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  • ESSAYS FOR ELUL,

    THE YAMIM NORA’IM

    AND SUKKOT

    by

    David Jay Derovan

    Ramat Beit Shemesh

  • Essays for Elul, the Yamim Nora’im and Sukkot

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    5 2010, 2016 David Jay Derovan All Rights Reserved

    The articles in this anthology can be used without permission for the sole purpose of teaching

    Torah

  • Essays for Elul, the Yamim Nora’im and Sukkot

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    Dedicated to the memory

    Of my father

    Mark Derovan ז"ל

    מרדכי בן יהודה משה הכהן ז"ל

    And to the memory

    of my brother

    Daniel Dvir ז"ל

    חנוך בו מרדכי הכהן ז"לדניאל

    יהא זכרם ברוך

  • Essays for Elul, the Yamim Nora’im and Sukkot

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  • Essays for Elul, the Yamim Nora’im and Sukkot

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    Contents

    THE MONTH OF ELUL 7

    Elul is a Virgo 8

    “LeDavid HaShem Ori” and the Month of Elul 9

    The Altar, the Blood and Repentance 19

    Three Teshuvah Tales 21

    Some Things to Think about Before Yom Tov 23

    ROSH HASHANAH 25

    As Good and as Sweet as Honey 26

    The Crying of the Shofar 28

    The Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri 31

    Why Isn’t Vidui Recited on Rosh HaShanah? 36

    The Aish Kodesh, on Teki’at Shofar 38

    Shofar and the Avot 40

    The Secrets of the Shofar 42

    Two Short Notes about the Rosh HaShanah Prayers 45

    THE TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE 47

    Out of the Depths: Tehilim 130 48

    Erev Shabbat Shuva Dvar Torah 56

    Why Now? What Does It Mean? 58

    YOM KIPPUR 61

    The Teshuvah Transformation 62

    The Vidu’i - וידוי - Confession 65

    SUKKOT, SHEMINI ATZERET & SIMCHAT TORAH 69

    Divray Torah for Sukkot from the Sefat Emet 70

    More from the Sefat Emet on Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah 72

    The Water Libation and the Rejoicing at the Drawing of the Water 74

    Bind Them Together & They Will Atone for Each Other: The Question is “How?” 77

    Ushpizin 79

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    Outside and Inside in the Sukkah 84

    How Can the Sukkah Represent the “Clouds of Glory”? 86

    Thoughts to Share about the Ushpizin 89

    A Simchat Torah Dvar Torah 101

    Setting the Tone for the Entire Year 102

    The Letters, the Parchment and Simchat Torah 104

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    THE MONTH OF ELUL

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    Elul is a Virgo

    In 1888, The Sefat Emet made the following comments:

    Consider this: The astrological sign of the month of Elul is Virgo, the virgin. This

    means that there is an inner point (Nekudah) in the Jewish soul that cannot be ruled by

    foreign influences. [It is] a locked garden (Gan Na’ul), a sealed well (Ma’ayan Chatum). And it is called a virgin. Concerning this point (Nekudah) it is said, “I am for my beloved – Ani

    LeDodi” (Shir HaShirim 6:3), for this point is never removed from clinging to its root. It is

    always committed (Shemurah) to His blessed name.

    However, we cannot always find this point. And now, this time [of year] wakens the people of Israel to Teshuvah, and the souls of the Jewish people become closer to Him. So,

    too, “my beloved is for me – Dodi Li” (ibid.) means that there are spiritual forces (Middot)

    above that are just for the Jewish people. Just as it says, “Behold, I am establishing a covenant, before your entire nation I will perform wonders that were never created on

    earth or among the nations” (Shemot 34:10). Thus, there are spiritual forces (Middot) above that are just for the Jewish people. And they are the 13 attributes [of mercy], as it says, “You

    taught us to say the 13” (Siddur). The extent to which the inner point of “I am for my

    beloved – Ani LeDodi” is revealed so, too, “my beloved is for me – Dodi Li.”

    The Pinteleh Yid, that innermost point (Nekudah) of our souls is forever attached to its root in God,

    Himself. It is buried so deep, it is so completely hidden that not outside, foreign, unclean influence can affect it. It is virgin territory. And the Sefat Emet teaches us that the month of Elul is the appropriate time

    for taking advantage of the Pinteleh Yid, of using its purity and intrinsic Kedushah (sanctity) to reach out

    to God. Just as we have a pure, unimpaired link to God, so, He has a special link that is exclusively used

    for us, His children, Am Yisra’el. The nexus point, the connective tissue between “I am for my beloved – Ani LeDodi” and “my beloved is for me – Dodi Li” is the 13 attributes of mercy. Indeed, He taught us,

    and only us, to sing them, to pour our souls into them. “The prayer of the poor one, as he wraps himself,

    and pours out his speech before God” (Tehilim 102:2). The Selichot prayers are built around the 13 attributes of mercy. Therefore, the purpose of the

    Selichot prayers is not to say, “I’m sorry” quickly and then off to do something else. The purpose of

    Selichot is to use the 13 attributes to connect the “I am for my beloved – Ani LeDodi” to the “my beloved

    is for me – Dodi Li.” Sure, we have to apologize for our errors, our sins, but we must also repair the damage these errors have caused in our relationship to HaShem.

    The Sefat Emet teaches us that the louder the shout, the more heartfelt the song, the deeper the

    sentiment, the more genuine the tear that accompanies the recitation of the 13 attributes of mercy, then

    the greater is God’s response of mercy, of compassion, of love. Each of us must reach deep, deep inside to let the virgin Pinteleh Yid sing softly, sweetly, “I am for my beloved – Ani LeDodi.” Only then will we

    merit to hear the Godly refrain, “my beloved is for me – Dodi Li.”

  • Essays for Elul, the Yamim Nora’im and Sukkot

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    “LeDavid HaShem Ori” and the Month of Elul

    An Opening Word about Biblical Poetry The remarks that follow are based to a great extent upon the poetic elements and structure in this

    Tehilah. When added to the textual details that are the traditional province of the classical commentaries,

    these poetic elements open up new vistas of interpretation and understanding. The telltale sign of Biblical poetry is textual parallelism. The basic poetic form is a verse that can

    be divided into two almost equal halves, where each half is parallel in content and in structure. From this basic form multiple variations emerge. Biblical poetry can also contain poetic elements such as

    rhyme, rhythm and alliteration that are more familiar to us.

    The Question

    Twice a day, for almost two months, we recite Psalm 27, LeDavid HaShem Ori. Why? This simple question has an equally simple answer: We are instructed to recite this psalm because it delivers an

    important message to us during this time of year. At the same time, it allows us to express feelings we should have during these weeks of repentance, divine judgment and celebration.

    The next question is what is the message is delivered and what feelings are we to feel? To answer this question we must take a closer look at the Tehilah (psalm) itself.

    Section 1 – The Expression of Great Trust in God

    1. “By David” ְלָדִוד

    Introductory word. While it does not give a specific historical setting for the Tehilah, it does give a general context, namely the life of King David.

    The opening phrases of the various psalms often hint at specific events in the lives of the authors. Psalm 27 opens with a simple, non-specific word, “LeDavid - By David.” The general mention of King

    David’s name implies that this Tehilah wells up out of a whole life full of experiences, as opposed to any

    one event. Thus, you and I are already alerted to the idea that the contents of this Tehilah speaks to each

    of us, no matter what our particular life experiences have been.

    אֹוִריְָוִיְשִעיִָָמִמיִָאיָראָָ//ְָָיָיָָמעֹוזַָחַייִָָמִמיֶָאְפָחדְָייָָ “God is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? \\ God is the stronghold of my life, whom should I dread?”

    The two halves of the verse are perfectly parallel. Indeed, in the Hebrew, the number of syllables is

    almost the same in the two halves. However, “light and my salvation” implies spiritual salvation,

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    whereas “stronghold of my life” implies physical protection. This difference explains the final word in

    each rhetorical question. When the issue is spiritual, then the question is one of Yir’ah, reverence and

    awe associated with God. When the subject is physical protection, then the simpler word, Pachad, is

    used, which means raw fear or being afraid. In this opening verse, the basic theme is struck, but in a veiled manner. The use of the rhetorical

    questions hints at the existence of a threat. It is only because of the threat – both spiritual and physical – that elicits the expression of pure faith and trust in God.

    2.

    ֶלֱאֹכלֶָאתְָבָשִריָָ//ָָָצַריְָוֹאְיַביִָליֵָָהָמהָָכְשלּוְָוָנָפלוָֹרבָָעַליְָמֵרִעיםְבְקָ “The evil ones approach me, to eat my flesh \\ my oppressors and my enemies [who] are against me, they will stumble and fall.”

    There are two ways to determine the parallelism in this verse. The difference depends on how one reads

    the beginning phrase of the second half of the verse, “my oppressors and my enemies [who] are against me.” The first option is to see the structure as ciastic: “The evil ones approach me, they want to

    figuratively eat me alive; less figuratively, they are my enemies and my oppressors, yet they will fail totally.”

    The second interpretation matches the opening phrases of the two halves of the verse: “The evil ones approach me, they want to figuratively eat me alive; the evil ones are my oppressors and enemies

    and despite their plans, they will fail miserably.” While the first interpretation is suggested by the rhyming sound at the end of Besari and of Li, the

    second interpretation allows for a uniformity of structure among all three verses (1-3) in this first section of the Tehilah.

