Parshas Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashanah

SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 62 NUMBER 8
September 14, 2012
27 Elul, 5772

PARSHAS NITZAVIM/ ROSH HASHANAH
Candle-lighting Time: 6:53 PM

Long Live the King

by Rabbi Raphael Leban

Perhaps one of the downsides of democracy is that we never get to experience the coronation of a king.

Let’s imagine for a moment what it must be like. A day off from work. Well, it is a national holiday, right? All the people gather together, converging upon the palace or at least upon the great meeting halls for live television coverage. Everyone is dressed in their most festive attire. (But did you see what she was wearing?!)

The flags wave, the crowds cheer and sing, the children are nearly trampled in the excitement.

And then, the new king’s procession appears. He sits in a shiny golden chariot, led by a team of strong steeds adorned with glittering gem-filled bridles. The king’s exquisite royal robes are barely visible through the curtained chariot windows, and everyone cranes their necks and presses forward to catch a glimpse. As the king passes by, the courtiers’ trumpets blow a resounding blast.

What greater excitement could there be than the arrival of the new king? Other than a public beheading, of course, which also tends to draw a crowd.

We cheer and spill drinks and try to get close to the king as he arrives at his coronation.

This is Rosh Hashana, the holiday of the kingship of G-d. Every year we coronate G-d as our king. Again.

We take a day off to gather in our synagogues, dressed up in our fancy clothes, dining in royal fashion. We blow the shofar and declare in unison that G-d is our king for another year. The Rabbi speaks too long and the children make everyone aggravated.

Long live the king!

When the king rides by, we are awestruck by his greatness, his majesty and his power. We are reminded of the king’s constant leadership and majestic benevolence. His royal feet never touch the ground.

This feeling of closeness and connection, this emotional excitement at the arrival of the King of Kings, this sense of Divine Kingship is available in the sound of the shofar. Close your eyes. Listen to the trumpet-like blast. Imagine the arrival of the King’s chariot.

The feeling awakens and inspires in us the desire to be His loyal, beloved subjects. To get as near to Him as possible, and to honor Him with our fidelity.

And after the coronation, after the impact of the experience, we have a week to muse on the past year and how much more we can be a source of pride to our Creator in the year to come, before He declares a national amnesty on Yom Kippur.

May we all be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a sweet new year!

A King-sized Holiday
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

We are rapidly approaching the Yom Tov of Rosh Hashanah. Perhaps you may consider it an oxymoron to refer to Rosh Hashanah as a Yom Tov. Normally the term Yom Tov conjures up a cozy comfortable feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. At this juncture of the year, when we stand in judgment in front of the Heavenly Tribunal, we certainly can’t afford to be relaxed and truly enjoy a festive atmosphere. However, we do know that Rosh Hashanah halachically is defined as a Yom Tov. We are required to partake of festive meals, dress like we would for any Yom Tov and enjoy a Yom Tov atmosphere. How is this possible if we are simultaneously supposed to be trembling like the angels as Hashem ponders our fate?

In order to unravel this mystery we need to focus on the true theme of Rosh Hashanah. Every Yom Tov has its theme. Pesach is all about redemption, Shavuos commemorates the Sinai experience when we received the Torah, and Succos emphasizes Hashem’s kindness as we traveled through the desert for forty years. What is Rosh Hashanah all about?

The Zohar, esoteric writings based on the weekly parsha, discusses this point very poignantly. It states that the entire year we are deeply involved in our needs, concerns and worries. We have very little time to consider anything else. Do we take time to be bothered by the fact that the Master of the Universe presides over a world in shambles? The vast majority of the global population does not even care about whether or not we are observing the basic tenets of Hashem’s will. The Beis Hamikdash is in ruins and most of us don’t even know what we’re missing. What can we do?

Historically, the Jewish People have always been on the ‘other side’. When Avraham championed the philosophy of monotheism, his life was threatened. Although Nimrod tried to execute him, Avraham was saved and initiated the beginnings of what today we call Judaism. What would have happened if he would have said, ‘What can I do?’ If the few that began to rebuild our religion after the Holocaust would have had taken the ostrich approach, where would we be today? Globally, every continent has hundreds if not thousands of schools of every flavor, caliber and level. It all began with the efforts of the few that confronted the ‘nays’ of the many.

Sometimes just to reach out to our fellow man and touch him with a smile or a kind word is all that it takes to begin a healthy and productive relationship. There are many stories where people just like you and me took the time to say hello to a total stranger or share a kind word with someone with incredible results.

As we approach the end of the year and herald in the new one, let us together find a way to promote the beautiful kingship of Hashem in all its majesty and grandeur. May it be His Will that we should all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of health, happiness and success in all our endeavors.

Byte For Shabbos

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur correspond to the ten utterances with which the world was created. We are in the process of creation between these two solemn occasions. The product is a better you.

S’FAS EMES

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from www.partersintorah.org.

The Torah portion this week emphasizes the availability and the power of repentance, teshuvah, to atone for sin and to achieve complete forgiveness (Deuteronomy 11:14, ch. 30). Numerous scholars have asked why teshuvah does not exempt the criminal from punishments of the court, the beit din. Rabbi Yechezkel Landau answers that since the Torah instituted punishments as a deterrent against sin, the entire system would be rendered useless if every criminal could evade punishment by claiming that he had repented (Nodah Biyehudah, Orach Chaim 35). Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai maintains that since only G-d can know that a person has repented, and the court is incapable of determining his sincerity, therefore they cannot render judgment on his teshuvah in order to exempt him (Tuv Ayin 6). Rabbi Yosef Engel (Gilyonei Hashas, Makot 13b) writes that since there is a definite determination by the court that the criminal is guilty, and his repentance is always in doubt to the court, we cannot put aside the definite, verifiable guilt for the doubtful, unknowable repentance (Minchat Asher, Nitzavim 54).

Joke of the Week

Rosh Hashana-na-na (n.) A seasonal rock ‘n roll band from Brooklyn

GOOD SHABBOS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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