Rosh Hashana 5766 – Gilayon #465

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Rosh Hashana



(Song of Songs 6:7)


Reish Lakish

said: The sinners of Israel are untouched by Gehinnom's fire. [This is learned from a] kal va'homer [a

fortiori argument] referring to the Golden Altar. The Golden Altar was

overlaid with gold no thicker than a dinar

coin, but it withstood the fire for some years, but [compare that altar to] the

sinners of Israel are filled with performed commandments as a pomegranate [is filled with

seeds], for it is said, Behind your veil, you brow [rakateikh][gleams] like an open pomegranate. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: Do not say rakateikh [your brow], but rather reikateikh [your empty ones], for even

the empty ones amongst you are full of [fulfilled] commandments as a

pomegranate [is full of seeds]. All the more so [that the

sinners of Israel should also be untouched by fire].

(Eruvin 19a)


R. Hana bar Bizna said in the name

of Shimon Hasida: Any fast in which the sinners of Israel

do not participate is not a [acceptable] fast; for helbana

[galbanum] has a foul odor, but Scripture included it among the ingredients of

the incense. Abayeiy connected this [with the verse]:

He founded his agudah [literally: bundle] upon the

earth (Amos 9).

(Kritut 6b)



vegetables and fruits are eaten, whose names allude to beneficence, such as:silkei [beets], kartei [leeks], rubiya

[fenugrek], kara

[pumpkin] and tamarei [dates]. Before

eating each species of vegetable, one should recite a [prayer of the formula] "May

it be Your will.." relating to the appropriate


Upon eating

rubiya, one should say: "[May it be Your will] that our merits increase [she'yirbe'u]."

[Upon eating ] kara: "…that

our merits be recited before You" (in the Sefardic

tradition: "…that You tear-up the evil decree made against us, and that

our merits, etc.).

(Sefer Ha'Toda'a: Rosh HaShanah

Leil Rishon shel Rosh HaShana)



We wish a good year to all of our readers, to the

whole House of Israel,

and to all the world's inhabitants.

May it be a year of peace and tranquility.

Let the year end with its curses – let the New Year

begin with its blessings!

And may we be inscribed in the Book of Life, for Your sake – O Living God!



On the Obligation to Place the Individual and the

Community in a Positive Light

Ya'el Levin

Merit and uprightness stand

before His throne,


and compassion before His glory.


"El Adon al Kol HaMa'asim," Hirsch Siddur


In two of

his works, R. Eliezer Papo

brings up the need – actually, the obligation – of limud

zehut; to always present Israel

in a positive light at all times, but especially during the season of the Days

of Awe. R. Eliezer Papo

lived from 1785 to 1828.1 He was born in Sarviego,

Bosnia, and produced a series of books that became classics; among these are

found the ethical treatise Pela Yo'etz,2

and Beit Tefilla3 a

collection of his original prayers that became accepted throughout world Jewry.

One of R. Eliezer Papo's discussions of the

obligation of limmud zehut

appears in his Pela Yo'etz

in the section on "Sanigoriya"

[apologetics]4 The author begins by mentioning that it is known that

the Holy One blessed be He "wants Israel – both as a collective and as

individuals – to be morally defended.5 He first lists a few examples

where the Sages speak of great people who spoke ill of Israel and were

punished, including Elijah6 and Moses.7 In contrast,

Gideon merited saving Israel because he defended them morally.8 This

passage bears similarity to what the HIDA (1806-1724) wrote in his Tziporen Shamir. There

he mentions that one must always practice limud

zehut regarding Israel, both as a collective and

as individuals, and cites the example involving Gideon.9 He also

devotes the section on Kavod Yisrael [the honor of Israel] in his book Devash le'Fi to the

need for limmud zehut

regarding Israel, where he brings several supporting examples.10


underlying principle behind the idea that one should not find fault with Israel

is that "everything a person says leaves an impression and stirs the

celestial retinue. If he speaks accusingly he stirs the accusers; and if he

speaks defensively, he stirs the defenders, and his words bear fruit." The

source of this motif may be found in the Zohar, parashat Tzav.11 There it is stated that speech