    The second verse brings the veiled threat of the first verse into the light of day. Nevertheless, it

    ends with a declaration that the enemies will ultimately fail, thus extending the theme of this section.

    3. ִאםַָתֲחֶנהָָעַליַָמֲחֶנהָָֹלאִָייָראִָלִביָָ//ִָָאםָָתקּוםָָעַליִָמְלָחָמהְָָבֹזאתַָאִניָבֹוֵטחַָ

    “Should an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear \\ Should war arise against

    me, in this I am confident.”

    Here, too, the parallelism is almost perfect. Once again, the two halves of the verse have almost the same number of syllables.

    Each verse in this section takes the tension and the threat up a notch. It begins with a double rhetorical question, “Why do I have to worry or be afraid?” Since the author sees God as his protector

    against spiritual and physical threats, the implication is that there is some sort of threat. The second verse speaks of the approach of the evil ones, the enemies, who want to eat the author alive, a

    metaphoric expression of the imminent threat. Is the threat truly life threatening or not? It’s hard to say. The third verse, however, makes it clear that as the enemy troops approach and war is imminent, the

    threat of death is a real one. Despite everything, the author has trust in God; he has real Bitachon.ָHe even says so out loud,

    “In this I am confident – BeZot Ani Botay’ach.” There is no question that his overall trust is in God, yet

    the word “in this” seems to imply something specific. The question is “What?” There are only two options within the context of the Tehilah. Rashi answers, “in this” refers to what came before, namely

    that God is the author’s protector. Ibn Ezra offers a different opinion. “In this” refers to what follows,

    the expressed desire to be with God in His protective palace.

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    The difference of opinion between these two esteemed commentators changes our perspective on

    the next section of the Tehilah as well. According to Rashi, the next section reflects a wish based on the

    outcome of the first section. “Since God will protect me,” declares the author, “Then I will be safe. Thus, I can take advantage of God’s good will toward me and now ask that He allow me into His palace.”

    Using Ibn Ezra’s comment, we can see the second section as a continuation of the first. Despite the author’s declaration of his perfect faith and trust, he realizes that he must still ask for God’s

    protection. Thus, verses 5 and 6 are the detailed extensions of the author’s faith and trust.

    Section 2 – The Request to Visit and Stay in God’s Palace

    4. ַאַחתָָשַאְלִתיֵָמֵאתְָיָי,ָָאֹוָתּהַָאֲבֵקש

    “One thing I ask of God, this I seek \\

    The first third of this verse is the introduction to the second section of the Tehilah. The “one” thing that

    the author asks of God is reiterated again and again in various forms with various nuances in verses 4-

    6. The use of the word “one” is paradoxical. On the one hand, it is a bit disingenuous, for what

    follows is a series of requests. On the other hand, all the requests are part and parcel of one central idea, i.e., the request to reside in God’s house.

    The author uses two different words for request: She’aylah (“ask”) and Bakashah (“seek”). The Malbim in his commentary on Megilat Esther offers two different explanations that differentiate

    between She’aylah and Bakashah. According to the first explanation, word She’aylah implies the request

    itself, while the word Bakashah refers to the ultimate goal. For example, to ask your father for a loan is the She’aylah. To use the money you borrow to buy a car is the Bakashah. In our Tehilah, the request to

    dwell in God’s house, to bask in His pleasantness is the She’aylah. But the author’s ultimate goal is to be

    protected by God while residing in His house. (See verses 5-6) The second explanation offered by the Malbim is much simpler. A She’aylah is a small favor, while

    a Bakashah is a large request. In our Tehilah, the small favor is the request to dwell in God’s house. Indeed,

    once the Temple was built, every Jew was welcomed as a frequent visitor – a dweller – in God’s house. The large request is that God should protect the author, to hide him from his enemies. This is an unusual

    use of the Temple precincts.

    ִשְבִתיְָבֵביתְָיָי,ָָָכלְָיֵמיַָחַייָָ//ַָָלֲחזֹותְָבֹנַעםְָיָיָָּוְלַבֵקרְָבֵהיָכלוָֹ “I will dwell in God’s house, all the days of my life \\ to gaze upon God’s pleasantness, and to visit daily in His palace.”

    The second and third parts of this verse are certainly parallel. The only question is whether they have a

    ciastic structure or a simple parallelism. There are good reasons to scan the verses either way. The phrase “I will dwell in God’s house” is parallel to the end phrase, “to visit daily in His palace.” While

    the description of place is different, the idea is basically the same. However, the repetition of God’s name creates a different parallelism. The obscure verse structure only heightens the unity of the ideas

    expressed in the verse. Considering the turmoil and threat that is evident in the first section of the Tehilah, the first

    expression of the author’s request is profoundly calming. The whole sense of this part of the verse is

    particularly beautiful and tranquil. What Jew would not be happy dwelling in God’s house for all

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    eternity? Who would not enjoy basking in God’s glorious pleasantness while paying a daily visit to

    God’s Temple? Now contrast this picture with that which wells up from the next verse!

    5. ִכיִָיְצְפֵנִניְָבֻסֹכהְָָביֹוםָָרָעהָָ//ַָָיְסִתֵרִניְָבֵסֶתרָָאֳהלֹוְָָבצּורְָירֹוְמֵמִני

    “God will hide me in his Sukkah, on a bad day \\ He will conceal me in His tent, He

    will raise me upon the rock.”

    Structurally, the two halves of this verse are perfectly parallel. Indeed, for the first time in this Tehilah,

    a bit of rhyme is introduced, which supports the parallelism. Despite the structural parallelism, the content is not parallel. “On a bad day – a day when I am chased by my enemies – God will hide me in

    his Sukkah, He will conceal me in His tent.” In contrast to the first section, where God’s protection is taken for granted, here, the author pleads to be hidden from his enemies by God.

    All this is well and good, but the last phrase of the verse is out of kilter with the rest. “He will raise me upon the rock.” If the author must be hidden away, why should he pray that God put him on

    top of a “rock” for all to see? The bit of rhyme created by all three verbs in this verse hints at a connection between this phrase and what precedes it in the verse. This textual connection opens up at least two

    alternative explanations that answer our question, as well. The first option is to view the idea of being raised upon a rock, a boulder or a high rocky cliff as

    a parallel act of protection. Just as hiding in God’s house offers one form of protection, so, too, standing high above one’s enemies on an impregnable cliff is another form of protection.

    The second explanation catches the emerging theme of the entire Tehilah, the ebb and flow of the

    threat of the enemies versus the triumph over them. Thus, the sense of the verse is “When enemies threaten me, God will hide me well from them. Then I will triumph and God will raise me high over

    them, like the one standing high above it all on a rocky cliff.” It would seem from the following verse that this second interpretation fits the context better.

    It is ironic that when speaking of basking in God’s glory, God’s place is referred to as a house or as a palace. Yet when the author seeks refuge, that same solid structure suddenly becomes a fragile

    Sukkah or tent. Given the options, most of us would choose to hide from our enemies in a solid, complex structure like a palace, not in a tent! However, when God is providing the protection, even a flimsy tent

    becomes a rock-solid hiding place and refuge.

    6.

    “And now . . . ְוַעָתה

    The word “Ve’atah – and now” is a jargon word. It means that what comes next is the logical, practical next step that arises out of what came before.

    ָָירּוםָֹראִשי,ַָעלָֹאְיַביְָסִביבֹוַתיְָוֶאְזְבָחהְָבָאָהלֹוִָזְבֵחיְָתרּוָעה

    ָאִשיָרהַָוֲאַזְמָרהַָלָיי “He will raise my head over all of my enemies around me; I will sacrifice in His tent sacrifices of Teru’ah;

    Will sing and chant to God!”

    Of all the verses we have examined so far, this is first that has almost no poetic structure what so ever. However, it is the logical extension of the previous verse. If God will hide the author, protecting him

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    from his enemies, allowing him to emerge at the moment of triumph, then “He will raise my head over

    all of my enemies around me.” Once that has occurred then the author will re-enter that same protective

    tent to offer sacrifices of thanks and to sing God’s praises. The use of the word Teru’ah to describe the sacrifices hints at Rosh HaShanah. To identify the

    sacrifices of thanks as Rosh HaShanah sacrifices forges a conceptual link between the two ideas. Rosh

    HaShanah presents a complex set of ideas and symbols. It is the coronation day, the day that we crown God as King. It is also the Day of Judgment, the day when God looks at the record of our behavior, then

    judges us and decrees our fate for the coming year. The Teru’ah sounds of the Shofar are reminiscent of

    a baby’s crying as he waits for his mother to come and soothe him. Thus, the combination of these images and ideas with the sacrifices the author offers after God saves him creates an idea the expresses

    the almost paradoxical thanks to be able to live another day, to celebrate another Rosh HaShanah, to crown God as King, to be judged once again and to shed tears like a baby before God as the Shofar is

    sounded. One would think that the author yearned to celebrate another Pesach or Sukkot. These

    holidays celebrate national salvation. Thus, they do not give expression to the author’s plight. Rosh HaShanah, however, is the first step toward the personal redemption that the author seeks.

