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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 sounding of the shofar - which sounds like a cry from the depths of the soul - is connected to this central motif of Rosh Hashana, that G-d is our Divine Parent and our King.
There is a parable of the Baal Shem Tov to explain this concept:
An errant prince, an only son, traveled far from the palace. Many years passed and 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. At palace gates he was unable to gain entrance for he could not communicate. From deep within his soul a cry emerged, a cry that - no matter how estranged the child - a father could understand.
The king heard in the cry. He heard within the cry "Father, it is I, your only son, help me!" The cry broke through the barriers separating father and son more eloquently than any words the prince might have uttered. The king and the son were reunited.
For thousands of years the Jewish people have wandered in exile. At times, we even seem to have lost our ability to communicate with our Father. We are very much like the prince who, when wanting to reunite with his father the king, could only cry.
Our souls cry 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 Era, 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 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.
This week we read the Torah portion of Nitzavim. Next week we will read the portion of Vayeilech.
Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, while Vayeilech is read either together with Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, or separately like this year on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
As nothing is by chance, there must be a Rosh Hashana lesson for the proximity of Nitzavim and Vayeilech with Rosh Hashana.
Nitzavim means "standing firmly." Vayeilech means "and he went." These seem to be opposite ideas. Standing or going? You can't do both, or can you? How can you stand and go at the same time?
A Jew's responsibility is to make a dwelling place for G-d here in this world. How to accomplish this task is through mitzvot (commandments) which are clearly proscribed down to the most minute detail. Our job is to be Nitzavim - standing firm, doing the mitzva in it's exact prescribed manner. Not to be influenced by those who say "lighten up," or "so what if you change it up a bit."
On the other hand we don't want to be robots, just going through the motions. That's where Vayeilech comes in. Vayeilech is movement and change, not in the action of the mitzva, but in the intent. Every day, as we learn and get a deeper appreciation of G-d, it intensifies the meaningfulness of our service to Him. The mitzva done as proscribed "stands firm" but our expression of it "goes" ever higher.
On Rosh Hashana we renew our commitment to G-d, to do His will for another year. Not just in action but also by adding in depth.
The same idea can be seen in our personal relationships.
Sometimes, as time passes, our lives seem to be bland and repetitive. Keeping our responsibilities, being a good spouse, parent, child, friend. What is now needed is time to get to know the other person better. As your appreciation for each other grows, your responsibilities will become more joyous, more deep and meaningful.
Regularly set aside time to talk and get to know each other better. This will do wonders for your relationship.
Have a happy and sweet New Year.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
In Prison, But Not Alone Anymore
by Morris Treibitz
It's 1999, two days before Rosh Hashana, and I can't think of anything positive to look forward to in the coming year. Rabbi Shalom Leverton is coming to see me with some supplies to celebrate the holiday. I know that he's going to try to lift my spirits. He's going to tell me what a beautiful soul I have or something like that.
Although I am eager to get my hands on some of the food he will be bringing, I am not too eager to be around this upbeat man. His unbending optimism is contagious, and today I don't feel like being happy.
At this point, I am 23 years old and I have been in prison for two years with eight years to go, serving a term for armed robbery. The rabbi is a member of the Aleph Institute, a program designed to reach Jews in prison and the military and help advocate for their religious rights. I am waiting for the officer to unlock my cell so I can go to the chapel and meet him.
Finally, 30 minutes past the appointed time, the officer comes and lets me out. He tells me that my "priest" is at the front gate, and they are waiting to hear from the administrator for approval on the items he brought. I am directed to go to the chapel and wait.
Walking the long corridors of the prison, I start to get angry, assuming they will not let him in. Or even worse, maybe they won't let the food in. Maybe the chaplain forgot to submit the special request to the administrator, and it would be too late to do so at this point. Maybe the officers were giving the rabbi a hard time.
Assuming all of these things and feeling as though I have no recourse, my eyes begin to burn with tears that I fight back. This is not a place to let people see me cry.
Suddenly, the door swings open and Rabbi Leverton is standing there with the biggest smile a person could muster. As if I am the only person in the world, he shouts out my nickname as loudly as he can: "Moe!" I am so happy to see him that I forget my tears and decide to forgive him his cheerfulness. I see he's empty-handed and I ask him if they denied the food. As I ask the question two guards step into the chapel, each carrying huge boxes. I should have known that nobody gives this rabbi a hard time. His very presence commands respect.
He brought me all of the traditional New Year foods along with a shofar, a holiday prayer book and a new Aleph calendar. Although I am wearing a happy face, he can tell that something is wrong. When he asks me about it, I let him know I'm feeling hopeless. I explain that I can't even fathom what eight more years will bring.