below stirs up speech above. The speech below rises through the firmaments

until it ascends and stirs up whatever it stirs up; if for good – [that is]

good, and if for evil – [that is] bad.12

Because of

the above, preachers must always be very careful, and especially so during the

days of judgment, not to find fault with the people and not to explicate its

sins, since that might stir up judgment against it. Rather, they should take a

positive tack and point out the path which is worthy of being followed. The BeShT (1700-1760), for example, is known to have criticized

those preachers who would berate the community for their unmeticulous

observance of the commandments, scare them with descriptions of the tortures of

Gehenna, and pile upon them difficult penances.13

In his Devash le'Fi , the HIDA states

that "One who preaches rebukes [tokhaha]

to the people" must take great pains not to slight the honor of Israel,

nor to accuse it.14

R. Eliezer Papo even raises the

demand that if someone finds himself in a synagogue of "ignoramuses"

and hears them being criticized, he must take himself in hand and speak well of

the congregation, even if he must employ claims that are not entirely evident and

explanations whose truth is unclear. In this connection, R. Eliezer

Papo brings up some possible arguments that could be

used in such circumstances; despite the fact that the people are economically

strained and live in exile, they did not toss-off the observance of the

commandments, and their sins are all either coerced or unintentional, for they

are ignorant of the prohibitions and their gravity. He continues and brings an

idea that originated in the literature of the Sages, that if someone tends to

think the best of others, God will also judge him in a favorable light.15

Since God loves compassion,16 He will

accept "any kind of argument that is lomed

zehut." This implies that weak arguments

that are not entirely aimed at the truth are also acceptable to God.

In the

section titled Sanigoriya of his Damesek Eliezer,17

R. Eliezer Papo expounds

upon the theme of the obligation to be lomed

zehut regarding the public and individuals. Its

opening passage is clearly similar to the section from Damesek

Eliezer mentioned above, both in terms of its

ideas and its language. However, in contrast to Pela

Yo'etz, Damesek

Eliezer mentions that limmud

zehut is right and proper during the Days of Awe,

and also in any time of public distress, whether it involves a heavenly decree

or a decree of earthly kings. While Pela Yo'etz makes quick mention of a few good apologetic

arguments in the concluding part of the passage, most of the section in Damesek Eliezer is

concerned with a detailed and broad-ranging apologia of two thousand words in

length. R. Eliezer Papo

suggests that it be recited tearfully in synagogues and houses of study, in

accordance with the view that "the gates of tears are not locked."18

He states that the best time for the recitation of this plea for the defense is

during the last watch of the night, when the forces of mercy awaken in the

world. R. Eliezer Papo

offers no details regarding his formulation of the apologia, but it is a longer

version of a similar text only a third its length that can be found in R. Eliyahu HaKohen HaItamari's (d. 1729)19 Midrash

Talpiot.20 That text appears in Anaf

Gerushim u'Melitzot Gadol al Yisrael, but it is

not brought there in connection with a discussion of limmud

zehut, and it is not presented as a text for

actual recitation.

R. Eliezer Papo formulates a series

of arguments, concentrating upon Israel's

suffering and its steadfast observance of the commandments. The first and

central argument concerns limmud zehut regarding the residents of the Land

of Israel. These are people who

risked their lives, leaving their families and moving to the Holy

Land. Indeed, "men, women, and children, youths and the

elderly" live their lives in hunger and must resort to begging. Despite

all that, "in their exile, humiliation, and poverty" they observe the

commandments "and even the "ne'er-do-wells of Israel are full of

commandments as a pomegranate [is full of seeds].21 Those who do sin

have been driven to distraction by poverty, and they are to be judged by "the

law concerning the drunk and the fool…who have gone mad from their many

troubles." He states that the holy nation "is without blemish and the

Holy One blessed be He testifies on its behalf: You are all beautiful, my

love, and you are without blemish (Song of

Songs 4:7)." At this point, R. Eliezer Papo presents a long list of commandments that are observed

by Israel

despite its great suffering.