    There is one other undercurrent that runs through the verses in this section. King David’s greatest

    wish was to build the Temple, a wish that God refused to grant him. Nevertheless, he speaks of the Temple (or the Mishkan) as a house, a palace, a Sukkah and a tent. Each description represents a different

    nuance, a different facet of God’s house. While the author desired to literally dwell in God’s house, His Temple, he has to settle for hiding in God’s temporary dwelling, His Mishkan, His tent.

    Section 3 – Seeking God’s Face and Protection

    7. קֹוִליֶָאְקָראָָ//ְָָוָחֵנִניְָוֲעֵנִניְָשַמעְָיָיָָ//

    “Hear, O God \\ my voice calls \\ and have mercy on me and answer me”

    Verse 7 has a grand total of six Hebrew words, which are broken up into three phrases, with no poetic structure. This verse introduces the third section, yet it takes the very last idea of the

    previous section and develops it, just as section 2 extended the closing idea of section 1. What song will the author sing in God’s tent? He croons a song of prayer for further salvation from his enemies. “Hear, O God, my voice [when] I call.” The phrasing is somewhat awkward, which makes it quite difficult to translate literally and requires the insertion of the word, “when.”

    However, the idea that is expressed also begs interpretation. Certainly God will hear the

    author’s voice when he calls out to Him! The solution lies is the explanation of a somewhat similar verse in Psalm 130:2, “My Lord, hear my voice! May Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas.” What does the second half of this verse say that the first half does not? The operative phrase in the second half of the verse is "the voice of my pleas." A more accurate translation would be "May your ears be attentive to the tone of my voice." The author pleads

    with God to listen carefully to both the words he utters and to the way he says them. The same idea can be applied to our Tehilah. “Hear, O God, listen to what I am saying. And pay attention to my voice – the tone of voice and the anguish it expresses – when I call out to You.”

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    8. ִלִביָָ//ַָָבְקשּוָָפָניָָ//ֶָָאתָָפֶניְךְָיָיֲָאַבֵקשְלָךָָאַמרָ

    “For You my heart says, \\ ‘Seek My Face!’ \\ I will seek your face, O God!”

    The poetic structure of verse 8 is weak. Once again, we encounter three phrases, the last two of which have an uneven ciastic parallelism. This verse strikes the theme of this section, the search for God’s “face.” The search for God’s face began when God, Himself, promises to shine and raise His face to us as part of the blessings bestowed

    upon us by the Kohanim (see Bamidbar 6:24-26). This is despite the fact that God tells Moshe that a person cannot see God’s face and live through the experience (see Shemot 33:19).

    In our verse, the search for God’s face is the equivalent of the almost quiet request to dwell in

    God’s house. It is the quiet in the eye of the storm. In the previous verse, the author pleads with God to hear his lament and to answer positively. In the next verse, the author prays that God will not abandon

    him in his time of need. And in the middle of it all, verse 8 says, “For You – or maybe, to You – my heart says to me, ‘Continue your spiritual search! Aren’t we all commanded to search for God’s face!?’ Thus,

    I search for your face, O God!” An undercurrent that runs through this verse, further connecting it with the previous section is

    the command to visit the Temple three times a year – on Pesach, Shavu’ot and Sukkot – to see God’s face (see Shemot 23:17 and Devarim 16:16).

    9. ַָאלַָתְסֵתרָָפֶניָךִָמֶמִניָָ//ָָ

    ַָאלַָתטְָבַאףַָעְבֶדָךָָ//ָָ ֶעְזָרִתיָָהִייָת,ַָאלִָתְטֵשִניְָוַאלַָתַעְזֵבִניֱָאֹלֵהיִָיְשִעי

    “Do not hide Your face from me \\

    Do not reject Your servant in anger, You have been my help \\ Do not forsake me, do not abandon me, my God, my savior.”

    In verse 9, the first two thirds of the verse team up to create a simple parallelism with the third part of

    the verse. The combination of the repetition of the word “Al – do not” with the opening letter Taf of the next word adds a bit of alliteration to the poetic form and helps create the parallelism.

    The other parallel phrases create a stark contrast between the kind of assistance that the author requests. On the one hand, God “was my helper” in the past, “helping me in the material world.” On

    the other hand, God is the “Lord of my salvation,” which carries with it both an immediacy and directness that is implied by the name, Elohim, as well as the slightly more ephemeral and spiritual

    “salvation.”

    Here, too, the beginning of the verse extends the idea of the previous verse. “While I search for Your face, please do not hide Your face from me.” If the shining of God’s face upon us is an act of

    blessing, then the hiding of His face from us is part of the serious punishment that God promises us if we sin grievously (see Devarim 31:17-18).

    10.

    “Because . . . ִכי The use of the word, “Ki – because” to open verse 10 forges a clear and strong link to the entire previous

    verse. Why does the author pray that God not abandon and reject him? Because . . .

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    ָייַָיַאְסֵפִניָאִביְָוִאִמיֲָעָזבּוִניָָ//ָָוַָ [Though] my father and my mother abandoned me \\

    And God will gather me in.”

    The clear parallelism of this short verse accomplishes two separate tasks in a very elegant manner. First, we clearly understand why the author turns so emphatically to God, calling for his help. There simply are no people who will help him. Even his parents have left him. This stark statement

    need not be understood in a negative light. Indeed, his parents could simply have passed away by this time. Thus, the statement is not a complaint. It is just telling it as it is.

    The second task is to express the author’s supreme trust in God. Even though there is no one who can help him, “God will surely gather me in! God will take care of me!”

    Like the first and second sections, the third section ends with a declaration of faith, of trust and ultimately of hope. God is there to help. He will always be there!

    Section 4 – Salvation from the Enemies Is the Great Hope

    11. ַָדְרֶכָךָָ//ָָּוְנֵחִניָ ְבֹאַרחִָמישֹורָָ//ְָָלַמַעןָֹשְרָריהֹוֵרִניְָיַיָ

    “God, teach me Your way \\ And guide me down an level path \\ Against my enemies.”

    The fourth and final section of the Tehilah opens with a variation on the song of prayer that ends section

    2. The first two phrases are structured poetically, employing a common variation. Each phrase has three words. In the first phrase the opening two words are parallel to the single word that begins the second

    phrase. And consequently, the third word of the first phrase is parallel to the last two words of the second phrase.

    The third and final phrase in this verse stands alone and is like the punch line, meant to bring the opening two-thirds home, so to speak.

    “God, teach me Your way. Teach me the way to Your house and Temple. Teach me the proper way to behave so I may receive your salvation and protection. Teach me Your way to vanquish my

    enemies. “And guide me down an even, flat path, not one strewn with rocks and obstacles!” A Mishor is a

    plateau or plain. The idea is that the author wishes to travel along a flat and easy path, as opposed to having to climb over mountainous obstacles.

    All of this instruction is to lead to the vanquishing of the author’s enemies. Indeed, the word Shorerai is a pun on the word Mishor. “Show me the path that turns enemies into a flat and even path!”

    12. ַאלִָתְתֵנִניְָבֶנֶפשָָצָריָָ//ִָָכיָָקמּוִָביֵָעֵדיֶָשֶקרָָ//ִָָויֵפַחָָחָמס

    “Do not subject me to the will of my oppressors, for false witnesses have risen against me;

    [they] breathe forth violence.”

    Whatever this verse lacks in poetic structure – there is none – it makes up for it with unusual use of words. The opening words are plain enough, but just what does “BeNefesh Tzarai” mean? On the Peshat

    (straightforward) level, Nefesh never means soul. It usually means life or sometimes it is the genderless

    word for person. Rashi and his colleagues, Ibn Ezra and Radak, all agree that here it means desire (see

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    Berayshit 23:8). Thus, the sense of the opening of the verse is “Do not fulfill the desire of my enemies, do

    not hand me over to them to allow them to do to me whatever they desire.”

    The reason why God should protect the author is made abundantly clear. “For false witnesses have risen against me.” Not only that, but “Vifay’ach Chamas!” Here we are presented with another

    unusual phrase. Chamas is a combination of sins that lead to the disintegration of society. Chamas was

    the sin of the generation that died in the flood, when God saved No’ach, his family and the animals in the ark. However, Vifay’ach is a strange choice of words. The verb means to blow wind forcefully out of

    ones mouth. This is the verb used to describe God blowing His breath of life into Adam (see Berayshit

    2:7). Not only do the author’s enemies and oppressors (Tzarai) bear false witness against him, but they

    speak in a very aggressive way that matches the total disregard for law or justice in what they say. When all the elements are put it all together, the picture that emerges is one where the author

    pleads that God not give in to the life desires of his enemies. They testify falsely against him, speaking in aggressive, rough tones, literally sinning in the most disgusting way every time they open their

    mouths.

    13. ֶרץַָחִייםלּוֵלאֶָהֱאַמְנִתיָָ//ִָָלְראֹותְָבטּובְָיָיְָבאֶָ

    “Were it not for my belief, that I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.”

    Verse 13 also lacks poetic structure. Its vocabulary is plain enough, yet it leaves the reader hanging.

    Amos Chacham (Tehilim, vol. 1 in the Da’at Mikra series published by Mosad Harav Kook, in Jerusalem)

    explains that the author leaves it to the reader to finish the verse. “Were it not for my belief [in God or in God’s protection], that I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living . . .” What? Then what?

