Rosh Hashana 5770 – Gilayon #618

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Rosh Hashana

On New Year all

mankind pass before him like children of Maron, for it is said:

He Who forms

their hearts together, Who understands all their deeds (Psalms 33).

(Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:2)


On New Year all mankind pass

before him like children of Maron

What is the meaning of the expression, "like children of Maron"? – In

Babylon it was

translated, 'like a flock of sheep'. Resh Lakish said: As [in] the ascent of

Beit Maron. Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: Like the troops of the House

of David.

(Rosh Hashanah 18b, based on Soncino



And through this the disagreement about [the expression] "children

of Meron" may be explained. Some translated it as "like a flock of

sheep," which expresses lowliness and submission as they, may there

memory be a blessing, said: "Just as it is with lambs, that one's head is

next to the other's tail, that is, to be a [mere] remainder in one's own eyes,

and as Scripture says: I strayed like a lost lamb (Psalms 119:176). Resh Lakish said: "As [in] the ascent of Beit Maron,"

which Rashi interprets as referring to place where there are deep valleys to

either side of the road. If someone sees himself as a lost lamb he might come

to the terrible loss of hope, God forbid, and that is the worst thing of all. Rather,

he should see himself as if he were ascending to Beit Maron and by straying

slightly to either side he will fall into the valley, and in any event, if he

takes pains not to stray in either direction he still has hope of reaching his

destination. R. Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: like the troops of the

house of David – that is, one must worry about losing hope, God forbid, but one

should also be as strong-minded as the troops of the House of David, as it is

taught, "Everyone who went out to battles of the House of David had a writ

of divorce written for his wife" (Ketuvot 9b), and my grandfather,

the holy Rebbe from Kotzk explained that [those soldiers] had no thought at all

for their household matters and all their thoughts were on the battle and in

that way they were absolutely strengthened to win in the name of God that was

called upon them and the image of God that illuminated their faces. So too each

person should view himself and trust in the name of the Lord, for God is with

us and we should not fear, and the victory will be great in proportion to one's

cleaving to God and meditation upon Torah thoughts. If so, these Amora'im are

arguing about the attitude one should take in the day of the New Year when he

passes before the Master of all.

(R. Shmuel Borenstein, the Sokhetosher

Rebbe, in Shem MiShmuel, Helek HaMo'adim)


We wish a good year to all our readers,

to the entire House of Israel, and to all mankind.

A year of peace and tranquility.

May the year end with its curses and the new year being with

its blessings.

And inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your sake, O living




Enlightened Self

Mordechai Beck

There is much nostalgia in our concept of teshuva. It is not only the haredi

community that, in order to feel pious, wear garb that makes them resemble 17th

Polish aristocrats. In Israel,

too, there is a trend among certain individuals and groups to dress in

"Biblical" style, complete with thonged sandals and four-cornered

fringed shirts, or ankle-long galabiyas, in order to feel 'authentic.'

Our prayers, too, are filled with such longings, of which the "Hashiveinu"

prayer that accompanies the return of the sefer Torah to the ark is

typical: "Turn us, Lord, to you and we will return/ Renew our days as they

once were." The implication of such pleas is that there is a way to turn

back the clock, and reach some pristine, virginal state of being that is

untouched by sin and filled with the light of the Divine Presence, as at the dawn

of creation. For many people this may be what Teshuva means: to be our former

innocent selves. This is doubly ironic in that to modern sensibilities the

whole definition of the "self" has been under scrutiny as never

before in history. Starting perhaps with Freud, men and women became

increasingly more conscious of who they were, and how they became that way.

What appeared to be their real selves was only a convenient if superficial

mask. The real self was buried beneath layers of psychic experience that were

stored, like so many hidden computer files, in the recesses of the subconscious

mind. While on the one hand, Freud elevated the individual to unprecedented

heights of importance (everybody carried with them hidden treasures), it also

led to people doubting themselves, or at least that part of themselves that lay

on the surface. If the true self was so fluid, and possibly unknowable, what

could individuals do to improve themselves? In existential philosophy, Sartre

spoke of a 'false' self, that part of the individual that exists by simply

conforming to social norms. Without a "projet" (a central

goal), the real self would simply be swallowed up by all these false selves.

