Monday, November 7, 2011

294 - Rosh Hashana

The Navi (Nechemia 8, 1-12) depicts the emotional first Rosh Hashana experienced by the remnants who returned from the Babylonian exile. Everyone gathered in the streets and requested from Ezra HaSofer to read from the Torah. He then proceeded to read and explain the Torah and mitzvos in a clear and concise fashion. This caused much weeping among Bnei Yisroel, for they realized just how far they had strayed from Hashem and His commandments. However, Ezra HaSofer and Nechemia encouraged them, "Today is sacred to Hashem your G-d, do not mourn and do not weep. . . Eat delicacies and drink sweet beverages and send portions to those lacking, for today is sacred to our Master. Do not be despondent, because the enjoyment of Hashem is your strength."

Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 474) notes that the tears shed by those penitent Jews upon hearing the Torah's commandments indicated their sincere regret for their wayward actions. If so, he asks, why did Ezra and Nechemia cut short their heartfelt teshuva?

The answer lies in understanding the difference between Rosh Hashana and the subsequent days of the "Aseres Yimei Teshuva." One who studies the tefillos of Rosh Hashana will find that there is no mention of vidui or feelings of regret for recalcitrant behavior. This is because the teshuva of Rosh Hashana is not aimed at individual transgressions. Rather, the focus is on accepting the yoke of Heaven with genuine happiness! On Rosh Hashana, "The enjoyment of Hashem is our strength." Consequently, after blowing the shofar we declare, "Praiseworthy is the nation who knows the shofar blasts." "In Your Name they will rejoice all day long and through Your righteousness they will be exalted." We specifically select pesukim of rejoicing, for there is no greater delight than accepting upon oneself the yoke of Heaven.

Truth be told, if Rosh Hashana were not days of judgment, we should dance from sheer joy when reciting Aleinu. For many, this is a novel approach to Rosh Hashana. Yes, there is a seriousness that comes along with this awesome Day of Judgement. Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that there is no greater joy in the entire world than serving Hashem and having the opportunity to develop a relationship with Him!
Kesiva V'Chasima Tova!

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