    Given the context of the rest of the Tehilah, the rest of the verse must read something like this: “Were it not for my belief, etc., then I would not be able to withstand the onslaught of my enemies.”

    If the previous verse describes the threat posed by the author’s enemies, then this verse demonstrates his faith and his trust in God. Indeed, the entire Tehilah reverberates with the ebb and flow

    of these two contrasting themes. The author cries out to God, pleading that God save him from his

    enemies. This is balanced with one expression after another of the author’s faith and trust in God.

    14. ַקֵּוהֶָאלְָיָיָָ//ֲָָחַזקְָוַיֲאֵמץִָלֶבָךָָ//ְָָוַקֵּוהֶָאלְָייָָ

    “Place your hope in God \\ Be strong! He will strengthen your heart \\ and place your

    hope in God.”

    The final, closing verse of the Tehilah certainly does not fit the standard model of Biblical poetry.

    However, it is hard to deny the strong poetic element embedded in the repetition of the opening and closing phrases. Aside from the added Vav – “and” – that attaches the repeated phrase to the verse, both

    phrases are exactly alike. To understand this phenomenon of a repeated phrased with “something” in between, we must

    turn to the Akedat Yitzchak. As Avraham and Yitzchak head up the hill we know as Mount Moriah, the

    Torah comments, “The two walked together” (Berayshit 22:6). As the climbed the hill, Avraham and Yitzchak engage in the only dialogue in the story. Yitzchak politely asks where is the animal for the

    sacrifice and Avraham gives him a rather cryptic answer. And then, the Torah comments once again, “The two walked together” (Berayshit 22:8).

    Without immersing ourselves in the intricacies of this passage, suffice it to say that the repeated

    phrase only makes a strange bit of Chumash all the stranger. The Midrash’s comment provides a solution that can be applied to our Tehilah as well. When they are first described as walking together, the Midrash

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    says, “This one to bind his son and this one to worship God,” for Yitzchak did not know yet that he was

    to be sacrificed. When the phrase is repeated, the Midrash comments that they walked together, “this

    one to bind and this one to be bound.” What had changed from the first “The two walked together” to the second was the fact that now Yitzchak knew that he was the lamb being led to the slaughter.

    The pattern seen by the Midrash on the Akedah is applicable to all similar textual phenomena. The repeated words that are exactly alike convey two contradictory messages. The first is that nothing has

    changed. For Avraham and Yitzchak on their way to the top of Mount Moriah, their dedication to the task at hand was not changed one iota by their conversation and Yitzchak newfound knowledge. In this

    respect, they walked together as before. The second message is that everything was different. Avraham was not the same because his

    beloved only son finally realized the enormity of the task ahead. Yitzchak was totally different. In a matter of a few short words, he was transformed from a worshipping bystander to the sacrificial lamb.

    And yet, “The two walked together.” It is this combination of irony and pathos that gives the Akedah

    story its dramatic power. In our Tehilah, the repeated phrase, “Place your hope in God,” delivers two messages as well. The

    theme that runs like a colored ribbon through almost every verse and through every section is the delicate balancing act between banging down God’s door in search of salvation and protection from

    one’s enemies on the one hand and declaring one’s firm faith and trust in God on the other. Thus, it is not surprising that in the final verse, the author turns to us, the readers and singers of his psalm, and

    urges us to place our trust and hope in God. That is just the beginning of the process. The next step is to be “be strong.” “Look your enemies

    straight in the eye,” says the author, “And stand strong against them!” “Do not fear!” he adds, “For God, Himself, will strengthen your heart. He will give you courage.”

    If we place our trust and hope in God then He always comes through for us, if only to give us the ability and strength we need to overcome our enemies.

    This should be enough for us. We have prayed and pleaded with God and He has answered us. “No!” says the author. “Once again you must place your hope in God.” The first message delivered here

    is the idea of the never-ending cycle. Just as the threat of the enemies is followed by the expression of faith in God’s salvation and protection ebbs and flows throughout the entire Tehilah, so, too, we must

    again and again, especially after each triumph, “place your hope in God!”

    However, the second message is just as important. Once you have experienced the moment of placing your trust in God, which is followed by the invigorating sense of strength He provides, the next

    moment of placing your hope in God is totally different from the first. To be touched by God, to feel His strength changes us to the point that the next time we turn to Him is a deeper, richer experience.

    Psalm 27 and the Month of Elul

    Elul is the month of repentance. Elul is the month of introspection and self-evaluation. Elul is the

    month when we must look all of our old and new enemies straight in the eye and overcome them, especially the worst enemy of all, the Yetzer Hara – the evil inclination.

    Our Tehilah, Psalm 27, is recited twice a day throughout the month of Elul as a lesson in faith and

    hope. A Jew must never despair. The Tehilah starts out by announcing that we have no reason to be afraid because God is our light and our redeemer. And the Tehilah ends with a singular message of hope

    and trust in God that is renewed again and again. If in between, we must pray to God for protection

    and salvation, so be it. So long as we remember that He is the “stronghold, the fortress of my life . . . the

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    one who gives us strength and courage,” then we can turn to Him again and again “to place our hope

    in God.”

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    The Altar, the Blood and Repentance

    As we march through the month of Elul, there is a growing awareness that Rosh Hashanah, the

    annual day of judgment, is just around the corner. So, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to Teshuvah.

    There are two special days on the Jewish calendar when an observant Jew can climb into the car and travel to a far away Shul to participate in the Davening there. One of these days is Purim. You can

    literally go anywhere to hear the Megilah read. The other day is actually Selichot night. So, many years ago, in search of a different, hopefully more inspiring Selichot service, I traveled across town to a local

    Yeshiva to hear Selichot. Arriving ten minutes early, I caught the tail end of the pre-Selichot pep talk given by one of the Yeshiva’s teachers. The upshot of his talk was that Teshuvah is impossible. Teshuvah

    – repentance – is so complicated, so difficult to do properly that it is well nigh impossible. I felt like

    closing my Selichot book and going home, even before the service began. What a downer! Yes, I stayed for Selichot that night, but only because I was convinced then as I am convinced now

    that he was absolutely wrong. Teshuvah is not impossible. Au contraire, as we say in Yiddish, Teshuvah

    is actually easy. Sure, there are rules and regulations – check out the laws of Teshuvah in the Rambam –

    but once you get the hang of it you see that it is not difficult at all. However, like so many things in life, it is not the doing that is difficult, it is the resolve to do it

    that is hard. We always have to swallow hard to apologize to someone. We have all experienced the humiliation, the great uneasiness that accompanies the words, “I’m sorry. I won’t do that again.”

    So, here is a pep talk in the form of a Dvar Torah to get us into the mood and to build up our determination to do Teshuvah.

    HaRav Mordechai Ya’akov Leiner of Izbitza, in his May HaShilo’ach (vol. II, p. 75), compares two different sacrifices. The Korban Olah, the burnt offering, and the Korban Chatat, the sin offering, are

    slaughtered in the same area of the Temple courtyard. The Olah is very different from the Chatat. Every

    bit of the Olah is burnt totally, while the Kohanim eat parts of the Chatat. The two daily sacrifices and the

    additional, Musaf, sacrifice on Shabbat were Olah sacrifices. On the other hand, a person could voluntarily donate an Olah to achieve Kaparah, atonement, for the sin of thinking evil, sinful thought.

    The Chatat was brought to the Temple only when an individual had committed an actual sin. An

    example would be the mistaken violation (Shogeg) of Shabbat law. Thus, why does the Torah demand

    that they be slaughtered in the same spot in the Temple? The Izbitzer answers by quoting the Midrash (Tanna Devay Eliyahu Rabbah chapter 22) that states

    that even if a person has sinned hundreds of times, each sin worse than the previous one and then repents, God declares that He welcomes the person with open arms, filled the mercy and compassion

    and gladly accepts his or her Teshuvah. If a person’s most grievous sin is to look at a non-kosher candy

    bar and to think about buying it and eating it, only to actually purchase and eat the candy bar with the OU on it, then that person is a Tzaddik! The Olah is an offering brought by a truly righteous person,

    whose only sins occur in the individual’s head. By slaughtering the Chatat, the sin offering, where we

    slaughter the Olah God is telling us that He considers the two sacrifices as equal as well as the two people who brought them. The sinner who actually did something wrong and repents and makes

    amends by bringing a Chatat is viewed by God as a Tzaddik. The sinner becomes the Tzaddik, who brings

    the Olah sacrifice.

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    Already, the Izbitzer has raised our spirits and hopes. No matter how many sins, no matter how

    horrible we might think they are, God is ready and willing to accept our Teshuvah and the allow us to

    atone for our sins. A little bit of Teshuvah goes a very long way!