The British psychologist D.W. Winnicott, and his prodigy, R.D.Laing, gave

substance to Sartre's observations by observing how the individual is often

forced to develop in ways that are against his or her true 'self'. The false

self that develops is the result of parents, teachers or peers trying,

consciously or not, to mould them into a shape that is inappropriate for their

own development. One way of dealing with this situation is to believe that what

once was, was somehow better, if not materially then certainly spiritually. In

contrasting the awful present to the good old days, radicals on both the left

and right of the ideological spectrum, will often refer to

"distortions" of some pristine purity, that have become through

overuse, the norm, and thus seem totally natural. This harking back to some

former purity has strong echoes throughout the autumnal festivals. It is caught

in the redolent phrase "Hayom harat olam" – This is the day of

the birth of the world – which is the way the traditional festival prayer book,

the mahzor, characterises Rosh Hashana. Similarly, on the very last day

of the festivals, Shmini Atzeret/Simhat Torah, we read the first chapter of the

Torah, recounting the birth of the universe, in the Book of Genesis. The link

between text and tradition is not serendipitous. Central to the account of the

creation, for example, is the formation of light. On the first day, God creates

light, divides it from existing darkness and chaos, calling the one day and the

other night. On the fourth day, God creates the sun, moon and stars. In answer

to the obvious question, what therefore is the nature of the light created on

the first day, two answers are of particular significance. One was given by the

late Rabbi Dr. Eli Munk who claimed that the sun and moon of the fourth day

signified the introduction of time as we know it – days, nights, months, years.

The period before this – the first so-called three 'days' from the creation of

the supernal light of day one – could have therefore encompassed millions or

billions of years, without doing harm to the literary or spiritual integrity of

the Genesis narrative. Some support for this position is to be found among the

sages themselves. As Rashi quotes them, this first light was put aside for the

righteous of the future. Later, kabbalistically inspired commentators explain

that this refers not just to some after-life promise, but rather to the ability

of all those who study the Torah sincerely and deeply in order to experience this

supernal light themselves (Hagigah 12a "Ohr

Haganuz" of the Maggid of Koznitz ).

Why God would wish or have need to create two types of light throws up another

interesting possibility. The light of the sun, moon and stars, as we know from

Einstein, may look absolutely straight to the naked eye, but it is prone, by

its very nature, to bend, particularly when it encounters an object. Many art

historians see in the later works of Cezanne and the analytical Cubism of

Picasso and Braque, clear indications of this bending light. One inference of

this might be that nature is to a certain extent already 'distorted,' and that

we have to live with the consequences of a world that is never quite as

straight as it seems. All this, however, applies to the sensual, material

world. The possibility of the existence of a non-material, spiritual dimension

in the world, and in our experience of it, is given us precisely with this

supernal light created "for the righteous" on Day One of creation.

This light – a pure, unchanging substance – remains forever unsullied and

chaste, beyond the imperfections and impurities of the ever-changing mundane

universe. It is surely this virgin light that attracts humankind as it

struggles through the journey of life with its never-ending twists and turns,

its inevitable distortions and ups and downs. The period of Ellul and Tishre

articulates this striving for light, not in order to return to some previous

age – for this can never be – but rather to touch base with that which is

eternally pure, within the universe and, ultimately, within ourselves.

Mordechai Beck is an artist and writer. He lives in Jerusalem


Man Comes from Dust

At first glance, this is a low view of man,

to say that "man comes from dust and ends in dust," but actually

these words denote praise of man, who was hewn from a holy source, from our

father Abraham, peace be upon him, who said, I am but earth and ashes (Bereishit 18). "And he ends in dust" –

this refers to the Days of Messiah, about which David said, For

our soul is bowed down to the dust (Psalms 44).

(Rabbi Yehoshua of Ostroveh; Sefer Toldedot Adam. Quoted by S. Y. Agnon in Days of Awe, p.86)


You encompass me earlier and later

R. Shimon ben Lakish said: Later refers to the creation of the

last day, and earlier refers to the creation of the first day. This is

the opinion of R. Shimon ben Lakish,

for R. Shimon ben Lakish

said: The spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters – this is

the spirit of the Anointed King – the Messiah. How, then, to understand that

which is written, And the spirit of God will

rest upon him? If man merits, he will be told: "You preceded the

ministering angels," and if not, he is told: "The fly preceded you,

the mosquito preceded you, this worm preceded


(Bereishit Rabbah, 8:1)


When Is Man Judged?

It is taught in a Braita:

All [things] are judged on Rosh Hashanah, and their verdict is sealed

on Yom Kippur, so said Rabbi Meir.

R. Yehudah said:

Everything is judged on Rosh Hashanah, but verdicts are sealed for each in its

own time; on Pesah for the grains, on Shavuot for the

fruits of the tree, on Sukkot for water and man is

judged on Rosh Hashanah, and his verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur.

R. Yossi says:

Man is judged daily, as is written, You

inspect him every morning (Job


R. Natan says:

Man is judged every hour, as is written Examine him every minute (ibid.).