The rabbi looks at me and starts to compare me to an onion. He's saying something to the effect that I am like its layers and that each time rot sets in, a layer is peeled and a newer fresher one is underneath. While he's saying this, all I can think is that onions stink.
The rabbi asks me if I know how to blow the shofar. I tell him that my father had taught me years ago. He hands it to me and I try to blow it. I don't do very well. He takes it from me and proceeds to blow the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard. I could hold back no longer. Without warning, the tears that threatened to start earlier begin to stream down, staining my cheeks. I am reminded of walking with my father to shul to hear the shofar. It makes me realize how much I miss my family and they are missing me. My body is racked with sobs like a hysterical child.
After I collect myself, the rabbi explains to me that one of the sounds of the shofar, shevarim, represents the crying of the Jewish heart. He explains that we are crying for the missed opportunities of the past year, our misdeeds, repentance and, most importantly, the yearning to connect and grow. At the moment the shofar is blown, he says all the Jewish people are standing in front of our creator as one - no walls or barriers, and certainly no bars or barbed wire fences. My family and I will be together. I smile.
I begin feeling like a new person, cleansed of sorrow and grief, free of pain and the walls that surround me. I explain this by telling him how good it felt to cry. He then tells me that for now on, whenever I need to cry and can't, due to my environment, I should just let the shofar do the crying for me. He tells me to just close my eyes and remember what it sounded like, and I will feel the same way I feel right now. He gives me a hug and leaves. As he walks, out I think how much I love that man for his words, his kindness and especially his optimism.
On Rosh Hashanah that year, alone in the chapel, I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for my family and I prayed to be a better person and a better Jew. I was not miserable, but I did feel lonely. Until I blew that shofar. Or at least until I tried to. I am sure that it didn't sound majestic or mystical, but to me, in my head, it sounded just the way the rabbi blew it two days earlier. Just like my father blew it for me so many years before.
I was not alone anymore. I was standing as one with my family, my friends, my people. I was connected, happy and free. It was at that point I knew that although there may be times that I would feel lonely, I would never be alone again.
Reprinted from the Jewish Journal
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Shofar Shofar Shofar
Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide will be arranging special Shofar ceremonies on both days of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday to enable as many Jews as possible to fulfill this important mitzva (commandment). Teams of volunteers will also visit hospitals, nursing homes and jails. To find out how to hear the Shofar near year call your local Chabad-Lubavitch center.
Freely translated and adapted
6th of Tishrei, 5736 
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 ª 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 "nearness 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,
[And may] G-d's reign be revealed, in the true Redemption through our Righteous Moshiach,
With esteem and blessing for a Chasimo uGmar Chasimo Leshono Toivo uMesuko [that you be sealed for a good and sweet year]
SHMUEL means, "I asked him of the L-d" (I Samuel 1:20). The prophet Shmuel was born through the prayers of his mother Chana. He was one of the greatest prophets, and anointed King Saul and King David.
SARA means "princess." Sara was the first matriarch and Abraham's wife (Genesis 17:15). She was considered to be a greater prophet than Abraham. Sara was the first to light Shabbat candles; her candles, connoting peace, lasted for an entire week.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
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"; "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"
The Baal Shem Tov would blow the shofar in the presence of his disciples. One time, he asked one of his great disciples to blow for the other disciples while he blew for the simple people and children who cried out with the full intensity of their souls: "Our Father in heaven, please have mercy!" And this accomplished more than anything to nullify the strict judgments.
(Seifer HaSichot 5705)
The mitzva of the day of Rosh Hashana is to blow the shofar. There is no orchestra, just one instrument and even that is not a sophisticated one which produces wondrous musical compositions but a simple animal horn "and all sounds are kosher with the shofar." From here we learn that on Rosh Hashana our attention ought to be primarily on the individual, on the person himself, with an emphasis on bringing holiness and spirituality into even the simplest and most ordinary things of daily life.
Teshuva - Return
The judgment of Rosh Hashana does not compare to the judgment of a person after 120 years. In the world of truth, you can no longer do teshuva, but at the judgment of Rosh Hashana teshuva is effective and Hashem is ready to accept those who return on this day.
(Seifer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)
A PURE HEART AND CLEAN CLOTHES
On the eve of Rosh Hashana we need to prepare to accept our Father, our King. A father loves a pure heart; a king loves clean garments. The avoda of Rosh Hashana is to purify the heart (i.e. the inner emotions) and clean one's garments (i.e. thought, speech and action).
