Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meirצילום: אייל בן יעיש

*Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (

Excuse me, but have you already imagined what you will be like next Rosh Hashannah? It so happens that this is exactly what someone claimed is our task this Rosh Hashannah. Not only to look backwards on the past year, but mainly to look forward towards the next. To think about exactly what we want from ourselves, in every area of life.

This practical and intriguing challenge was presented by Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, zt"l, the Admor (Hasidic rebbe) from Piaseczno. He was murdered during the Holocaust and left behind a wonderful educational legacy. He suggests that on Rosh Hashanah we consider where we want to be next Tishrei, evaluate the distance to get there, and do the following:

“If you desire to serve Hashem and to elevate yourself, and not to be in the same place at the age of seventy as you were on your Bar Mitzvah, do this:

Every year, set a goal for yourself. If your name is Reuven, for example, imagine which Reuven you will be a year from now -- his achievements, his service of God, his character traits and everything else about him a year from now. Measure yourself against this imaginary Reuven throughout the year, what you lack in comparison to him. Strive so that your service of God and personal refinement on a daily basis will be sufficient to meet the goals – one year from now -- of the Reuven you wish to be.”

Everyone is invited to imagine who they want to be a year from now.

And to help us clarify what we hope to be, we have the time during which we listen to the shofar::

Think about the number of words we have spoken since the beginning of the year, both here at work and at home. We are talking about millions of words that left our mouths. Think about the number of words that we heard and read since the beginning of the year. Again, we are talking about millions. But now, after this seemingly endless stream of words, we begin a new year -- in silence.

An apple dipped in honey is a nice custom. But the mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to *hear* the shofar. In the Torah, this day is not called Rosh Hashanah but rather "Yom Teruah" (a day of sounding the horn), because of the blowing of the shofar. Other nations may celebrate the new year with big parties and gatherings in the street, but we are enjoined to behave differently: to gather in the synagogue, to be silent -- and to just listen.

When we recite the blessing over this mitzvah, we say: "Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to hear the sound of the shofar." Not to blow the shofar, but rather to hear the shofar. To close the mouth and open the heart.

The shofar is not fancy and does not glitter. Our commentators explain that its pure and simple sound is that of the soul. We work hard all year long, but once a year we stop creating, sharing, recording, typing, and reacting. When we silence the din around us, we hear an inner and delicate voice. The shofar reminds us of fundamental truths, calls upon us to reset, and brings us home -- back to who we really are. Shana tova.

We can start our introspection right now by looking at this past Shabbat, the last one of the 5782.

1. Yes, we have just experienced the final Shabbat of 5782 and our commentators write that this day has the power to rectify all the Shabbatot of the past year. It thus presents an opportunity to show how much Shabbat truly means to us. In this context, many people have the custom of adding something special to their last Shabbat of the year. They put forth a little extra effort in honoring this Shabbat above all others.

2. This week’s Torah portion was Nitzavim, a continuation of Moshe Rabbeinu’s farewell speech and the last words we read from the Torah while gathered together in the synagogue this year. How fitting are the opening words of the parasha, as they acknowledge a rare moment of complete togetherness and unity among the people: *“You are all standing this day before the Lord your God.”*

3. There aren’t any mitzvot that appear in parashat Nitzavim, but Moshe Rabbeinu instructs us regarding several vitally significant aspects of our lives, both as individuals and as a nation. He teaches us about freedom of choice and the consequences of our choices, about the heavy responsibility we bear towards future generations, and about what we must do to hasten the final redemption.

4. After the Torah reading, we read the last of the seven haftarot of consolation that follow Tisha B’Av. Among the prophet Isaiah’s comforting words are these: *“Upon your walls, Jerusalem, I have stationed watchful guards who, by day and by night, shall never hold their peace.”*