The Shofar's Message | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | A Call to Action | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
On Rosh Hashana, the theme of G-d as Parent and Ruler dominates our prayers. "Our Father, Our King - Avinu Malkeinu" is sung with a memorable tune that stays with us even after we've left the synagogue.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that the love G-d has for each one of us is analogous to and surpasses the love a parent has for an only child born in his old age.
Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. Thus, it corresponds to the rebirth of humanity and we re-establish our relationship as children of G-d on these days.
The sounding of the shofar is connected to this central motif of Rosh Hashana, that of G-d as our Divine Parent.
To better understand this we look to another parable of the Baal Shem Tov:
An errant prince, an only son, traveled far from the palace. After many years had passed, the prince yearned to be reunited with his father, the king. However, by the time he returned to his native land, he had forgotten his mother tongue. From deep within his soul a cry emerged, a cry that -- no matter how estranged the child -- a father could understand.
This fervent broken-hearted plea, of "Father, it is I, your only son, help me!" broke through the barriers separating father and son more eloquently than any words the prince might have uttered. At this moment, the king embraced the errant son.
For thousands of years the Jewish people have wandered in exile. At times, we even seem to have lost our means of communicating with our Father. We are very much like the proverbial prince, who when facing his father the king could only cry.
We are in pain not only because our self-created barriers separate us from G-d. But also because even when we wish to return we encounter all sorts of seemingly insurmountable obstacles born of the national and spiritual exile of our people.
The shofar represents the wordless cry of the only child within each of us. Chosen because of its simplicity, it symbolizes the incorruptible nature of the soul connected to the essence of G-d, Himself.
Transcending the conventional modes of communication, the shofar's shattering wail arouses in us an awareness of the most powerful bond uniting Father and child. No matter how far we may feel we've strayed throughout the year, no matter how muted or inadequate our ability to communicate with G-d, the shofar of Rosh Hashana enables us to reconnect in a more fundamental and powerful way than previously envisioned.
The "Great Shofar" sounded by G-d signaling the Messianic Age, will pierce all barriers and penetrate beneath the surface of our very beings. When G-d sounds the Great Shofar we will be able to express, completely and openly, the fundamental child/parent relationship we intrinsically have with G-d. The shofar of Redemption will usher in a time when the love between G-d and the Jewish people - concealed throughout our trial-ridden exile - will be fully revealed.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year. But even before the New Year may we all find ourselves in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with the revelation of Moshiach, now.
Many special practices are observed in connection with Rosh Hashana for which the explanation given is "to confuse the Satan." For example, the fact that Rosh Hashana also marks the beginning of a new month is never mentioned in our prayers; the upcoming month of Tishrei is conspicuously not blessed on the Shabbat preceding the New Year; and the shofar is not sounded in the synagogue on the day before Rosh Hashana. In fact, one of the reasons cited for blowing the shofar during Elul (except for the last day of the month) is to confuse the Satan "so that he does not know when Rosh Hashana will be."
What is meant by "confusing the Satan"? Who is this Satan anyway, that he can be confused by such transparent means, repeated from year to year?
The Satan is an accusing angel whose function is to bear witness against the Jewish people. When Jews obey G-d's command by sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashana, they thereby demonstrate their love for the Torah and its mitzvot (commandments). Rather than literally "confusing" the Satan, the prosecuting angel's arguments are stopped in their tracks in the face of such devotion. Observing the mitzva of shofar weakens the Satan's grounds for criticism and deflates his case before G-d in the Heavenly Court.
The other things we do "to confuse the Satan" may also be explained in this light. Blowing the shofar throughout the month of Elul brings the Jewish people to true repentance even before Rosh Hashana, nullifying the Satan's arguments before he is called to testify. Not sounding the shofar on the day before the New Year proclaims to the entire world that the Jewish people have already done teshuva and have no further need to hear it! When the Satan sees how confident the Jews are that they will emerge victorious in judgement his voice is stilled.
