parasha

Living in the Kingdom of Hashem – Rosh Hashanah 5780

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

On the coming Sunday evening we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah – two days of chag that open the new year in the Hebrew calendar. The mitzvah that most symbolizes Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar. Many Jews, also those who are not regulars at their synagogue, make an effort to come and hear the reverberating sounds of the shofar. In honor of this significant mitzvah, Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Tru’a [one of the shofar’s sounds] in the Torah.

In addition to blowing the shofar, our sages enacted the special prayers that we say on these days, focusing on the main blessings: Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot. These three prayers accompany the blowing of the shofar and elucidate the spiritual meaning of the shofar for the entire Jewish Nation.

The Malchuyot prayer teaches us that the shofar sounds symbolize Hashem’s kingship in the world. As we start this new year, we are coronating Hashem as King of the Universe and declaring this by blowing the shofar. In honor of Rosh Hashanah, Hashem once again reveals Himself to the world, and with even greater strength. We look at the shofar, hear the sounds, and enable this revelation when we bring Hashem’s light into our hearts and acknowledge His reign over us. Kingship is a foreign term to the vast majority of humanity in the 21st century, but the original meaning of the king was to rule over the nation and ensure its welfare. We also recognize the fact that Hashem is the source of good and abundance, love and compassion, and these are the coronation of Hashem over the world.

Hashem’s kingship over the world has additional implications. Hashem has values and principles that He maintains and endorses. “Coronating Hashem over the world” is also recognizing the fact that He will never let evil win. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah is also the Day of Judgement. On this day we conduct self-examination and ensure that we are serving the good in this world and not, Heaven Forbid, the evil.

The Zichronot prayer expresses this principle: Hashem judges the entire human race because He is concerned for their wellbeing and wants people to continue on the right path.

A person can win a trial case, but he can also lose. The loss might be painful, so what should he do? How can one win the trial? We find the answer in the Zichronot prayer:


"אשרי איש שלא ישכחך, ובן אדם יתאמץ בך! כי דורשיך לעולם לא ייכשלו, ולא יכלמו לנצח כל החוסים בך"
“Happy is the man who does not forget You, and the son of man who strengthens himself in You; For those that seek You shall never stumble, neither shall they ever be put to shame, who trust in You”

(From the Musaf Prayer for Rosh Hashanah)

Our response as believing Jews is: faith. We remember and know the goodness provided by Hashem, the Covenant that he made with Am Yisrael, and in honor of this Covenant we celebrate the beginning of the New Year. In Arba’a Turim, a book authored by one of the prominent halachic rulers of the 14th century, Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher (Germany, 1269 – Spain, 1343) describes the preparations for Rosh Hashanah with great awe:

“No other nation is like that nation who knows the nature of its God! … that in general, in this world a person wears black and covers himself in black when he is going to stand trial … because he does not know what the result of his case will be; but Israel is not like that. They wear white and cover themselves in white … and eat and drink and are happy on Rosh Hashanah, because they know that Hashem, the Lord of the Universe, will make a miracle for them.”
(Arba’ah Turim, Orach Haim, 581)

We believe that Hashem judges the entire humanity on Rosh Hashanah and as much as our understanding of the Divine kingship is great, so is the level of our faith that we will win the trial and be inscribed for a good and happy year.

Rosh Hashanah is the opportunity of each and every one of us to choose good; to choose the way of Hashem: to recognize his goodness and his kingship and to put our faith in Him.

We pray and anticipate that the new year will bring an abundance of light and happiness, truth and justice, compassion and benevolence to this world. May this year be the year when we stay faithful to the truth and the good. May this year be a good and sweet year, a blessed year full of love, and may we merit to see the complete redemption in our times.

 

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