(Seifer HaSichot 5705)
In the little town of Lubavitch, the setting sun signaled the beginning of a new year. Many thousands of Chasidim poured into the town, eager to spend Rosh Hashana with the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. They crammed into the Rebbe's shul. A hush fell on the room as the Tzemach Tzedek entered. A path miraculously appeared, the Rebbe made his way to his place, and Maariv, the evening service, began.
It was an unusual Maariv. The Tzemach Tzedek appeared drawn, worried. His prayers were imbued with extraordinary fervor, as though - if it were possible - they were more fervent than an ordinary Rosh Hashana. Fear and dread gripped every heart. The Chasidim redoubled their concentration, desperately trying to arouse Divine mercy. Everyone felt that something unusual was in the air.
That night after the prayers, the Rebbe joined his family in the holiday meal. Though it is customary to minimize all idle talk on Rosh Hashana, the Tzemach Tzedek made it a point to speak during the meal. He discussed current events in the capital, the names and ranks of different ministers and the political situation in general. Reb Yehuda Leib, one of the Rebbe's sons, would remark, "He is performing wonders in Petersburg right now."
This year was no different. The Tzemach Tzedek related all the goings-on in the capital and focused on certain ministers and their roles. In fact, he seemed more detailed than in other years especially concerning Aleksey Suvorin, minister of Petersburg.
The day of Rosh Hashana dawned and throngs of Chasidim streamed to the Rebbe's shul. Again the Rebbe's prayers were permeated with emotion. After the morning prayer was completed and the Torah reading was finished, everyone prepared themselves for the primary mitzva (commandment) of the day - hearing the sounding of the shofar.
A feeling of awe enveloped the large shul as the sons of the Tzemach Tzedek took their places around the bima, each in his designated place. The Tzemach Tzedek himself finished his preparations, readying himself to blow the shofar. His face burned brightly as he sang softly to himself, his eyes closed in deep concentration. Suddenly his voice resonated throughout the shul, "Woe! My heart! A Psalm..."
Panic gripped the congregation and tears flowed freely. Some evil decree prompted the Rebbe's unusual outburst, no doubt, and a great wailing filled the shul. Everyone's heart was open, raw and receptive. The congregation recited the Psalm seven times as required and the Rebbe began the shofar blasts...
Minister Suvorin studied his reflection in the mirror gracing the walls of the czar's antechamber. He was waiting for his scheduled appointment with His Majesty. In his hand was the document in which he had invested so much work. It concerned the great rabbi, the one they called the "Tzemach Tzedek."
It was intolerable that a rabbi should have all that power, what with all his followers spread across White Russia. His power lay in his choice of residence, a small village far away from prying eyes and government informers.
No more. The rabbi would now be forced to move to either Petersburg or Kiev. His followers would think twice before visiting their rabbi in such a large city. They would be too easily followed, easily questioned, easily inspected. He had the official document in his hand now: all it needed was the czar's signature.
Suvorin stared out the window. He smiled as he recalled his two new decrees. No smoking was allowed on city streets; it was untidy. No more meat would be sold within the city; no longer would the beautiful capital carry the smell of rotting flesh. He, Minister Suvorin, would make Petersburg the most beautiful capital in the world.
A liveried servant entered the antechamber and bowed. "Minister Suvorin," he said. "His Majesty will see you now."
Suvorin followed the servant, beads of perspiration forming on his forehead. He entered the dazzling audience chamber and bowed low before the czar.
The czar was in a foul mood. "You passed two decrees banning the sale of meat and use of cigarettes. The population is angry; the decrees are unbearable."
The czar tore the document out of the minister's hand and hurled it angrily on the floor. Suvorin turned white, bowed low and quickly left.
The minister stood once again in the antechamber, his mind whirling. His dream had been shattered. Gone was his goal of restraining the great rabbi. For such was the accepted law: any document that had been thrown away by the czar was automatically negated and it was illegal to present the request again. The rabbi would stay in the village of Lubavitch after all.
Far away in the town of Lubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek finished sounding the shofar. He returned to his place and the congregation resumed their prayers.
By Elchonon Lesches, reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Based on the idea that a person is where his thoughts are, since while hearing the shofar his thoughts are about hearing the "great shofar" (as expressed in the recitation of the verse "blow the great shofar"), then he is hearing the sound of the shofar in his thoughts, the "great shofar" of the future Redemption. In order to make this "great shofar" become something that actually is heard, since action is the main thing, obviously we need to increase those activities that hasten the revelations of the future when the promise will literally be fulfilled, "and it will be on that day, a great shofar will be blown."
(The Rebbe, second day Rosh Hashana 5742-1981)