Similarly, not drawing attention to the fact that Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of a new month may be explained with the following analogy: When engaged in battle, military strategy dictates that an army not reveal all of its weaponry to the enemy, lest the opposing side intensify its campaign against them. We do not mention the new month (and the many merits accrued by the Jewish people in its observance) so as not to arouse the Satan to boost his efforts and devise new strategies.
Just being cognizant of the lengths one must go to in order to "confuse the Satan" in itself brings a Jew to teshuva, ensuring a favorable judgement and a good and sweet year for the entire Jewish people.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Sound bite of the Soul
by Shimona Tzukernik
We are sitting on the slopes of a hill that roll downward like the sides of an open bowl. Sunlight is ladled upon me. The amphitheater is thick with dreamers, a gypsy soup of souls, come to celebrate song and anticipate freedom.
Bands sing of freedom from Apartheid. Juluka takes the stage. They are playing Scatterlings of Africa. All of itself, the music lifts me off the grass and bounces me like musical notes down the hill. I dance and dance. I dance in joy. But I also dance in pain, for others and yes, inexplicably for myself. Even as my body buoys, my heart slides with the knowledge that this is not my music. This is not me.
I recently read of an experiment in which a violin was placed at one corner of an acoustically perfect hall and a second in the opposite corner. As the first was stroked just once, the second lifted that vibration from the air and began to sing in kind. Now, dancing beside the stage, I know the sounds of Scatterlings are not my touchstone. I am with the crowd in the bowl of light and dreams of a better tomorrow. I have the same hopes for Africa and wear the same clothes. Yet I am alone, an outsider. The question I cannot yet articulate is this: When the essence of my being flows out from within G-d, when it moves across the heavens and touches my life, how does it sound? How does it manifest? Light travels darkly across the skies and comes to shine only when it touches our atmosphere. So too I sense, my soul travels in silence. But when it touches the skin on the back of my arm, when it enters my eyes and rests in my bones, what sound does it make? Can anything at all capture the essence of a human being?
Some months later I am standing in shul. It is Rosh Hashana. We are about to hear shofar. I have learned that Moses blew a ram's horn in the desert to alert the Jews to move...or rest...or prepare for battle. I have also learned that he used the left horn of the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place of his son; the right horn is hidden, waiting for Moshiach to blow as he calls us to the Holy Land. But my mind is not thinking of that just then. It moves between rumblings that my legs are too thick and memories of a black sable antelope with its majestic horns I once saw gazing like a hidden prince from the African underbrush. Then cry, call, song! The shofar is moving within me. It has happened upon - within - me. Its sound begins at the narrow mouth of the horn where the lips of the rabbi kiss it with air, circles to its wavy rim, flows into the broad and curled cup of my ear, pouring into a singular unity within my brain, within my being. How, I wonder, did I never hear this before; never recognize this sound of my soul?
Years later, I have many identities in my repertoire. I am wife and mother and daughter and sister. I write and teach and draw and dream. I cry and complain. I am the wearer of an angry mask, the singer of love, the wager of futile battles, the hungry for meaning. But the shofar I heard that morning calls to me in penetrating and haunting song, reminding me that these are merely mani-festations of self. They are notes and instruments. Who I am is neither the air of my exuberance (or anger) rolling through a trombone, nor the metal of cymbals as I clash in contact. I am not the dreams of wind on a reed, nor the fear of a vibra-ting string. My soul is more than the sum of my life. I am not the roles I fulfill but rather an actual part of the Creator. As I pair down these various roles and tasks, I distill information to its essence. I discover who I am outside of what I do, without what I have, without even my own name. I return to who I really am. It is then that I hear the shofar - the sound bite of the soul, my distilled essence.
