Rosh Hashana

Parshat Haazinu & Rosh Hashana          1-3 Tishrei 5765              September 16-18, 2004              Vol.14 No.2

In This Issue:

Rabbi Yosef Adler

Jesse Dunietz

Chanan Strassman

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter



Living Al Kiddush Hashem
by Rabbi Yosef Adler

The Haftorah of the second day of Rosh Hashanah makes reference to the famous words of Yirmiyahu as he describes Rachel petitioning Hashem to enable Am Yisrael to return from the Babylonian exile. "Kol Biramah Nishmah Nehi Bechi Tamurim Rachel Mivakah Al Baneha.Vishavu Banim Ligevulam." Many have raised the question as to why only Rachel is crying and not any of the other Avot or Imahot.
The Midrash on Megillat Eicha describes an unusual scene. As the Beit Hamikdash was burning, Hashem was crying and screaming, "where are my children, my prophets, my Kohanim? I feel like someone whose only son died suddenly at his Chupah." Hashem instructs Yirmiyahu to summon all the Avot and Imahot and make them petition to Him on behalf of Am Yisrael. Avraham is the first to speak. He rips his hair, tears his garments, and places ashes on his forehead and laments: "Ribono Shel Olam, you granted me a child at age 100 and yet when you asked me to sacrifice him on the altar I did so without hesitation." However, Hashem was unimpressed. Yaakov appears before Hashem and says, "I worked for Lavan for 21 hard years. Upon leaving I was confronted by Esav who wanted to kill me and my children and I stood before them and was prepared to die to protect them." Nevertheless, Hashem was unimpressed. Moshe appears before Hashem and says, "I spoke on behalf of your people for 40 years and yet I died before entering Israel. Let my death substitute for them and enable them to return to the Holy Land."
Rachel finally gets her turn and says, "Yaakov had initially worked for me for seven years. My father Lavan cajoled me to allow Leah to trick Yaakov. I could not bear witness to the shame that Leah would have experienced had Yaakov deleted the trickery during the wedding night. Having suspected that Lavan might pull a fast one, Yaakov gave me certain Simanim to identify myself. I then willingly gave those signs to my sister Leah to spare her from shame and embarrassment. I stood outside the door and as Yaakov spoke to Leah I instructed Leah to remain silent and I filled in the answers." Upon hearing this Hashem was overcome with mercy and compassion and said, "my children will return."
All the Imahot and Avot spoke on behalf of their children. But they all focused on their willingness to die in order to protect a loved one or to adhere to Hashem's commandments. Rachel advised Hashem that she was willing to live Al Kiddush Hashem. This is our challenge as well. We have high regard and enormous respect for every member of Tzahal who is prepared to die Al Kiddush Hashem if necessary. Since we, in America, are not faced with that daunting challenge, the very least we can do is live our lives Al Kiddush Hashem. May we fulfill the Pasuk "Vi Rau Kol Amei Haaretz Ki Shem Hashem Nikrah Alecha" and thereby merit "Vishavu Banim Ligvulam."

Inspirational Keriat Hatorah
by Jesse Dunietz

The Keriat Hatorah of the second day of Rosh Hashanah is composed of two stories. The first and primary element is the story of Akeidat Yitzchak. The second, and far smaller, section of the reading deals with the births of various relatives of Avraham. Since the main topic of the second day's reading is clearly supposed to be the Akeidah story (see Megillah 31a), why do we not simply stop at the end of that section? There are more than enough Pesukim to constitute a full Torah reading without an addendum about family! What does the account of Avraham's relatives have to do with Rosh Hashanah?
Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik explains that this section is making a point about the world's reaction to Avraham's actions. "After these events" - after all that Avraham did to demonstrate true Avodat Hashem and dedication, all that the outside world was concerned with was, "Behold, Milkah too has borne children to Nachor.." The general public did not even take notice of what Avraham had done; there was no wave of inspiration, no response. After Avraham's great sacrifice, everyone simply let life continue unchanged. Obviously, this is a great rebuke of the people of Avraham's generation. (This, of course, presumes that Avraham, as a public figure and Mikarev, would have publicized the events of his own life as a way to teach others.)
It is to give this rebuke to us, as well, that this account is included in the Keriat Hatorah of Rosh Hashanah. Rav Soloveitchik points to the lack of world response to the Holocaust or any other great tragedy throughout our history as evidence that this lesson is still unlearned. What we must understand from this Torah reading is the need to respond and to take events to heart. We cannot just carry on as always. This was the mistake of Avraham's generation. Rather, we must allow ourselves to be affected and changed when we hear of, see, or experience exceptional events.
This message is also consistent with the unique purpose of the Rosh Hashanah's Torah reading, as explained by Rabbi Jachter in last week's Kol Torah. Unlike other holiday readings, Rosh Hashanah's Keriat Hatorah acts as a part of the Tefillah, and an enhancement of the Rosh Hashanah experience. According to Rav Soloveitchik's explanation, the final paragraph of the reading also fits with this theme. Although it has nothing to do with the Chag directly, it imparts a lesson that is very relevant to the Rosh Hashanah experience. Both on Rosh Hashanah and afterwards, we must realize that it cannot be a one-time spiritual high that only affects us for a day or two. Rather, as the end of the Torah reading teaches, we must carry the effects of the day with us, and let them change our daily lives.

