Rosh Hashana 5772 – Gilayon #719

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Rosh Hashana

Our father, our king. Inscribe us

In the book of forgiveness and absolution


Good and upright is the

Lord: the Option of Correction is One of God's Graces 

Good and upright is the Lord . How is He good? In that He

is upright. How is He upright? In that He is good.

They asked wisdom: What is the sinner's punishment? It said: Evil

will pursue the sinners (Proverbs


They asked prophecy: What is the sinner's punishment? It said: The

soul which sins shall die.

They asked the Torah: What is the sinner's punishment? It said: Let him

bring a guilt-offering and it will be atoned.

They asked the Holy One, blessed be He: What is the sinner's

punishment? He said: Let him repent and it shall be atoned for him, as it is

written: The Lord is good and upright; therefore, He leads sinners on

the way, [meaning] that He shows sinners the way for them to repent.

(Yalkut Shimoni Tehilim 25, 702)



Good Year to All Our Readers for all Israel for All the World



Year of Peace, Justice and Tranquility


End to the Year and Its Afflictions


Beginning of a Year and Its Blessings



Us in the Book of Life, For Your Own Sake, O Living God

"In whom all the ends of the earth and distant

seas put their trust"

Itai Marinberg-Milikovsky

 For the leader. A psalm of David. A song.

 Praise befits You in Zion, O God; vows are paid to You,


mankind comes to You, You who hear prayer.

 When all manner of sins overwhelm me,


is You who forgive our inequities.

 Happy is the man You choose and bring near to

dwell in Your courts;


we be sated with the blessing of Your house, Your holy temple.

 Answer us with victory through awesome deeds,

O God our deliverer,


whom all the ends of the earth and distant seas put their trust;


by His power, fixed the mountains firmly,


is girded with might, who stills the raging seas,


raging waves, the tumultuous peoples.

 Those who live at the ends of earth are awed

by Your signs;


make the lands of sunrise and sunset shout for joy.

 You take care of the earth and irrigate it; You

enrich it greatly,


the channel of God full of water;


provide grain for men; for so do You prepare it.

 Saturating its furrows, leveling its ridges,    


soften it with showers, You bless its growth.

 You crown the year with Your bounty; fatness

is distilled in Your paths;


pasture lands distill it; the hills are girded with joy.

 The meadows are clothes with flocks; the

valleys mantled with grain;


raise a shout, they break into song.

                                                                                              (Psalm 65)


How beautiful

this psalm of praise! Before offering even a single word of commentary, it is

almost impossible not to be amazed at the vigorous joy of life which

characterizes it towards its conclusion. The entire world is enriched with

water, the earth sings praise, and the green today is greener than ever; the supernatural

plentitude of good and blessings from above infuse Creation, and together with

intense feelings of renewal, they create an intoxicating celebration of sound

and color. The hope for rain, and the thanks for its eventual arrival – both

deeply-felt and natural for men of antiquity, as is evinced throughout Tractate

Taanit – both deviate here from their normal routine, and are elevated beyond

the farmer's private field and vineyard to a state where every tiny mound of

soil, valley and hill, are humanized so that one may discern in them welcoming

eyes; they stimulate smiling speech. An atmosphere of a new year beginning  – true, the year begins in Nisan- but nonetheless

a new year.


But the psalm

begins not with the exciting description of nature with the arrival of rain,

but rather with the experience of prayer and penance: " All mankind comes

to You, you who hear prayer. When all manner of sins overwhelm me, it is You

who forgives our inequities. Happy is the man You choose and bring near to

dwell in Your courts; may we be sated with the blessing of Your house" . The

disparity – both in style and content – between the two sections led Biblical

scholars to the hypothesis regarding the liturgical use of the psalm as an

ancient prayer for rain; one which did not escape – as is usual with prayers – later

additions, secondary to the original nucleus. Whatever the case may be, it is

interesting to contemplate a certain motif which binds the passages together

and gives them – at least ostensibly – a unified appearance. We are referring

to the special characteristic of the event described; not only the valleys and

hills react with lively movement to the Holy One's doings, but also human

beings who turn to Him who hears prayers, and are blessed through their

closeness to His holy courts. Their trust in the Lord derives, as the poet

makes clear, from the Holy One's complete control over all the world, from the

ends of the world to the ends of the sea: " Answer us with victory through

awesome deeds, O God our deliverer, in whom all the ends of the earth and

distant seas put their trust."


The word combination

" distant seas"  stimulated the

imagination of our Sages, who identified in space symbolic significance. The

midrash in Psikta d'Rav Kahana I (Chap 24) relates:

R' Hinna bar

Papa asked R' Shmuel bar Nahman, saying: What is the meaning of this "distant

seas" ?