When I listen to the shofar, I get a glimpse of how G-d experiences me. I need to know that so that I can live from His perspective also. My "self" is so isolated. I don't want a contingent life, one that I remake in circumstance. I don't want to live at the mercy of my emotions or following the ebb of sustenance. I want to find that one point from which I can build an authentic life. How novel to free myself from the romantic notion of self! How liberating to cut the ropes that tie me to an "individuality" that is anchored down by subjective deductions about meaning. Give me rather the one note of the shofar. Pure. Distilled. Essence. It allows me to come at me from G-d's understanding - a singular and absolute identity.
Sit with me on the note just a moment longer. Hear, as it spirals round, that having cleansed ourselves of the limitations of self and ego, we are not stripped bare of "identity." On the contrary, inside the song of that one note is an identity vaster and richer and subtler than the universe. Resonant within the distilled essence of Shofar, is the presence of true individuality. Counter-intuitively, having surrendered attachment to self-hood, we discover the infinite dimensions within our singular, essential self. It is much richer than an orchestra. At that point, I discover, I am high C and low A, I am treble and bass cleff together, the drums and the bells. The sound of the shofar is in this sense much like the flames within a coal. Or the sweetness in an apple. Even a spark in a flintstone. The flame and the flavor and even the spark of heat are hidden within their source. But I cannot slice the coal or the apple or the stone open and say, "Behold! The flame. The flavor. The spark. Here, take it." They are there and yet not there. So too, once I touch the soul in an essential way, I rediscover individuality hidden there in a way one cannot point to. Yet now, I am free to re-enter that space without being limited by it.
So in shul at 20, having danced alone in the crowd at a concert under the sky, I hear the shofar for the first time. Really hear it. I am free and without a name. And then I know that my name is Shimona and that tomorrow I will dance and run, and try to paint anything as black as that beautiful black prince in the underbrush.
Reprinted with permission from TheJewishWoman.org, a project of Chabad.org.
Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Menelson have arrived in the Hayovel neighborhood in Rechovot, Israel, where they are focusing on youth programming. Rabbi Moshe and Sara Chanowitz arrived recently to St. Martin/St. Maarten in the Caribbean Islands where they are establishing a new Chabad House serving the local Jewish community and visiting tourists
The South Denver Chabad Jewish Center directed by Rabbi Avraham and Hindy Mintz was recently dedicated. The centerpiece of the $2.5 million building is a preschool. Chabad at USF, directed by Rabbi Uriel and Dvorki Rivkin, has acquired a new property that will eventually boast a 3,000 sq. ft. facility.
25 Elul, 5718 (1968)
The month of Elul, especially the Days of Selichot and the Ten Days of Repentance, is the time dedicated to sincere introspection and a careful and honest examination of the record of the outgoing year, with a view to the proper deductions and resolutions which are to regulate one's personal daily life, as well as that of his home, and all his affairs in the year to come.
Moreover, these are exceptionally propitious days, days permeated with the core of the Psalm recited twice daily: "Search my inwardness: Thy inner essence, O G-d, do I seek" (Ps. 27:8).
They call and demand:
Search for the innermost and the profound within you; seek out also the inwardness of everything around you, the soul of the universe; search for and bring to light the G-dliness that animates and pervades the world!
Both aspects - the honest self-appraisal and the search for the inner essence of things - are interrelated and interdependent.
In evaluating the results of the outgoing year, one is very prone to err by taking into account only the external, both in himself and in the environment. In doing so, one is on equally treacherous grounds in regard to setting the pattern of daily living in the year to come.
To forestall this misleading approach, these auspicious days sound their message and challenge: Do not sell yourself short! Do not underestimate your capacities and abilities!
For, no matter what your spiritual "stock-in-trade" is, your "visible assets" - the existing possibilities that you have to conduct your life in accord with the teachings of our Torah, no matter how formidable is your strength of character and your ability to cope with a frustrating environment, and with undaunted perseverance to follow the path of the Torah and its mitzvot, much greater and richer are your "hidden reserves" of powers to create new possibilities, and of inner qualities giving you the ability to overcome obstacles and to shape your life and the lives around you to be in harmony with truth and goodness.
