moshe Kempinski
moshe Kempinskimoshe Kempinski

In our prayers yesterday we referred to the first day of Tishrei 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.

If in fact the day commemorates the Creation of the world, it is then understandable that these are the days wherein the world is judged.

The Mishnah calls Rosh Hashanah the “Day of Judgment” of the whole world. The Talmud describes how three books of spiritual accounting are opened on Rosh Hashanah, wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an intermediate nature are written. The Ten Days of Repentance give us time to effect change.

However, regarding Rosh Hashannah we also read the following in Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24

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]( Yom Zichron Teruah) . You shall not do any work and you shall bring a fire offering to G-d.” (Leviticus 23:24)

How do all these understanding and concepts come together?

Our sages give another explanation and declare that the first day of the seventh month actually does not commemorate the actual birth of the world, but rather the birth of Adam and of Eve.(Vayikra Rabbah 29:1)

That first day was not only the day of new possibilities with the birth of mankind, it was also the day of failed opportunities after the sin with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

Along 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 mankind to find purpose and meaning in a life that otherwise tumbles towards death and lack of meaning.

In Hebrew the word for “time” is zman. Rabbi Moshe Shapiro Ztz”l taught that zman is from the same root word as the word hazmana which means invitation. Time is not a raging river that carries us into the unknown. It is actually an invitation into an appointed destiny, a MOED.

Yet invitations to move forward necessitate and unloading of old baggage and hindrances. The Day of Judgment is more than anything else a day of introspection and inner discernment.

Introspection and inner discernment at times necessitate a “catalyst”. As a result in order to move forward we need to “hear the sound of the shofar” It is that sound that achieves and empowers the process of Teshuva ( the return to one’s inner essence).

That is the dual nature of the shofar that is blown on this Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets) . The Baal Shem Tov understands the word te’ruah as referring to the breaking (as in l’roe’a, “to break”) of one’s inflated “ego” and haughtiness( Psalm 2:9) . It is likened to the sighing of the “shvarim shofar sound” and the broken sound of the ”teruah”.

On the other hand we read in psalms that the word Teruah is also used to denote Joy and expectation.; “Make a joyful noise (ha’ri’u) to G-d, all the earth”.( Psalm 66:1)

The duality of our existence is to understand our limitations and our failures. On the other hand we must forever be cognizant of the divinely inspired power ensconced within us to renew and change ourselves into a perfected vessel. Both these truths are found within the word “Teruah”.

Being cognizant of our limitations in this period of kudgement and balancing it with the possibility of renewal is a feature of Birth in all of Mankind. That duality gives us the empowerment and the possibility to grow into what we are meant to be.

It is then that we can deal with the fleeting aspect of time and transform time into a vessel of renewal. The beginning of the Year can also be thought of as Rosh Hashinui, the beginning of change and growth.

Time then becomes the instigator and the facilitator of that change.

May those changes come with a sweet taste in our senses

Shana Tova Umetukah

Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Lilui Nishmat Yehudit bat Chaya Esther