He replied: Repentance

is likened to the sea; just as this sea is open forever,

So the gates

of repentance are open forever.

And prayer is

likened to a mikveh [ritual immersion pool]; just as the mikvah

is sometimes open, sometimes locked, so the gates of prayer are sometimes open

and sometimes locked.

The mikveh,

when one comes immerse himself and finds there his father or his teacher, he is

embarrassed and leaves; but at the sea, one moves a bit away, goes down and

immerses himself."

The midrash

creates a double contrast between prayer and repentance. First of all, while

prayer is limited to appointed times, and its gates are not always open, the

gates of repentance are never shut. But on the other hand – and this is for us

the more important consideration – prayer, like the limited, defined mikveh,

does not necessarily leave space for all. A person wishes to immerse – or to

pray – if he finds there his father or his rebbi, he is embarrassed and leaves;

repentance, like the open and spacious ocean, enables everyone to find his way

to the water. But the midrash formulates its words better and more deeply than the

way in which we summarized it; perhaps the sea enables everyone to find his way

to the water, but not before he meets there his father or his teacher. This

already charged encounter becomes more charged at the exposed moment of

immersion, and it also seems true at immersion in prayer and repentance. Fortunately,

"for one higher than the high watcheth (This

quote from Kohellet 5:7 is employed by the Sages to express the supremacy of

God in the celestial hierarchy).

An alternate version

of the midrash (Midrash Tehillim, 4:3)

stresses that the gates of mercy are never closed, not because they provide a

circumvention of human authority, but because the Holy One, Blessed Be He, the

addressee of our supplications, is always near to us " whenever we call

upon Him"  (Devarim 4:7).


is not pleasant. But shame is not necessarily a negative emotion, especially

when experienced in the form of respectful awe; it help us keep our actions in

equilibrium, obligating us to be attentive to our fellow's feelings and

opinions – or, as per the allegory in the midrash – obligating us to

sensitivity towards ourselves, when we unexpectedly meet those greater than

ourselves. But shame can also castrate and suffocate; those close to me are so

great and powerful – what am I and who am I? Here we approach one of the advantages

of distance, of space. The movement to a different place facilitates freedom,

freedom which does not renounce the presence of the authoritative persona – it

is still there, where we at first intended to immerse – but it obligates us to carve

new side-paths.


We return to the rain. We read in

Midrash Devarim Rabba (Ki Tavo, Lieberman ed.,

p. 111)

A tale is told

of a gentile who asked Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, saying: We have holydays and

you have holydays, we have Calanda, Starlania, and Carosis. You have Passover,

Shavuot and Sukkoth. On what day are both you and I happy? Answered him Rabban

Yohanan ben Zakkai: On the day when rain falls, as is written " The

meadows are clothes with flocks, etc"  (Psalm 65:14)

and what follows: " Praise the Lord all the earth.{Psalm 66:1)

In his answer

to the gentile, who searches for single second of equal joy, of thankfulness

shared by all, Raban Yohanan ben Zakkay ties the last verse of the psalm under

consideration to the first verse of the following psalm. Immediately after the

wonderful description of nature awakening, the poet of Psalms celebrates the

shouts of praise emanating from all corners of the universe; the joy on " the

day when rain falls"  does not

differentiate among those created in the image. It is bound up with the

penetrating recognition that notes – in joy – the unbridgeable gap between man

and his God. " All the earth bows to You, and sings hymns to You; all sing

hymns to Your name, Selah. Come and see the works of God who is held in awe by men

for His acts."  (Ibid. 4-5)


It may well be

that we have lost our sensitivity to rain. But the passing year signaled a

new/old focal point for universal fraternity. One after the other the nations

around us became disgusted with the dictatorial and corrupt reigns. Despite all

the differences, it is difficult not to see in the social protest which rattled


doorposts a sister to protests in the Arab world. The deep belief in the rights

of the individual to freedom and a life of dignity gave birth to a shared

destiny, and – for those who were willing to do so – cracked the walls of

opposing national interests.

" You have

let men ride over us; we have endured fire and water, and you have brought us

through to prosperity"  (ibid. 12). In this hour of fundamental

undermining of man's rule over man – in all its overt and covert forms – we can

return to adopt one of the most radical ideas which Rosh Hashana embodies… the

day of God's coronation over the entire universe, the day of thrilling

submission to the exalted-beyond-exaltation; this is the day of stepping

onto new paths to the great ocean, before which we are all equal.

Itai Marinberg Milikovsky,

married and father to a son, lives in Yerushalayim. A graduate of the Kibbutz

Hadati Yeshiva in Ein Tsurim, today a doctoral candidate in the Dept of Hebrew

Literature in Univ. Ben-Gurion in the Negev. Studies and teaches Talmud in

Batei Midrash in Yerushalyim and Tel Aviv.



