It was as if the gates of Heaven were impregnable. Try as he did, he could not breach the wall.

Suddenly, the gates swung wide open. All the obstacles disappeared and the heavens were prepared to receive the Jews' prayers.

"What brought about this change?" he inquired. It was revealed that the heavens were penetrated by the holy service of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who was preparing to immerse in the mikva before blowing the shofar.

Reb Yisrael of Koznitz turned to his followers. "If the mere preparation of Reb Levi Yitzchak have such a pronounced effect, we must wait until he blows the shofar, and only afterwards will we proceed with our service."

***

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev walked over to one of the congregants and extended his hand. The man had just concluded the Amida prayer, and Reb Levi Yitzchak greeted him with a hearty "Sholom Aleichem."

"Rebbe," the man questioned, "Why are you greeting me as if I returned from a journey? I live here in Berdichev and we see each other often. I haven't travelled outside the city for quite some time."

"I watched you while you were planing your next trip to the commercial fair in Leipzig. You visualized your transactions so powerfully that you felt as if you had traveled to and from the fair already. After such a journey, I felt it only proper that I should greet you cordially."

From From My Father's Shabbos Table by Rabbi Yehudah Chitrick


Moshiach Matters

In the future, when Moshiach comes, every creation in this world will understand and recognize that there is a G-dly power within which makes it exist and gives it its life-force. This is the meaning of the line from the Amida prayer which we say on Rosh Hashana. We beseech G-d to reveal His Kingship in this world - "May everything that has been made know that You made it"- because in truth nothing exists without this G-dliness. (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)


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