New Year’s Day – Rosh haShanah and BlessingsPosted by Rabbi
The snow and wind blew while sounds of celebration were heard from outside the wooden synagogue. It was the eve of the secular New Year’s. Many men were gathered around tables studying the holy words of Torah.
Suddenly the door to the holy rabbi’s private room opened and the holy rabbi himself came out and greeted everyone:
“L’Shana Tovah Tikasevu v’Techasemu!” (May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year!)
With that the holy rabbi went back into his room and closed the door. Everyone who was studying the holy words of Torah were very surprised. Surely the holy rabbi knew that this was not Rosh haShanah, but the secular New Year? Why then did he extend such a greeting.
Some time later, the door opened and the holy rabbi again greeted the men studying the holy words of Torah. Hours passed and the holy rabbi offered the greeting a third time.
Puzzled by the holy rabbi’s behavior, the men went to one of the holy rabbi’s students and asked him to go to his master’s room and ask about the meaning of his strange actions through the night.
The student went and knocked on the door of his teacher, the holy rabbi and entered. The holy rabbi looked up from his studies and greeted his student: “Shalom Aleichem” the student answered: “Aleichem Shalom.” The Rabbi continued: “what brings you to my study at such a late hour?”
The student looked at his teacher, cleared his throat and asked: “many have been studying Torah tonight and you greeted them as though it was Rosh haShanah. This seems a little out of the ordinary. What is the holy reason for your greetings, this night of all times?”
The holy rabbi thought for a moment, smiled and explained:
“Last Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment for all the Jewish people and the world, the Jewish people prayed with intensity in their synagogues. Their prayers and the sounds of the shofar ascended to the heavens. Moved by the waves of heartfelt pleas, the Holy One, blessed be He, left his Throne of Justice to ascend the Throne of Mercy. There he wrote a decree which stated that the coming year would be a year of health and happiness for all Jewish people and peoples of the world.
When Yom Kippur, the fearful Day of Atonement, came and He saw how all of the Jewish people fasted and wept and poured out their hearts in prayer as “all are judged on Rosh haShanah and the verdicts is sealed on the Day of Atonement.” (Rosh haShanah 16a) The Holy One, blessed be He lifted the pen to sign the decree of blessings for all of the people in the world.
At that moment, the Dark Accusing One approached to protest: “yes, O L-rd, on Yom Kippur they fast and have remorse, dressed in white as the angels in heaven. What of all the rest of the year when they are filled with sins and wickedness?”
The decree was not signed.
When the Jewish people gathered together boards and scraps of wood to build succas for the holiday of Succos (the Feast of Tabernacles), prepared to eat and sleep in the succas, the defending angel appealed:
“Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe, You see these succas which even the poorest of Your children are building with so much joy, according to Your command “You shall dwell in booths for seven days” (Leviticus 23:42) and in the days of old “on the Festival of Tabernacles Israel would offer up seventy bullocks, one for each of the seventy nations of the world, and prayed that they might live in peace.” (Pisikta Kahana 175b). Have You heard them pray, ufros aleinu succas sh’lomecha (spread over us the shelter of Your peace). Please sign the decree now.
And so it would have been, had not the Dark Accusing One not objected: “yes, for the boards, which are here today and gone tomorrow. But for themselves – for their homes, their businesses, their entertainment – they erect strong buildings of brick and stone and glass that last forever!”
Then came Simchas Torah, the Jewish people embraced the Torah and danced with it in their synagogues in boundless joy. Again, the Defending Angel argued that the Holy One, blessed be He, should sign the decree: “See, oh G-d, how your children are happy with Your Holy Word, the Torah!”
The Dark Accusing One intervened: “yes, for one night they dance merrily with your Torah, their heads turned and their spirits lifted by a drop of schnapps. But in a more sober mood when their minds are clear, do they fulfill the mitzvahs, which are written in the Torah?”
The decree was not signed.
Every window was filled with light during Chanukah. It seemed as though the light of the first day touched every soul. The words of the morning prayer, “v’chol ayin lecha tetzapeh” (every eye longs for you) were realized.
The Defending Angel argued that the Holy One, blessed be He, should sign the decree:
“Look, and see how Your children are bringing Your holy light into the world. For indeed ‘the spirit of man is the candle of the L-rd.’ ” (Proverbs 20:27)
The dark accusing one interjected: “true, they kindle lights and may touch the soul with holiness, but are they honest and holy in the marketplace or with other people?”
The decree was not signed.
And so it is that the judgment written in favor of the Jewish people and all the peoples of the world on Rosh haShanah has remained unsigned all these many weeks until tonight. For when the New Year began and with it started all of the drunkenness, the shouting and brawls that usually occur on that night, the Defending Angel approached G-d and said: “O Lord, see how they begin the New Year tonight. Listen to the screams and noise as well as the sounds of discord, look at the shamelessness and the corruption – and remember how Your children began the New Year on Rosh haShanah, with prayer, with repentance, and with holiness.”
To this, the Dark Accusing One could not say single word.
And so it was that, after some four months of delay, the Holy One, blessed be He, at last signed the good decree for the Jewish people and the world.
“Therefore,” the holy rabbi concluded, “I greet you tonight with L’Shana Tovah Tikasevu v’Techasemu!,” (May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year!)