    There’s more, says the May HaShilo’ach. Along three sides of the Altar in the Temple there was a red line, the Chut HaSikra, which divided the sides of the Altar into upper and lower halves. If we look

    at the laws concerning the sprinkling of the blood on the Altar, we see a significant difference between

    the Olah and the Chatat. The blood of the Olah was splashed below the Chut HaSikra, while the blood of the Chatat was sprinkled above the Chut HaSikra. This, says the Izbitzer, reflects the difference between

    a Tzaddik and a Ba’al Teshuvah. Rabbi Abahu says in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 99a) that a Tzaddik cannot

    stand where a Ba’al Teshuvah stands. Ultimately, a Ba’al Teshuvah rises above the Tzaddik. The reason for

    this says the Izbitzer (vol. II, p. 207) is the cry of the heart that is symbolized by the blood. The Ba’al Teshuvah mistakenly feels that there is no hope, there is no way out of the morass. Thus, the Ba’al

    Teshuvah cries out from the very depths of his heart and soul. This cry of repentance rises way above

    the prayers of the Tzaddik. Thus, the blood of the Ba’al Teshuvah’s Chatat offering is sprinkled above the

    blood of the Tzaddik’s Olah sacrifice. Once again, the Izbitzer has steeled our determination to do Teshuvah. If we cry out to God

    sincerely, from the depths of being then He hears and raises us to ever-higher levels. And don’t take the

    words “cry out” too literally. Just as God hears our Shemonah Esray loudly and clearly even though we do not say the words out loud, so, too, He hears the wailing of our heart even though the cry

    reverberates in our thoughts in our soul, but is not heard outside of ourselves. Contrary to that Yeshiva teacher’s message so long ago, the Izbitzer and dozens of other Chassidic

    Rebbe’im and non-Chassidic ones as well teach us that there is only hope. Teshuvah is not hard. You only

    have to want to do it. And it is really not difficult to begin. And once you start -- even with just a little bit – it gets even easier. Indeed, God, Himself, is ready and willing to welcome us with open arms, with

    compassion and sensitivity and love. All we have to do is start. Remember it’s already the middle of Elul and Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner.

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    Three Teshuvah Tales

    Rocks and Pebbles The story is told about the Chafetz Cha’yim, Rav Yisra’el Me’ir HaCohen of Radin, the author of

    the Mishnah Berurah. One morning during the month of Elul, the Chafetz Cha’yim gathered his yeshiva

    students around him and announced that the next day, each one was to come to the yeshiva with as large a sack as he could find. The next morning, he once again gathered all of his students and said,

    “This morning, instead of sitting in the Beit Midrash and learning, I want each of you to go out to the

    near by forest and to fill your sacks with the largest rocks you can find.” Well, if the Rebbe asked, then they must comply. So, everyone trudged out to the forest behind

    the yeshiva and filled their sacks with the biggest rocks they could find. When they had all assembled again in the Beit Midrash, each with a sack of four or five large rocks, the Chafetz Cha’yim then said to

    them, “Now you are to return to the forest with your sacks of rocks and to put every rock back exactly where you found it.”

    Well, if the Rebbe asked, then they must comply. So, everyone trudged out to the forest behind the yeshiva and went looking for the places where they found their rocks. When the returned to the Beit

    Midrash, the Chafetz Cha’yim announced that they must bring the sacks again the next day.

    The next morning, the Chafetz Cha’yim sent them again out to the forest. This time, their task was to fill the sacks with the smallest pebbles they could find. And so they did.

    When they returned to the Beit Midrash, the Chafetz Cha’yim gathered them all around and said,

    “Now go back to the forest and return each pebble to the exact spot where you found it.” A great uproar ensued. Finally, one of the elder students stepped forward and said, “But Rebbe,

    how can we return all these pebbles to the exact places where we found them? We each have hundreds and hundreds of pebbles?!?”

    “The same problem,” said the Chafetz Cha’yim, “exists concerning Teshuvah. When we do a big sin – like violating Shabbat -- it leaves a great gapping hole in our soul. Thus, we remember it well and

    we can easily do Teshuvah for it. However, when we do little sins – like slighting someone or not moving quickly enough to help someone – they pile up and fill our sacks just like the big sins. But who

    remembers them all? How can we do Teshuvah for them all? That is why we must be as careful, if not more so with all the little things we do. As it says in Pirkay Avot, “Be careful with the easy Mitzvot, just

    as you are with the difficult ones” (Avot 2:1).

    The Little Jew The Chafetz Cha’yim was traveling by train back to Radin. He shared a compartment with three

    other Jews, religious businessmen. It was a long boring train ride, so the three men took out a pack of cards, to play a game to while away the time. The only problem was that they needed a fourth “hand.”

    So they turned to the little old Jew who had his nose stuck in a book and him if he would join them in their card game. He politely refused. After a short while, the cards came out again and the little old man

    with the Sefer asked to play again and again he refused.

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    A while later, after asking him a third time, the three men became so angry that they shoved the

    little old Jew and his suitcase out of the compartment and locked the door. Thus, the Chafetz Cha’yim

    rode the rest of the way to Radin while sitting on the floor of the corridor of the train. The custom in those days was for businessmen to visit the local Rav or Rosh Yeshiva after

    successfully concluding their business, to leave some Tzedakah to be distributed in town. Thus, the three

    businessmen from the train were ushered in to see the famous Chafetz Cha’yim. The minute they entered the room and recognized the old man from the train, they started to cry and pull out their hair in dismay,

    begging the Chafetz Cha’yim to forgive them for mistreating him.

    “Oh, I cannot forgive you,” said the Chafetz Cha’yim calmly. “You must go back to the train station and find the little old man and ask him for forgiveness.”

    “But you are the little old man!” they wailed in unison. “No, no,” said the Chafetz Cha’yim gently. “You did not throw me, the Rosh Yeshiva out of the

    train compartment. You threw out a simple old Jew. Go find him and he will certainly forgive you.”

    Needless to say, the three businessmen begged and cried and pleaded with the Chafetz Cha’yim that he forgive them. And in the end he did forgive them.

    Strange Noises For almost a month, the yeshiva students witnessed the very same thing every night. Around the

    time that the Beit Midrash would start to empty out, the Chafetz Cha’yim would go into his office, shut the door and for the next half hour the students heard a persistent banging or thumping noise coming

    from behind the office door. Thump! Thump! Thump! Just what was the Rebbe doing in there? He wasn’t building anything, because those who entered the office during the day reported that they saw

    no sign of tools or materials. What was he doing? Finally, one of the boys got up the courage to ask the Rebbe what was going on.

    “Oh that…” said the Chafetz Cha’yim with a chuckle. “You see, I am a very short man and I am

    also a Kohen. God willing, the Moshi’ach will come, the Temple will be rebuilt and then it will be my turn to light the Menorah. But the Menorah is very tall and I am short. And I am afraid that even with

    the three steps, I will not be able to reach. So, every night I go into the office and I practice jumping. The thumping you hear is me practicing jumping so I will be able to light the Menorah in the Beit

    HaMikdash.”

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    Some Things to Think about Before Yom Tov1

    1 As involved Jews we all follow the news, especially news about Israel. So, we are all aware that this past Sunday two car bombs went off during evening rush hour in two separate cities, Tiberias and

    Haifa. The only people killed by the bombs were the Israeli Arabs who had driven them into town. Two bombs went off. The “live” footage on Israeli TV illustrated very well the phenomenal power

    of the bombs. There simply was nothing left of the car in Haifa, just a few pieces of tangled metal and body parts spread around a mostly empty parking lot. The other four cars parked nearby were total

    losses. In Tiberias, a little more of the car was left intact, but windows were blown out on both sides of

    the street and since this car bomb went off on a main street, in traffic, a number of other cars were damaged. Tremendous explosive power, streets filled with cars and people, rush hour, five o’ clock in

    the evening and not one Jew died as a result of the two car bombs. The 70 year-old woman who was the one most seriously injured is well on the way to recovery.

    There is only one explanation. It was a miracle. And to what do we owe this miracle? In my opinion, there are two factors that came together. The first is a verse in Devarim: “The land that God,

    your Lord, seeks; the eyes of God, your Lord, are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12). Just as the Jewish people are special, so, too, the land of Israel is special.

    God watches over us, especially when we are in Eretz Yisra’el. Combine this with the fact that the night

    before was Selichot night. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, if not millions, stayed up late to plead with

    God for forgiveness. Is it any wonder then that a miracle, actually two miracles, occurred the next day?

    2 During the Aseret Yemay Teshuvah (10 days of repentance), we add four short lines into the

    Shemonah Esray. Based on a custom started by the Ge’onim, we add Zakhraynu LeCha’yim (remember us for life), Mi Khamokha Av HaRachamim (who is like You, merciful Father), U’Khetov LeCha’yim (write us

    for life) and Besefer Cha’yim (in the book of life).

    The common theme is life, plain and simple. In each case, each inserted text is a petition that God grant us life. There is no need for all the complicated commentary (which is out there!) to understand

    the idea here. When pre-historic man or woman stepped out of the cave in the morning there was an immediate

    adrenaline rush. Who knew if a saber-toothed tiger wasn’t waiting right above the cave’s entrance for his two-legged breakfast? Medieval men and women also experienced a strong daily dose of fear and

    trembling. Even the streets of the large cities were dangerous. Think of the Talmudic instructions never to leave just one person alone in Shul at the end of the Davening. Someone had to stay behind so there

    would be two people to walk home across the fields back to town. In ancient times, life was precious

    precisely because it was so precarious a business. You and I on the other hand lead rather placid lives. We don’t even get excited about driving on

    the freeway. Hundreds of tons of metal whizzing around us at 65-75 miles an hour and we barely notice.

    1 This essay was written in September 2001, thus, the reference to a recent event in the opening paragraph.

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    In today’s world, life is still precious, but most of us don’t feel the aching need to pray for life. We don’t

    feel threatened.