troubles suffered by Israel

also gain it merit: they serve to clean it of sin, freeing Jews of guilt for

their transgressions. Due to their multitude of troubles, "all their sins,

transgressions, and iniquities are already forgiven." Therefore,

anyone who speaks accusingly or poorly of them will pay a price. It is

customary that no one speaks accusingly of a prince before his father the king

even when there is a basis for the accusation; all the more so if someone would

speak accusingly of a prince "who had already received twice [the deserved

punishment] for his sins, through great afflictions." These ideas also

appear in Midrash Talpiyot.

Faced with

the numerous tribulations suffered by Israel,

even the greatest accuser – Samael – is forced into

silence: "He has no mouth with which to speak against Israel,

for he has no basis for accusations, given the troubles Israel

has endured." The ministering angels must ask for the hastening of Israel's

salvation, since impudence towards Heaven is effective,22

even if he who asks impudently is unworthy. This is all the truer regarding Israel,

which is deserving and whose salvation is the

salvation of the Divine Presence.

It is

worth mentioning that in his Mikhtav Me'Eliyahu, R. Eliyahu Dessler (1892-1953) states that a person could lose in

judgment on Rosh HaShana and

fail to enjoy the Divine mercy he needs if he does not judge his fellow in a

positive light.23

R. Eliezer Papo made use of various

motifs that may be found in the writings of the Jewish sages who preceded him,

but he formulated and developed a more complete and organized doctrine – both

practical and theoretical – regarding limmud

zehut towards Israel. His worldview does not seem

to have received the attention it deserves, and it calls for further

consideration. It would also be appropriate to compare it to the approaches of

other Jewish sages, and to locate it both within the framework of limmud zehut in

Jewish thought through the ages and its various strata as well as within the

thematic context of the significance of suffering.

[1] Further details

may be found in D. Yehudief, "Introduction” in

R. Eliezer Papo, Hesed le'Alafim: Shulhan Arukh Yoreh

De'ah, Jerusalem

5637, pp. 11-31.

2 (Konstidina, 1824).

3 (Bilograd, 1860).

4 (pp. 51a-b).

5 See Shir HaShirim Rabbah


6 See note 5

above. All see Mekhilta De'Rabbi

Yishamael, H.S. Horowitz and Y.A. Rabin edition, Bo, Massekhet DePas'ha,

Parasha 1, pg.4; Pesikta Rabbati, M. Ish-Shalom edition, Eikha Yashava Badad, 138a; Avot DeRabbi Natan, S.Z. Shechter edition, B version, chapter 47, pg. 129.

7 R. Eliezer Papo makes a short

mention of Moses in Pela Yo'etz; "And even greater than this, we see that

Our Master Moses, of blessed memory, was punished because he said and they

will not believe me. A similar formulation may be found in Damesek Eliezer,

see the passage quoted by note 17. The origin of this idea is found in Tanhuma, Shemot, 23; Midrash Shemot Rabbah, A. Shinan edition, 3,

12(1), pp. 134-5.

8 L. Ginzburg, "Mahadurot

Hadashot shel haTanhuma al Sefer Devarim, Parshiyot Va'Ethanan, Shoftim” in Ginzei Schechter, book 1, Kitei Midrash ve'Hagada,

Newark 5688, pg. 132; Tanhuma, Shoftim,


9 HIDA, Horesh MiTza”L, Tziporen Shamir, Livarno [5546], siman 9, ot 142, pg. 53a.

10 HIDA, Devash LeFi, Livorno [5571], ma'arekhet

20, ot 18, pg. 36b.

11 See Zohar, Tzav, 31b.

12 As found in

Sefer HaZohar al Hamisha Humshei Torah, vol.

