Friday, September 10, 2004

Kesiva Vachasima Tova

Kesiva Vachasima Tova
Editor’s View
Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Rosh Hashana is the day on which our fates as individuals and as a nation are decided. The day is awesome and quite frightening, as we all come before the Heavenly throne for judgment. Everything that will happen in the coming year is decided on this day. However, we were bestowed with an amazing gift. We are granted the opportunity, to alter our destiny and swing the Divine verdict in our favor for the coming year.

In order to appreciate the significance of the great day, we need to probe the meaning and purpose of the Yom HaDin and what it teaches us about our quintessential purpose on this earth.

Jews customarily exchange good wishes on this sacred day, wishing each other that the past year and its curses come to an end, clearing the way for a year of blessing.

With gratitude for all the good bestowed upon us, we stand at the doorstep of a new year like paupers with our hands out, begging for sustenance. We cannot go on like this, we know. We shudder when we realize how many people we know who have taken ill. We pray that they be healed and that we and our loved ones and all of Klal Yisroel be spared every form of disease and adversity. We know of the many that have accompanied us at the beginning of this year, but are no longer here to usher it out. We cherish their memories and pray that they be mailitz yosher for those they have left behind.

In the final days before the Yom Hadin, we eagerly seek out extra sources of merit that will shield us from the Midas Hadin, from anguish and agony, from destruction and despair.

Throughout the year gone by we may have been able to feel complacent and proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. However Elul triggers a period of introspection, when we come face to face with how miniscule we truly are. By the time Rosh Hashana arrives, we are hopefully ready to acknowledge that in order to be granted the privilege of retaining our good fortune and utilizing it properly, we have to discard our delusions of -grandeur and accept the yoke of Heaven.

Truthfully, we control very little about our lives and those around us. We can eat healthy, follow a rigorous diet and do regular exercise but that is no guarantee for longevity or even good health. People who were strong, healthy and vibrant get sick and are reduced to fighting for another day of life. Just days before, they were fine and on top of the world, and then suddenly, without warning, their names are being passed around to scores of Tehillim groups. They suddenly need our tefilos. We all know of such instances, and pray that He who hands out good health continues to watch over us.

People who thought they had a handle on how to make a fortune in the stock market just a year or two ago are now scratching their heads, still wondering what happened to all that money they invested only to watch it disappear into the black hole of the smarter-than-though investors. They had it all figured out, they made it to the top on their own, and then one day they woke up to find out that fate had outsmarted them.

So many people are lacking a decent parnassa. So many more are struggling to but food on their tables. Are we thankful for our own good fortune? Do we realize that it is a gift from G-d, or do we think that we are entitled to all we have?

Too many people seek to find happiness in their lives and can’t. Too many people look for Menuchas Hanefesh and can’t find it. They look in the wrong places, they need help and direction in today’s complicated world.

If we want to be blessed with a good livelihood we need to acknowledge the source of our well being, as the posuk states, "Hashleich El Hashem Yehuvchah Vehoo Yechalkelecha."

The essence of Rosh Hashana is to accept and acknowledge the dominion of G-d. "Shetamlichuni Aleichem." We’ve got to humble ourselves and realize that we are nothing without Him and all that we have is from Him. It is actually a simple deduction once we come to grips with human frailty and mortality.

What holds us back is little more than pride, the need to feel powerful and in charge of our own lives. But once we accept that whatever happens does not depend on us, we have no choice but to submit ourselves to the yoke of Heaven.

Once we accept that it is He who gives us life, livelihood, children, health, housing and everything else we need and have, the next step is for us to recognize that we are not meant to live for ourselves alone.

We are all part of a Divine plan and fit in somewhere in the Divine jigsaw puzzle. We are interconnected with others and to the degree that we touch others lives and become indispensable to our fellow Jews, we become more vital to the larger picture.

One who is a part of the larger group is more important to this world than the one who sits off by himself, benefiting no one, doing little more than succumbing to his own selfish desires.

And that is the secret formula: If we wish to be granted life, health and happiness, we need to make ourselves needed.

We need to live for others. We need to become involved with the klal, doing things that we do not necessarily enjoy, even performing acts that we may think are beneath our dignity, for the greater good. The more that people need us, the more sunshine and happiness we bring into the world and spread around, the more reason there is to keep us here.

There are always excuses not to give, not to get involved. Rosh Hashana is a time to do the opposite, to see how we can help others, how we can make ourselves needed. No one is indispensable, but we stand a much better chance if we are judged along with the group and not by ourselves. The merits of the others will help us too.

"Tzedaka Tatzil Mimaves," charity saves from death. The more we give, the more we share with others, the more unselfish and humble we become, the greater our chances of a favorable outcome on Judgment Day. The more we realize that all we have is but a gift from G-d, to utilize not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of our fellows, the more He will give us.

Thus we recite, "Teshuva, tefilla utzedaka maavirin es roah hagezeirah." The evil decree can be set aside through repentance, prayer and charity. When we beg for life, we acknowledge that life is a gift from G-d, meant for us to spend it studying Torah, following its commandments and being a source of goodness, kindness and positive accomplishment.

We promise to mend our ways, we say that we have gone through our actions of the previous year and will do what we must, to merit the gift for another year.

Moshiach ben Yosef will be revealed on Rosh Hashana, much the same as Yosef Hatzadik was freed from the Mitzri jail on Rosh Hashana. Moshiach ben Yosef will commence his work on this holy day, leading to the complete redemption by Moshiach ben Dovid in the month of Nissan.

The shofar is blown each year on Rosh Hashana to awaken us and to straighten out the flaws in our hearts and our behavior so that we merit a Kesiva Vachasima Tova. The Great Shofar will be blown to gather to Eretz Yisroel all the Jewish people who have been scattered around the world. Hopefully, we will have proven ourselves worthy of hearing the shofar’s message. We will have demonstrated that we are ready to go back home, and the shofar will herald that long-awaited ingathering of the Jewish people.

The world has been turned upside down. Since September 11th 2001 we have had our complacency shaken. We have been taught in so many ways that there is no one to rely on but Avinu Shabashomayim. Time and again we have seen the forces of evil unleashed across the globe. We all know that we can not stop them. We know that only the Ribono Shel Olam stops 9/11 from happening again. We know that it is only He who stops terror attacks from occurring daily in Eretz Yisroel and right here in our backyard.

So, what are we waiting for? Haven’t we had enough? Haven’t we gotten the message? Haven’t we had enough wake up calls? Who among us can still be asleep? We all know which areas of our actions need improvement. We all know what evil we need to remove from our hearts.

Let’s prepare ourselves so that when the shofar blows we will all be able to answer “Hineini, I am cleansed and ready to fulfill my reason for being alive.”

On Rosh Hashana, let us recommit to Torah; be makabel ol malchus shomayim; do teshuvah shelaimah; give tzedaka in the fullest measure of which we are capable; and give Mekomos HaTorah and Lomdei Torah the support they so desperately need and deserve.

Let’s all pray for – and be granted - life, health, sustenance and the revelation of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.


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