    So how are we to recite these four prayers for life? Despite the comfortable security we experience, we must somehow connect with the simple, straightforward message of these short added texts. No

    matter how healthy and comfortable and secure we are, we must conjure up in our minds the idea that from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur, we are literally fighting for our lives. We must say these four little

    prayers as if our very lives depended upon their recitation. Just as God poured the very soul of life into the first human being and into every human after the first, we must pour our souls into our prayers to

    achieve the life that God so desires to grant us.

    3 During the Aseret Yemay Teshuvah (10 days of repentance), we make two changes in the Shemonah

    Esray. We say “HaMelekh HaKadosh – the holy king” instead of “Ha’E-l HaKadosh – the holy God” and

    “Melekh HaMishpat – King of judgment” instead of ”Melekh Ohayv Tzedakah U’Mishpat – King who loves justice and judgment.” The theme of God as King runs through all of our prayers during this ten-day

    period. We relate to God in two ways. God is both imminent, present and transcendent, hidden. He is

    addressed as “Atah – You” as if He were standing right in front of us. And we speak of “His sanctifying

    us through His Mitzvot” as if He was removed from us, hidden, beyond our reach – in every which way. Of course, we are to experience God in both ways. We recite Shemonah Esray referring to God exclusively

    as “Atah – You.” However, we are constantly aware that God is beyond us, hidden from view both

    physically and intellectually. These two aspects of our relationship with God can be seen in the phrase “Avinu Malkaynu – Our

    Father, our King” used throughout the Aseret Yemay Teshuvah. As our Father, God is close to us. He is

    like the warm, cuddly grandfather, who puts an arm around our shoulder and kisses our head while murmuring soft reassurances. At the same time, God is the King, who rules from on high, from His

    Mikdash in the heavens.

    By making these subtle changes in the Shemonah Esray during the Ten Days of Repentance, we shift gears and emphasize God as King. The problem is that this is the antithesis of what these days are

    all about. The forty days from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur are days of closeness to God. “Call to Him when He is near!” “Seek Him out when He is to be found!” How can He be close when

    He’s the hidden King? One way to resolve the difficulty is to say that our calling out to Him and search for Him

    motivates God to remove himself from the throne of law (Din) and sit on the throne of mercy (Rachamim)

    instead. But this doesn’t solve the problem of our constantly addressing God as King. The solution lies in the reverse of the above process. We have a golden opportunity during these

    ten days in particular to connect with the hidden, transcendent King. We literally come before the King. We ride the sounds of the Shofar upwards, beyond the corporeal confines of our world to ascend to His

    hidden world. We can actually penetrate the obscuring cloud and gray that hides Him, only to emerge into the ineffable, unintelligible light that envelope the King of kings. Only then, do we come to fully

    realize (but not understand) that the Father and the King are truly one and the same.

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    ROSH HASHANAH

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    As Good and as Sweet as Honey

    A Rosh HaShanah Dvar Torah based on Reb Tzaddok HaCohen of Lublin, Pri Tzaddik, vol. 5, pp. 82b-83a

    Every year, we dip a slice of apple into the honey. As we watch the honey slowly slide towards our fingertips, we recite the Berachah for the apple. And finally, after tasting the combined sweetness of

    the honey with the slightly tart taste of the apple, we recite a Yehi Ratzon, a one-line prayer. May it be

    Your will, that you renew the coming year for us, for goodness and for sweetness – Yehi Ratzon, Shetechadaysh Alaynu Shanah Tovah U’Metukah!

    We certainly understand the simple meaning of the words. However, the fact that the observance

    of this custom is so wide spread and that the simple act of eating apple with honey speaks to our hearts hints at a deeper meaning.

    What does it mean for God to “renew” the year? Indeed, the literal translation of Shetechadaysh is “to make new.” What does that mean?

    Every landmark in time, be it a festival or be it Shabbat, indicates that God reinvigorates the coming period of time with new life, with a refreshed soul, so to speak. Each landmark in time marks

    the investment of the coming period of time with a particular flavor or color. To a certain extent, the weekly Torah portion, read on Shabbat, colors the coming week with its themes and ideas. Thus, life is

    a complex series of interlocking cycles, with Shabbat and the festivals marking both the beginnings and the ends.

    Rosh HaShanah is also a landmark in time. However, it teaches us that the cycles of life are also spirals. As the cycles go round and round, the spiritual quality of our lives rises and falls, spirals up and

    spirals down. With the taste of the apple and honey still on our tongues, we pray that, first and foremost, the

    new year be a good one. The Hebrew word for good is Tovah. Thus, we are praying that God assist us

    to follow the path of Torah, which is the path of goodness. By doing so, we come ever closer to the level of Tzaddik, and a Tzaddik is associated with Tovah, goodness, as Isaiah said, “Greet the Tzaddik, for he is

    good” (Isaiah 3:10). Even if a person does not feel the unique sweetness of Torah and Mitzvot, the effort to observe

    more meticulously, to understand better and to develop a more Godly life results in attaining the level

    of Tzaddik. “The light has been sown for the Tzaddik; and happiness for the pure of heart – Or Zaru’a

    La’Tzaddik; U’Le’Yishray Lev Simchah” (Psalms 97:11) There is a level above that of Tzaddik. This is the

    level of the pure of heart. At this point, the individual, with God’s assistance, has spiraled up to achieve purity of heart. Those of pure heart feel the joy of Torah. They feel the sweetness of Mitzvot.

    These two levels correspond to Na’aseh VeNishma, “we will do and we will listen” (Shemot 24:7).

    A Tzaddik performs the Mitzvot whether he understands or not, whether he feels spiritually uplifted or

    not. This is implied by the Jews’ cry of “Na’aseh - we will do.” However, to rise to the level where the joy is heartfelt and the understanding is clear is to spiral up to the purity of “VeNishma - and we will

    listen.”

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    Thus, with the taste of the apple and honey still lingering in our mouths, we end our prayer with

    a request that God assist us to taste the sweetness, to feel the joy of Torah and Mitzvot. We, too, want to

    be pure of heart. May God grant each and every one of us and all of the House of Israel a new year filled with

    goodness and sweetness.

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    The Crying of the Shofar

    This Dvar Torah is based on a Hebrew article, “Israel’s Hidden and Revealed Teshuvah,” Yemay Zicharon, by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, W.Z.O., Jerusalem, 1986, pp. 215-227

    Hidden Worlds and Revealed Worlds

    How many worlds do you live in? What a silly question, you ask. Why, there is only one world, you exclaim. The earth is part of a solar system that is part of the Milky Way that is only one star system

    in a very vast universe. There is only one world! If you think Jewishly instead of astronomically you would answer differently. There are two basic

    worlds that are parallel to each other and co-exist with each other. These two intertwined worlds are called the “revealed” world and the “hidden” world. The revealed world has both physical and spiritual

    aspects. Indeed, the universe is contained within the revealed world. The hidden world, however, is purely spiritual.

    Rav Soloveitchik relates both of these worlds to the individual human being. The revealed world centers on a person’s honor and self-worth. The interpersonal Mitzvot give expression to the honor and

    respect due each individual. The Mitzvot connected to the Exodus emphasize the value of a human

    being, while reminding us the slavery runs counter to the intrinsic worth of a person. (p. 219) The hidden world is the world of holiness and sanctity. Shabbat, the holidays, Kashrut and family

    purity teach us about the sanctity of the human being and the individual’s ability to grow in holiness and to be involved in holiness. (p. 219)

    On Rosh HaShanah, the individual must grapple with his inner being, with his own personal hidden world. On Rosh HaShanah, a person must decide what he or she values most. Are we only

    outwardly religious, just going through the motions so we can be accepted into a pleasant society of good neighbors and friends? Or is our commitment to Torah and Mitzvot found deep in our hearts, in

    our souls? (p. 220)

    I Confess That I Did Everything Properly!

    The Torah reminds us in an interesting way that our inner, hidden commitment must be reflected in our outer, revealed behavior. At the end of each three year cycle of Ma’aser, the tithes, each person

    must be sure to have given all the appropriate tithes to the proper recipients. When all is done, the

    individual then performs the Vidu’i Ma’asrot, the Ma’aser confession, declaring that he has fulfilled the Mitzvot properly, even though he took a few extra months to complete the task.

    Why, asks Rav Soloveitchik, must the person “confess” if he has successfully performed the

    Mitzvah? Isn’t the confession an indication of having done something wrong? The answer lies in the timing. Even though all was accomplished and the different Ma’asrot, tithes,

    were distributed properly, the fact that the person waited until the last minute indicates that down deep inside there was something lacking. In the individual’s hidden world, his commitment was flawed.

    Thus, the person confesses his “sin” despite having performed the Mitzvot to the letter of the law. That

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    is just the point: The God is interested in more that just observing according to the letter of the law. God

    wants the heart, as well. The hidden world must in complete congruence with the revealed world. (p.

    221)

    The Power of the Shofar If God is going to check our inner feelings and commitment on Rosh HaShanah, then we are in

    trouble! Can we be sure that our hidden world is intact? Are we as devoted to Torah and Mitzvot as we

    think we are? Are we without doubt? Does our heart play a vital role in our Mitzvah observance? Do we have great Kavanah every time we perform a Mitzvah?