In order to reveal and apply these powers, however, it is necessary that you search for and release your potential forces. But you are promised:
"You will discover - because you will search with all your heart and soul" (Deut. 4:29)
What has been said above is more especially and more fully applicable to those who occupy positions of spiritual leadership and influence, from the rabbi of the community down to the individual parent who sets the pace of the spiritual life of the household and family.
All too often do we see them stymied by doubt and fear, afraid to use, what seems to them, a strong word or excessive demand lest they might alienate, instead of attract.
To them these days address themselves with this message and challenge: Search inwardly; seek deeply and you will unravel the innermost treasures of those whom you would lead and inspire; evaluate them not externally, but according to their inner resources, according to the capacity of their soul, the veritable spark of G-dliness from Above.
For with the right approach and by indefatigable effort you will be able to uncover and activate in everyone his inner spiritual resources, so that he begins to animate his daily life.
Have confidence in your fellow-Jew and give him what he, as a Jew, truly expects from you: the whole Torah with all its precepts, unvarnished and untarnished, as it was given from Sinai, in its true eternity, for the Torah is eternal for all times and places.
Only through this approach can one attain a true estimation of oneself and of those who look up to you for guidance and leadership, a true estimation that will make the year a full year - full in content and achievement commensurate with your fullest resources, and also full of G-d's blessings, materially and spiritually.
On the first day of Rosh Hashana, following the afternoon prayers, we go to a body of water - for water symbolizes kindness, preferably one with fish which have ever-open eyes - and recite the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy. We then shake out our pockets or the corners of our garments, symbolically throwing our sins into the water. One who is not within walking distance of water on Rosh Hashana can fulfill this custom in the days before Yom Kippur.
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On the eve of this new year, 5770, 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"
From the Rosh Hashana Prayers
May everything that has been made, know that You made it.
In the future, when Moshiach comes, every creation will understand and recognize that within everything in this world there is a G-dly power which makes it exist and gives it its life-force. This is the meaning of this 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)
This is the day which is the beginning of Your work.
The world was created on the 25th of Elul. Rosh Hashana, the first of Tishrei, is therefore the sixth day of Creation. How, then, can we say about Rosh Hashana, "This is the day which is the beginning of Your work"? The fact of the matter is that the entire purpose of Creation was to make a "dwelling place below" for G-d and this is accomplished through man. Because of this, before man was created, it is impossible to say that the world existed in the true sense, for its purpose was still missing. Therefore, the sixth day of Creation, on which man was created, is "the beginning of Your work."
For You are He who remembers forever all forgotten things.
One of the great Chasidic masters said of this verse: G-d remembers only those things which a person forgets. If a person sins, but he remembers that sin and it troubles him, G-d forgets it. But if he sins, and he forgets about the sin, it doesn't bother him, G-d remembers it. The same is true of mitzvot (commandments). If one does a mitzva and remembers it always, thinking himself great to have performed the commandment, G-d forgets it. But if a Jew does a mitzva and forgets about it - doesn't become impressed with himself over it - G-d remembers it.
It happened in 1648. The infamous Hetman Bogdan Chmielnicki led his wild hordes of Cossacks against the Jews and Poles of the Ukraine, and he almost succeeded in exterminating all Jewish communities along the Dnieper River. Barbaric cruelties, surpassing even the Crusaders', were the daily bread of these devils. In Kiev, scores of Jewish men, women and children barely escaped with their lives. They hid in forests and swamps, constantly in fear of sudden death from the long sabers of Chmielnicki's Cossacks. Only at night, under cover of darkness, did these unfortunate fugitives dare to creep out in search of food for their families.
Rabbi Meyer of Shivotov, which was once one of the largest communities near Kiev, was the spiritual leader of this group of refugees. He had lost his wife at the hands of the Cossacks, and his thirteen-year-old son Hershel was his only consolation. Gifted with a beautiful voice, which made its listeners laugh or cry at the will of its master, Hershel assisted his father greatly in keeping up the low spirits of his companions. More than once, his magical songs held them back from surrendering to the merciless hands of the Cossacks or from committing suicide.