Only the God of Thoughts Can

Evaluate Who Is a Sinner, Who Is a Tzaddik

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)


The Blowing of the Shofar

and the Verses of " Malchuyot Zichronot V'Shofarot"* as Part

of an Inner Conflict

"And on the day of your

rejoicing and at your fixed seasons etc." : From these passages our

Sages learned that on Rosh Hashanah we recite Makchuyot Zichronot V'Shofarot,

as is written in the Yalkut on this parasha. It is important to

understand what exactly led them to conclude that these passages refer to Rosh

Hashana. It seems that they based their reading on that which is written "

And when you come in battle in your land against the foe who assails you, you

shall let out a long blast with the trumpets and be remembered before the Lord

your God and be rescued from your enemies"  (Bemidbar

10:9). " And thus it was in ancient Israel that in every instance

of calamity, they would decree a fast and would blow and cry out and recite Makchuyot

Zichronot V'Shofarot, (Tur, Orach

Hayyim, 679) and perhaps from their reading of these passages, as is

said " When you come in battle etc."  they derived from both [passages] that on

every day on which there is a sounding of the shofar, this order [Makchuyot

Zichronot V'Shofarot] is followed, Rosh Hashana included. And since the

text reads " battle inside your land"  we understand that the text refers to the

assailant who is within the land. And this is fitting for Rosh Hashana

on which the shofar is sounded in order to confound the satan which assails

from within, from inside the land, [this reading] comes to exclude

assailants who generally come from outside the land. And furthermore, what is

the difference whether the oppressor comes from the outside or from within?

According to this, it is appropriate to see in these passages a reference to the

[liturgical] order of Rosh Hashana.

(Kli Yakar, Bemidbar 10:10)



of the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf liturgy referring to God's kingship, His goodness

to mankind, and shofar-accompanied historic events.


Fateful hours are not fit for song, they are appropriate

for introspection

The Book of Life is the

heavens, and there all future decrees are inscribed on the day of their


(Ibn Ezra, Psalms, 69:29)


"The court sat, and books

were opened" (Daniel 7:10). He

does not need a book, for He knows thoughts yet unthought, but this [text] is

according to our customary style of "The Torah spoke in the vernacular.

(Sefer Chassidim 32, quoted in "Days of Awe" by S.Y. Agnon)


What is the reason [for not

reciting the Hallel on Rosh Hashana]? – Said Rabbi Abahu: Said the ministering

angels before The Holy One, Blessed Be He: Master of the Universe, why does Israel not sing

hymns before you on Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim? He said to them: Is it

possible that a king sits in judgement, and the Books of the Living and Books

of the Dead are open before him – and Israel sings!?

(Bavli, Rosh Hashana 32b)


"Now, lord our god, put

thy awe upon all whom thou hast made… Now, o lord, grant honor to thy


One cannot ignore the fact that

in the common perception of many generations, there sprouted the corrupted

and misleading conception that His Name, Be It Extolled, 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."

The anticipation of the

redemption of Israel is not

a function of Israel's being

Israel, but of Israel being

"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 Judgement; such a person accepts Rosh

Hashana 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: Discussions on Israel's Festivals and Appointed Times,

pp. 169-170)


The Sound

of Teruah – Sob or Sigh?

The Holy One, Blessed Be He, Does

Not Differentiate Between One Cry And Another

Throughout the years and in most

of the Diaspora, there have existed doubts regarding the nature of

the teruah mentioned in the Torah. Is it the wail of wailing

women? Or is it a sigh, such as that which a person sighs again and again

when his heart is greatly troubled? Or is it the two together, the sigh and the

sob which usually follows it, for this is the nature of one deeply worried,

first he sighs and then he wails. Therefore we execute all three.

 (Rambam, Laws of Shofar 3:2)


"You shall observe a day of

teruah" – and we interpret this: You shall observe a day of sobbing."

It is written in connection with the mother of Sisera (Judges 5): "Through the window peered

Sisera's mother, behind the lattice she whined." One [authority] says

she sighed , and another says she wailed.

(Bavli, Rosh Hashana 33b)


Said Rabbi Elazar: From the day

the Temple was

destroyed, the gates of prayer have been shut, as is written (Eicha 3:8) "And when I cry and

plead, He shuts out my prayer."

But even though the gates of

prayer were shut, the gates of tears were not shut, as is written (Psalms 39:13) "Hear my prayer, O

Lord; give ear to my cry; do not disregard my tears; for like all my forebears

I am an alien, resident with You."

(Bavli, Bava Metsia 59a)



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