    How are we ever going to be acquitted in God’s court on Rosh HaShanah? Do not despair. God is not interested in finding us guilty. Au contraire, He commanded us to

    blow that Shofar and it is the Shofar that melts away God’s strict, disciplinary judgment and leaves only His overriding love and mercy and sensitivity.

    How? Why? It should not be news to any of us that the sounds of the Shofar are associated with crying. Rav

    Soloveitchik points out that Onkelos the verse from Bamidbar (29:1), “It will be a day of Teru’ah for you”

    as “It will be a day of crying for you.” We are all aware that the reason why we have both the Teru’ah and the Shevarim sounds of the Shofar is because the Rabbis of the Talmud could not decide on how

    Sisra’s mother cried. Any way you slice it, the sounds of the Shofar are sounds of crying.

    Why do people cry? Asks Rav Soloveitchik. Crying reflects the maelstrom of emotions that hit a person when he or she is surprised. Unable to express the complex, strong emotions brought on by the

    surprise, the person cries. (p. 222)

    Yosef Cries On two occasions, Yosef breaks down and cries in front of his brothers. The first time is just after

    he revealed his identity to his brothers. If anyone should have cried, it should have been the brothers. They were the ones who were surprised. Indeed, Binyamin does cry. But there was no surprise here for

    Yosef, so why did he cry? The second time is after the whole clan had returned to Egypt from Canaan, where they had

    buried Ya’akov. The brothers felt that Yosef’s attitude toward them had changed. Quoting the Midrash, Rashi reports that Yosef no longer invited them to dine with him. The Midrash also says that another

    indication was Yosef’s desire to see the pit into which his brother’s threw him before selling him. So, the brothers confront Yosef, saying that their father had asked that Yosef forgive them. Yosef responds

    by breaking out in tears. Why? He knew very well that he acted in a way that would compel his brothers to react as they did. This came as no surprise. So, why did he cry?

    Rav Soloveitchik explains that twice Yosef suffered through a great battle between his revealed self and hidden self. Each time, his revealed self demanded that his brothers be punished for selling him

    as a slave and driving him away from the family. And each time, Yosef was taken completely by surprise to discover that very deep down in his hidden self he still had enormous love for his brothers. Each

    time, he was surprised as this over abiding love overwhelmed him and drove away any thought of retribution and punishment. Thus, Yosef cried. (pp. 222-224)

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    Know Your Hidden Self Teshuvah comes when we confront our hidden world, our inner self. Know yourself. Explore your

    inner self. Delve into your hidden world. You can. It is possible for you to do so. Only when you are

    honest with yourself, when you get to know yourself outside and inside, can you do Teshuvah. (p. 225)

    The Crying of the Shofar Changes Everything

    A Midrash: Satan comes to God to complain about the Jews. So, God says to him, “I need witnesses. Two or more witnesses are necessary to convict someone in My court of law.” Satan brings

    the sun and the moon as witnesses. However, the moon is hidden on Rosh HaShanah. Rosh HaShanah is the only major holiday to occur on the first day of the month when the moon is hidden from view.

    Thus, Satan is left with only one witness and God refuses to convict on the testimony of only one witness.

    According to this Midrash, says Rav Soloveitchik, the sun bears witness regarding the revealed world of the Jew. The sun testifies to every act of goodness or sin committed by the Jew. The moon, on

    the other hand, is supposed to testify regarding the Jew’s inner, hidden world. This would be the most damning testimony of all. The moon, symbol of the dark and the night, would tell the court if a person’s

    heart and soul were really involved. Where is the moon? The moon did not show up in court. It is hidden away on Rosh HaShanah

    because God looks beyond the first level of depth within a Jew’s hidden world. God peers into the deepest reaches of a Jew’s soul and there He discovers the undying, ever present connection between

    the Jew and God Himself. In the most hidden part, down deep inside, God finds the love a Jew has for God and His Torah. Then a person’s hidden world ceases to be a prosecutor and becomes a defense

    attorney. (pp. 226-227) When does this occur? It happens when the Shofar is sounded. The crying of the Shofar penetrates

    deep into each Jew’s hidden world, revealing the innermost core of love and commitment to God. Then God rises from the throne of law, discipline and judgment and He sits down on the throne of love,

    mercy, compassion and sensitivity.

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    The Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri

    Introduction: The Problem

    The Mishnah in Rosh HaShana2 records an argument between Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri and Rabbi Akiva as to where to place the section of "מלכיות - Malkhi'yot" (concerning God's sovereignty) in the

    Musaf of Rosh HaShana:

    Mishnah: The order of the Berakhot is: He recites Avot (ָאברהם מחי'הָ) Gevurot ,(מגן

    הקדוש) and Kedushat HaShem (המתים and includes Malkhi'yot with them, but does 3(מלָך

    not blow the Shofar. [He recites] Kedushat HaYom (כלָהארץ ;and blows the Shofar (מלךָעָל

    Zikhronot (God remembers) and blows the Shofar; Shofarot (about the Shofar) and blows

    the Shofar. He then recites Avodah (המחזירָשכינתוָלציון), Hoda'ah (ָהטובָשמךָולךָנאה

    These are the words of Rabbi Yochanan 4.(עושהָהשלום) and Birkhat Kohanim (להודות

    ben Nuri. Rabbi Akiva asked him: If he does not blow the Shofar for Malkhi'yot, then

    why does he recite it? Rather, He recites Avot, Gevurot and Kedushat HaShem. He includes Malkhi'yot with Kedushat HaYom and blows the Shofar; [He recites] Zikhronot

    and blows the Shofar; Shofarot and blows the Shofar. He then recites Avodah, Hoda'ah and

    Birkhat Kohanim.

    The Gemara5 tells a story: Once in Usha, where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was in charge, Rabbi

    Yochanan ben Beroka was the Chazzan and he recited Malkhi'yot as part of Kedushat HaShem. "That's not

    the way we customarily did it in Yavneh" remarked Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. The following year, Rabbi Chaninah, son of Rabbi Yosi HaGlili, recited the Malkhi'yot according to Rabbi Akiva and Rabban

    Shimon ben Gamliel commented, "That's the way we customarily did it in Yavneh!" Thus, without explicitly saying so, the Gemara decides that Rabbi Akiva is correct, since that is

    the way it was recited in Yavneh. According to the Yerushalmi,6 in Yehudah (in and around Jerusalem)

    they recited Malkhi'yot according to Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri, while in the Galil, they recited Malkhi'yot

    according to Rabbi Akiva. Then the Yerushalmi proceeds to tell the above story.

    Even though all of our Machzorim follow Rabbi Akiva's opinion and include Malkhi'yot with Kedushat HaYom, it is evident from the Gemara that there were times and places when people followed

    Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri's opinion. So what happened to the Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri?

    Was it the same text as Rabbi Akiva's? And what are they really arguing about anyway?

    2 Rosh HaShana 32a. 3 Throughout the year, we recite "HaEl HaKadosh - הא-לָהקדוש" as the end of this blessing. However, during the Ten

    Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, "HaMelekh HaKadosh - ָהקדוש is the correct "המלך

    ending for this Berakha. 4 This phrase, "Oseh HaShalom - עושהָהשלום," is used as the closing for the last Berakha of the Shemonah Esray during

    the Ten Days of Repentance. 5 Rosh HaShana 32a. 6 Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShana ch. 4, halacha 6.

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    A First Answer

    Zev Yaavetz, in his Mekor HaBerakhot - ָ7,מקורָהברכות asks what happened to the Malkhi'yot of

    Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri. He begins his answer by quoting the Yerushalmi mentioned above, and concludes that the Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri was not thrown away but must be in the

    Machzor somewhere. The logical place to look is at the Berakha of Kedushat HaShem.

    Thus, says Yaavetz, if we examine the Kedusha, which is part of this Berakha in the repetition of

    the Shemonah Esray, we find that the theme of "מלכות - God's sovereignty" is present, especially in the

    closing quotation:

    8ָָימלוךָה'ָלעולם,ָאלקיךָציוןָלדורָודור,ָהללוי'ה.

    God will reign forever, Your Lord, Zion, from generation to generation, Hallelujah.9

    Furthermore, a comparison of the text of "עלינוָלשבח - Alaynu Leshabay'ach," the beginning of our

    Malkhi'yot, with "ובכןָתןָפחדך - And now, put Your fear, etc." (the paragraphs which are added to the

    Berakha of Kedushat HaShem on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) shows us that the two texts are parallel thematically, as is illustrated by the similarities in phrasing:

    ָובכןָתןָפחדךָ)ותמלוך(ָעלינוָלשבחָ)עלָכןָנקוה(

    ָ.ָותמלוךָאתה1ָ.ָותמלוךָעליהםָמהרהָלעולםָועד1

    ...You will reign over them And You will reign ָ.ָלבדך2ָ.ָכיָהמלכותָשלךָהיא2

    For sovereignty is Yours You alone ָ.ָככתובָבדבריָקדשך3ָככתובָבתורתך .3

    As written in Your Torah ...As written in Yourָָ ָ.ָימלוךָה'ָלעולם...4ָ.ָה'ָימלוךָלעולםָועד4

    God will reign forever God will reign forever

    Therefore, concludes Yaavetz, just as "עלינוָלשבח - Alaynu Leshabay'ach," is the beginning of our

    Malkhi'yot (as prescribed by Rabbi Akiva), so, too, "ובכןָתןָפחדך - And now, put Your fear, etc.," is the

    introduction to the Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri.