(Rosh HaShana 16a)


This is the reason that the Day of Judgment

of Rosh Hashanah is omitted [from the parasha], so

that man will not behave arbitrarily, adapting himself to sin all days of the

year, thinking to correct his ways as he approaches the Day of the Lord on

which He sits on the throne of judgment; he should rather imagine that every

day God sits on His throne for judgment, and he should check his record book,

and thereby he will constantly be in a state of repentance, and there is the

opinion which says "Man is judged daily" (Rosh Hashanah 16), as is written You inspect him every

morning, examine him every second (Job 7:18).

(Kli Yakar, Vayikra 16)


And this explains "man is judged

every day" and not "they [the Heavenly court] judge him every

day" as though to say that he is judged from within himself, as

though it [judgment] is conducted automatically…

(Arvei Nahal, Parashat Nitzavim)


There is no doubt that the statements by R.

Yossi and R. Natan express

the deepest conception of faith. Man's standing in the world is not a matter of

a verdict imposed upon him on some specific date; it is an expression of man's

constant standing before God. There is not a moment in his life in which he is

not being judged. What, then, is the particular relevance of Rosh Hashanah here? Against the background of the above, we can

say that Rosh Hashanah is not a Day of Judgment; it is

a "Yom Teruah"of sounding

the shofar – and a reminder by shofar

blasting, intended to remind man of the fact that he is constantly

being judged.

(Y. Leibowitz: Sihot al Haggei Yisrael u'Moadav, p.165)


Who is a God like You, forgiving any iniquity and remitting

transgression, Who has not maintained His wrath forever against the remnant of

His own people, because He loves graciousness. He will take us back in love; He

will cover up our iniquities, You will hurl all their sins into the depths of

the sea.

(Micah 7:18-19)


Recitation of the Tashlikh by a River


point of the custom of reciting the passage Who is a God like You next

to a river on Rosh HaShanah is that the Master,

may He be blessed renews the existence of all things on Rosh HaShanah, aiming for the good amongst them to survive

eternally while rejecting the bad amongst them until creation is purified of

them and will become worthy of being illuminated by the light of His face for

all eternity. He in His mercy, may He be blessed, forgives iniquities and

remits transgressions as far as possible in keeping with His just law, while

rejecting all of the evil that had grown in creation, removing it from

existence. This idea is contained in the verses Who

is a God like You, etc… You will hurl all their sins into the depths of the

sea. Indeed, it is always proper to use the things of this world in giving

Him praise, in as much as the forms and laws of the existents allude to the

mysteries of His wisdom. That is why we go to the water. Its form shows us the

sinking of those who sink in it, and alludes to a secret of the mysteries of

His providence, may He be blessed, that He submerges evil and removes it from

His creations in such a manner that it leaves no impression behind it

what-so-ever, as the prophet himself made clear with his words, You will

hurl all their sins into the depths of the sea.

(Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzato, Ma'amar Hokhmah)


Individual Prayer and Communal Prayer; Prayer's Differing Intentions

You will surely arise and take pity on Zion, for it is time to be gracious to her;

the appointed time has come. Your servants take delight in its stones, and

cherish its dust. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of

the earth, Your glory. For the Lord has built Zion; He has appeared in

all His glory. He has turned to the prayer of the

destitute and has not spurned their prayer. May this be written down

for a coming generation, that people yet to be created may praise the Lord. For He looks down from His holy height; the Lord

beholds the earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoner, to release

those condemned to death; that the fame of the Lord may be recounted in Zion,

His praises in Jerusalem, when the nations gather together, the kingdoms, to

serve the Lord.





grammar is clear; [this passage] begins in the singular the prayer of the

destitute [one] but it ends in the plural and has not spurned their

prayer. Similarly [we read] to hear the groans of the prisoner,

to release those condemned to death. Vayikra

Rabbah (Emor 23)

has already explained the doubled language, For

He looks down from His holy height; the Lord beholds the earth from heaven


point is that the Psalmist saw through the Holy Spirit that in the final

generation, all of Israel

will pray on Rosh HaShanah for the restoration of the kingdom of Heaven

to Jerusalem,

and He shall reign over the entire world. However, that prayer is not appropriate

for every individual. There is one who loves the Lord with all his heart and

prayers for the magnification of His glory, may He be blessed. There are those

who pray that Israel

return to its land, for [the fulfillment of] the promise made to our father

Abraham when he received the commandment of circumcision…and there is one

whose is insensitive to the misfortune of exile in his personal life. Such a

person's prayer is completely heartless, a matter of sheer rote. Inspired by

the Holy Spirit he said, He has turned to the prayer of the destitute,

to that individual in the crowd who arouses the mercy of heaven from the depths

of his heart for the glory of Heaven, yet despite this He does not despise the

prayers of the masses, even though they only pray for their own benefit, or

without intention altogether, in any case the Great Lord does not despise the

communal prayer that joins that of the destitute.

(HaNaTziv MiVolzhen: Harhev Davar Devarim 26:15, note 1)


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