Moshe's Final Days
by Chanan Strassman

Now that Bnei Yisrael are about to enter Eretz Yisrael, there is one loose end for Hashem to tie up, that is, how to go about the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. The issue at hand is that we are not dealing with an average person whose time has arrived to pass on. If that were the case, Hashem would not need to inform Moshe of his impending doom, but would rather dispatch the Malach Hamavet, or Angel of Death, without warning. However, this is not the case in Parshat Haazinu. Here, we are dealing with the greatest prophet to ever walk the earth, a man of unfathomable Kedushah, and the only person ever to speak face to face with Hashem. Moshe's death, unlike the average person's, cannot be a sudden surprise. Thus, Hashem gives Moshe ample notice of his unfortunate yet inevitable fate.
The Torah first tells us about Moshe's death in Parshat Pinchas. There, in Bamidbar 27:12-14, Hashem tells Moshe to "Go up to this mountain of Avarim and see the land that I have given to the Children of Israel. You shall see it and you shall be brought in to your people, you, too, as Aharon your brother was brought in; because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin." Rashi explains this reference to Aharon to mean that just as Aharon died by the "kiss of Hashem," Moshe wished to die in a similar fashion. Rashi offers another explanation that just as Aharon did not merit entering the land of Israel because he failed to sanctify Hashem, the same goes for Moshe. The fact is, Hashem is telling Moshe that he will soon die. Consequently, in Haazinu, Hashem reminds Moshe of his previous decision. In Devarim 32:48-52, Hashem tells Moshe, "Ascend to this mountain of Aravim, Har Nevo, which is in the land of Moav, which is before Jericho, and see the land of Canaan that I give to the children of Israel as an inheritance, and die on the mountain where you will ascend."
Interestingly, Hashem's "attitude" toward Moshe is different in Parshat Haazinu, than in Pinchas. In Parshat Pinchas, the Torah uses the word "Vayomer," that is, "Hashem said to Moshe," whereas in Parshat Haazinu the Torah uses the word "Vayidaber," that is, "Hashem spoke to Moshe." Typically, when the Torah uses the word "Vayomer" the tone of the speaker is soft, but when the Torah uses the word "Vayidaber" the tone is harsh. If each time Hashem is telling Moshe the same message, what difference does it make whether the Torah uses "Vayidaber" or "Vayomer"? Why is Hashem's attitude soft in Parshat Pinchas, but harsh in parshat Haazinu?
Naturally, Moshe would rather stay in this world, and enter the land of Israel, than die. So when Hashem tells him in Parshat Pinchas that things will not turn out that way, He speaks softly to placate Moshe. However, once Moshe's time came to pass on, Hashem got to the point. He told Moshe that his time had come, and that he would "die on the mountain where you will ascend." The harsher language was necessary the second time around because Hashem wanted Moshe to know that he would not be able to Daven his way out of death and into the land of Israel.
Moshe Rabbeinu's death is remembered even today. The day he died, the 7th of Adar, we do not say Tachanun in our daily prayers. In some communities, the Chevra Kedisha even fast on that day. He may not have walked us into the land of Israel, but his leadership and wisdom set a precedent for those prophets and kings that were yet to come. Moshe may be leaving our weekly Parshiot now, but cheer up! Rosh Hashanah is coming and we will soon be reading the Torah anew, bringing Moshe back in all of his glory next year. Shanah Tovah.

Halacha of the Week
One should not use a Shofar on Rosh Hashana for any purpose other than for the Mitzva, as the Shofar is Huktza Lemitzvato, set aside exclusively for the purpose of the Mitzva of Tekiat Shofar (Mishna Berura 588:15).



Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editor: Jesse Dunietz
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Ariel Caplan
Staff: Duvie Barth, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss, Avi Wollman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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