7, Sefer Vayikra ve'Hashmatot le'Sefer Vaykra, Jerusalem

5758, pg. 172.

13 See, for

instance, A. Yaron, "Aharit

in S.Y. Agnon, Sippurei

ha'BeShT, 2nd edition, Jerusalem

5763, pp. 233-234.

14 HIDA, Devash Le'fi,

passage cited in note 10.

15 Shabbat

127b; Avot DeRabbi

Natan, S.Z. Shechter

edition, A version, chapter 8, pg. 47.

16 See Micah


17 Jerusalem,

5652, Ot Samekh, Sanigoriya, Ot Bet 31a-32b.

18 Berakhot 32b; Bava Metziya 59a.

19 On R. Eliyahu HaKohen see Z. Greis, Sifrut HaHanhagot, Jerusalem

5750, pp. 2-3, 99-101.

20 Part I, Izamir [5496], 104c-105a.

21 Berakhot 57a; Eruvin 19a; Megilah 6a; Hagiga 27a; Sanhedrin 37a.

22 Sanhedrin 105a; J. Ta'anit 2:1 [65b].

23 R. Eliyahu Dessler, Mikhtav Mi'Eliyahu, (A. Carmel,

editor) part five, Jerusalem 5757,

pg. 87.

Dr. Ya'el Levin's published

studies deal mostly with various aspects of women in Judaism. She has also

composed a series of prayers.




Lord our God, place Your awe upon all whom You have

made…Now, O Lord, grant honor to Your people."

One cannot

ignore the fact that in the common perception of many generations there

sprouted the corrupted and misleading conception that the Blessed Lord

has a special attitude to Israel

and to dealing with their affairs.

True, there

does exist a special relationship, but it receives

expression not through greater privileges but in the obligations and

missions with which Israel

is charged, to be God's witnesses on earth, to work for the perfection (tikkun) of the world under the reign of the

Almighty. In the framework of this universal tikkun,

and only following the yearning for "Now, Lord our God, put thy awe upon

all whom thou hast made" will there come the tikkun

of "Now, O Lord, grant honor to thy people, glory to those who revere

thee, free speech to those who yearn for thee, joy to thy land and gladness to

thy city."


anticipation of the redemption of Israel

is not a function of Israel's

being Israel,

but of Israel

being a "a nation in awe of You". If Israel

does not meet that qualification, it deserves no special relationship.

Rosh Hashana is intended for every man who – in honest

consciousness – considers himself to be a believer, who is willing to examine

whether he is capable of serving God out of love. Such a person is in no need

of the "Unetaneh Tokef"

prayer with its descriptions of the celestial Day of Judgment; such a

person accepts Rosh Hashanah as the day in which man meditates upon the lofty

idea of perfecting the world under

the reign of the Almighty. The redemption of Israel

receives its meaning through the realization of this ideal; Israel

has been appointed to be the ideal's messenger on earth.

(Y. Leibowitz: Sihot al Hagei Yisrael U'Mo'adav pp. 169-170)


Only the God of

Thoughts Can Evaluate Who Is a Sinner and Who Is Righteous

One whose sins exceed his

merits dies immediately in his wickedness, as is written, For most of your

sins, and so a society whose sins are many is annihilated immediately, as

is written: The outcry in Sodom and Amora – how

great it is!, and similarly the entire world, if their sins exceed their

merits, they are destroyed immediately, as is written: Now God saw that

great was humankind's evildoing on earth. This weighing is not done

according to the number of merits and sins, but considers the relative weight

of each sin and merit; there is a merit which may outweigh a number of sins, as

is written: for some good has been found in him, and there is a sin

which outweighs several merits, as is written: A single error destroys much

of value – and weighing is done only in the mind of the God of thought, and

He alone knows how to evaluate the merits as against the sins.

(RaMBaM, Mishneh Torah,

Laws of Repentance, 3:2)



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