    A Second Answer

    L.A. Rosenthal10 accepts Yaavetz's proofs and takes his conclusion one step further. The paragraphs of "ָפחדך ָתן Introduction" to the Malkhi'yot of Rabbi - פתיחתא" are not just the "ובכן

    7 Berlin, 1910, pp. 27-29. 8 Tehilim 146:10. 9 Ibid. 10 In LeDavid Tzvi, Sefer Yovel LeRav David Tzvi Hoffman, Berlin 1914) תרע"ד), pp. 234-240.

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    Yochanan ben Nuri, they constitute the entire Malkhi'yot! This conclusion is based first and foremost on

    the very next Mishnah in Rosh HaShana:11

    [We do not recite] less than ten [Biblical quotations dealing with] Malkhi'yot, less than ten [dealing with] Zikhronot, less than ten [dealing with] Shofarot. Rabbi Yochanan ben

    Nuri said: If he recited three for each, he has fulfilled [his obligation].

    After discussing why ten quotations are necessary and their attendant symbolism, the Gemara

    concludes that the halacha is according to Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri. While the Shulchan Arukh12 rules

    that we must recite ten verses in each of these three special sections of the Musaf of Rosh Hashana, the Magen Avraham13 rules that "בדיעבד - in extreme circumstances" we can recite only three verses in each

    section, since the Gemara does accept Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri's opinion.

    Most of the commentaries14 agree that in placing the very minimum at three verses Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri obligates us to recite one verse from the Torah, one from the Prophets and one from

    the Ketuvim. A close examination of the paragraphs of "ובכןָתןָפחדך" reveals, says Rosenthal, that the

    three requisite verses are there:

    15ָשמעָישראלָה'ָאלקינוָה'ָאחד .1

    16Hear O Israel, God, Our Lord, God is one

    17ָימלוךָה'ָלעולם,ָאלקיךָציוןָלדורָודור,ָהללוי'ה .2

    God will reign forever, Your Lord, Zion, from generation to generation, Hallelujah18

    19ָָלָהקדושָנקדשָבצדקה-ותָבמשפט,ָוא-ויגבהָה'ָצבא .3

    The God of hosts is exalted through justice and the holy God is sanctified through righteousness20

    Rosenthal's conclusion is reinforced by noting that just as the prescribed order of the ten verses is to begin with quotations from the Torah, followed by quotations from the Ketuvim and to conclude

    with quotations from Nevi'im, here, too, this same sequence is followed, first Deuteronomy 6:4, then

    Psalms 146:10 and finally Isaiah 5:16. Thus, one riddle is solved. The Malkhi'yot of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri did not disappear, it is

    right where it was in the first place, inserted into the Berakha of Kedushat HaShem. True, the halacha was

    concluded in Rabbi Akiva's favor and we do recite a separate section called Malkhi'yot as part of the

    Berakha of Kedushat HaYom, which is followed by Shofar-blowing. However, we only say Musaf twice on Rosh HaShana, yet the Rabbis of the Talmud included Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri's Malkhi'yot in every

    Shemonah Esray on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Thus, we say it a total of thirteen times! Irony of

    11 Rosh HaShana 32b. 12 Orach Cha’yim, sec. תקצ"א, para. 4. 13 ad. loc. 14 See Rashi, Rosh HaShana 32b, s.v. O' Dilma. 15 Devarim 6:4, in the middle of the Kedusha of Musaf. 16 Ibid. 17 Tehilim 146:10. 18 Ibid. 19 Yeshayahu 5:16. 20 Ibid.

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    ironies, for Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri to lose the halachic battle, but to be the grand winner of the

    liturgical one.

    And What Are They Really Arguing About Anyway?

    Could it be that Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri and Rabbi Akiva are arguing about what is the essence

    of Rosh HaShana? Rabbi Akiva views Shofar as the essence of Rosh HaShana. Shofar is a complex Mitzvah to perform

    and it carries with it a multiplicity of nuance and meaning. The symbolism of Shofar falls into three,

    main, broad categories, which we call Malkhi'yot, Zikhronot and Shofarot. The Shofar of Malkhi'yot is

    blown as part of a coronation ceremony. On Rosh HaShana we crown God as King over the entire world. The Shofar of Zikhronot reminds us and God of past and future events. We force God to make sense out

    of the tangled web of our past, thereby brightening our future. The Shofar of Shofarot relates to the very

    act of blowing the Shofar. We perform this Mitzvah, as we do all others, for the purpose of connecting

    with God, of encountering Him. As Reb Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin comments,21 God also fulfills the Mitzvah of Shofar by listening to our Shofar-blowing.

    Thus, Rabbi Akiva sees Malkhi'yot as an integral part of Shofar. "If he does not blow the Shofar for

    Malkhi'yot," asks Rabbi Akiva in the Mishnah,22 "then why does he recite it?" Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri, on the other hand, sees Malkhi'yot as a theological construct which has

    a life of its own irrespective of its connection to Shofar. He views Malkhi'yot as the central theme of Rosh

    HaShana. The question is where is the most appropriate conceptual slot for this idea in the Shemonah

    Esray? The answer is the Berakha of Kedushat HaShem. God's sovereignty (Malkhi'yot) must be recognized on every level of existence. Rosh HaShana helps us extend God's rule to every little corner of our lives.

    We dedicate every act, every breath to God: " ה-ה,ָהללוי-כלָהנשמהָתהללָי - With every breath You,

    God, will be praised, Hallelujah."23

    Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri reminds us that through the total acceptance of the yoke of God's Kingship we strengthen our relationship with God to the point of connecting with the highest, most

    exalted spiritual level, the very source of God's holiness; "אתהָקדושָושמךָקדוש - You are holy and

    Your name is holy" (Shemonah Esray). By turning our every breath into a praise of God, we transform

    ourselves. We change into God-directed, spiritual, holy beings; "וקדושיםָבכלָיוםָיהללוך,ָסלה - And

    holy ones will praise You every day, Selah." Halachically, Rabbi Akiva is correct, Malkhi'yot is certainly a major element in the Mitzvah of

    Shofar, and thus it takes its place alongside Zikhronot and Shofarot. However, Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri's

    concept goes to heart of our acceptance of God as King, so it is appropriately included in every Rosh

    HaShana and Yom Kippur Shemonah Esray.

    There is another possible explanation for the argument between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri:

    For Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri, the concept of God's sovereignty (Malkhi'yot) is a universal one.

    God reigns over the entire world, the entire universe; "ליתָאתרָפנויָמיני'ה - There is no place where He

    is absent." This aspect of God's Malkhi'yot is linked to the other most universal aspect of God, namely

    His essential holiness. Kedusha is more than just a description of God, Himself. It is also a conceptual

    21 In Pri Tzaddik, Vol. 5, Rosh HaShana no. 29, p. 187. 22 Rosh HaShana 32a. 23 Tehilim 150, end.

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    framework for understanding God's relationship to our world. We begin by singing, "ָקדוש קדושָ, קדושָ,

    - מלאָכלָהארץָכבודו" Holy, holy, holy is the God of hosts"24 but we finish the verse with - ה'ָצבא-ות

    the whole world is filled with His glory."25 God is holy beyond all human conception, but His glory fills every nook and cranny of our existence. Thus, these two concepts belong together.

    While Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri's theological perception is correct, resulting in our recitation of his Malkhi'yot throughout Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the halacha gives Rabbi Akiva the nod. From

    Rabbi Akiva's practical perspective, God's Malkhi'yot in our world can only be perceived properly

    through Jewish eyes. The Gemara, in Rosh HaShana26 states:

    פרות:ָמלכיות,ָכדיָשתמליכוניָעליכם.ָואמרוָלפניָבראשָהשנהָמלכיותָזכרונותָושו

    ָזכרונות,ָכדיָשיעלהָזיכרוניכםָלפניָלטובה.ָובמה?ָבשופר.

    Recite for me Malkhi'yot, Zikhronot and Shofarot: Malkhi'yot, so you will crown Me as

    King over you. Zikhronot, so I will remember you beneficently. And how [will I

    remember]? with the Shofar.

    The glue that holds all these concepts together is the specific relationship between God and His people, Israel. We are the ones who crown God as King. We are His worthy subjects who rejoice at the

    anniversary of God's coronation with reminiscences of our shared history. We worship Him with the sweet sounds of the Shofar.

    Thus, according to Rabbi Akiva, Malkhi'yot must reflect a particularistic view of God as King.

    This explains another interesting halachic phenomenon. We are all aware that the proper order of scriptures is Torah, Prophets and then Ketuvim. So why is the order in Malkhi'yot, Zikhronot and Shofarot,

    first Torah, then Ketuvim and finally Prophets?27 Ketuvim before Prophets? A close examination of the

    verses quoted reveals that, in general, the verses from the Prophets relate to the people of Israel, while the quotations from the Ketuvim are more universal in content, lack specific reference to Israel. Thus, the

    universal verses from Ketuvim are surrounded by the more particularistic verses from the Torah and

    Prophets.

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ESSAYS FOR ELUL, THE YAMIM NORA’IM AND SUKKOT by David Jay Derovan Ramat Beit Shemesh
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