Such a large group of people cannot hide for long without rumors of their whereabouts spreading. They were forced to withdraw deeper and deeper into forests and swamps to escape the oncoming hordes of Chmielnicki's Cossacks. Unwittingly, however, they entered the hunting grounds of Chmielnicki's rival, a man of no less cruelty: Booyar, the leader of the Tartars. But there was one story told about this abnormal maniac that threw a somewhat human light upon him. He was the obedient son of an old nomad woman who controlled him with a wink of her eye.
Finding themselves suddenly trapped from the rear, Rabbi Meyer's group of refugees began to say "Vidui," the confession of sins and last prayer, in anticipation of death. Coming from the midst of their suppressed cries and prayers, Hershel's voice was suddenly heard saying Kaddish, praising G-d at this last moment while they were facing the naked swords of the Tartars. As if by magic, the tumult died down. The faces of the Jews lit up, and the cruel savagery, the murderous gleam disappeared from the eyes of the Tartars who crowded around their helpless victims. Their raised hands dropped; spellbound, they listened to the boy who, fully aware of the seriousness of the situation, had put all his powerful emotion into his voice.
Booyar looked out of his tent and witnessed this strange scene. Foaming wildly, brandishing his sword, he stormed forward. He was ready to kill his own men for being fooled by the wretched Jews. Coming closer, he saw that Hershel was the cause of his men's unusual conduct. Booyar grasped the boy's hair with his hand and lifted his sword to chop his head off. In midair his arm was caught by the thin but powerful hand of an old woman. Turning around wildly, Booyar was confronted by his mother. "Do not kill these people, son," she said. "They are under my protection. This boy will sing for me until we reach Constantinople. There you can sell him and his people at a high price." After some hesitation, Booyar gave in.
Thus Rabbi Meyer and his people were saved from certain death. They were dragged along for many months, until the Tartars reached Turkey. Many thousands of refugees from Spain and Portugal had come to this country during the reign of Suleiman II and his Jewish adviser, Don Joseph of Naxos. They had built a beautiful synagogue in Constantinople and had organized one of the most powerful congregations of that time.
It was Rosh Hashana when Booyar brought his victims to the market. All the Jews had gathered in the synagogue, which was right near the marketplace. Many non-Jews in the market looked curiously at the wretched figures of these slaves-to-be. But they had little faith in the Jews' ability to do hard work; they preferred the strong and healthy-looking natives brought by ship from afar.
Under the stress of traveling in captivity, Rabbi Meyer and his men had lost track of time. They did not even know that this day was Rosh Hashana. While they were standing in the marketplace, stared at and ridiculed by the idle onlookers, they suddenly heard the sound of the shofar coming from the nearby synagogue. Rabbi Meyer and his people began to cry as Hershel started the "Unesane Tokef" prayer. His voice rose above the noise of the market and soared up to the Gates of Mercy.
The crowd of Jews gathered in the big synagogue heard Hershel's prayers. They rushed out into the marketplace, and saw the boy and the poor Jews held for sale by the Tartars. At the command of their rabbi, they hurried home to gather all their valuables and funds. They succeeded in redeeming their brethren. Saved from a terrible fate, Rabbi Meyer and his group joined their liberators in the synagogue. Together they followed Hershel's jubilant voice, thanking G-d for His help at the height of their misery.
From The Reunion, by Gershon Kranzler, published by Kehot Publications.
The Baal Shem Tov wrote in a letter that on Rosh Hashana of the year 5507 (1746), his soul ascended to the heavenly realms, where he was granted the privilege of entering the palace of Moshiach. "I asked the King Moshiach, 'Master, when are you coming?' And he replied: 'When your wellsprings [teachings] will be disseminated outward.' " From this reply it is apparent that the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chasidut - are closely connected with the coming of Moshiach. Chasidut is the vessel for the great light of Moshiach.