Inspirational Keriat Hatorah by Jesse Dunietz

(2004/5764) 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
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.

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