Names and Rosh Hashannah

Rosh Hashannah is the day Man and Woman were given names.It was the day that all the creations of Hashem were given a name as well.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski ,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski

We are entering into the “Days of Awe”, the time of judgment and repentance. We approach these days with anticipation mixed with fear and trembling. The Torah calls the first days of the new year ,Yom Teruah, the day of the call of the shofar;

“ The first day of the seventh month shall be a day of rest for you. It is a holy holiday for remembrance [and] sounding [the shofar]. You shall not do any work and you shall bring a fire offering to G-d.” (Leviticus) 23:24

The Mishnah however describes this day of Rosh Hashannah as the “Day of Judgment” of the whole world. In our prayers we further refer to this day as the day of the creation of the world . The prayer Ha-Yom Harat Olam (Today is the day of the world’s creation) is recited after the blessing at the end of each of the three special sections of the Rosh Hashannah Musaf prayer.

It is then understandable that these are the days wherein the world is judged.

Yet the first day of the seventh month actually does not actually commemorate the birth of the world, but rather the “day” of the birth of Adam and of Eve.

With the creation of Mankind came the creation of the concept of time as well. When man was immortal, the passage of time was unperceivable. When man became mortal and was faced with the prospect of death, the passage of time became an issue of great importance. The ticking clock of mortality prods man to find purpose and meaning in a life that otherwise tumbles towards death and lack of meaning.

Yet my brother Reb Dov Kempinski offered a newer insight. Rosh Hashannah commemorates something else as well. It was on that "day “that Man and Woman were given names. In fact, it was the day that all the creations of Hashem were given a name as well. we read in the book of Genesis;

"And out of the ground Hashem G-d formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof.( HU SHMO) (Genesis 2:19)".

The declaration that whatever name Adam gave was to be “the name thereof" is more than just stating a fact, The Words HU SHMO literally translates as he or it was synonymous with the name.

The understanding of our sages of this verse has been that whatever Adam called the animal that was to be its spiritual essence as well.

That is the reason that, the Holy Ari teaches that the name the parents choose for their baby is actually a 'small prophecy.A prophecy of that soul’s mission, journey and/or challenges. We are being challenged every day of our lives to walk the journey that will enable us to discover that purpose and mission. To find the purpose and vision ensconced in each of our names.

Rosh Hashannah commemorates the beginning of that quest for all of mankind. Yet it is also a yearly new beginning and opportunity to return to that quest if life and all of its turns may have turned us off our paths. It represents an annual exploration of how far and deep that quest has progressed.

So Rosh Hashana is the world´s day of judgment.

Yet what is being judged is not whether individuals have found all the answers but rather if they have embarked on the journey of questioning altogether.

Is it any wonder that upon approaching this day one senses an uneasy insecurity and trembling.

It is so easy to fall into a sense of being trapped by one’s past deeds and lifestyle. It is so difficult not to feel unworthy of entering into a Day of Judgment and introspection. Rosh Hashannah can truly be a day of awe and trembling.

Yet Rosh Hashannah is viewed as a day of joy as well . In the book of Nechemia we read how after the Temple had been rebuilt ,a tall wooden platform was constructed and the great Jewish leader Ezra read the Torah from early in the morning until mid-day of Rosh Hashana.

” And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. …. And Ezra opened the scroll before the eyes of the entire people, for he was above all the people, and when he opened it, all the people stood.”(Nehemia 8:2-5) .

The people’s reaction on that Rosh Hashannah was a bitter crying out and despondency. When they looked at how far astray they had wandered from the words and commandments they had just heard , they felt broken . “… for all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the Law.(ibid:9).

Nehemia attempts to lift their souls “This day is holy to Hashem your G-d; neither mourn nor weep…Go, eat fat foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord, and do not be sad, for the joy of Hashem is your strength.(ibis:9-10)

Rosh Hashannah is as the name implies ‘ a new beginning”. That is the secret of its power and its inherent Joy.

We cannot ignore the past and must confront its implications, but Hashem is telling us that just as the world and man were created ex nihilo, so too we can recreate ourselves into what we are meant to be.

Shana Tova Umetuka

Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved VeKol Hacholim