OUR GIFT TO HASHEM
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman
With the day of Rosh Hashanah finally upon us, it is imperative that we focus on the essence of this time. While it is true that Rosh Hashanah is the day on which we are all judged for our sustenance and needs for the coming year, let us go beyond our self-interests and, rather than focusing on what we want from Hashem, let us ask ourselves what does Hashem want from us.
With the day of Rosh Hashanah finally upon us, it is imperative that we focus on the essence of this time. While it is true that Rosh Hashanah is the day on which we are all judged for our sustenance and needs for the coming year, let us go beyond our self-interests and, rather than focusing on what we want from Hashem, let us ask ourselves what does Hashem want from us. Us - give to Hashem?! What can we possibly give to Hashem who Himself is the Giver of everything?
One of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah is "Malchut - Hashem's kingship". True, Hashem lacks nothing, but only Man can proclaim Hashem as his King. The commentaries say that there is a fundamental difference between a "moshel - ruler" and a "melech - king". A moshel is a tyrant who rules his subjects by force against their will. The ideal kingship, on the other hand, is one in which the subjects voluntarily accept the authority of their melech upon themselves. The greatest majesty of a king is when his subjects voluntarily and enthusiastically choose to obey and serve him out of love. Only Man can play this role for Hashem. Making Hashem into a melech rather than merely a moshel is the purpose of our creation and represents the fulfillment of the goal of Mankind.
Only Man with his free will can accomplish this. Hashem has plenty of angels who serve Him mechanically, for the angels see Hashem clearly as being the one and only reality. However, Hashem desires that Man, complete with his evil inclination and ability to reject, accept Hashem's sovereignty willingly and lovingly. Our doing so becomes the greatest sanctification of G-d's name.
What does this mean to you and me? It means the nullification of our desires and our goals if they are not congruent with Hashem's goals and desires (Ethics of our Fathers). And it is Hashem's desire that we dwell in peace and unity. This Rosh Hashanah, let us make individual commitments of how we can best represent Hashem's wishes here on earth, asking ourselves what we can do as individuals so as to increase Hashem's kingdom. In the words of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the great 19th century teacher of mussar (Jewish ethics), "While we are proclaiming Hashem as king over the entire world, let us not forget to make Him a king over ourselves as well." This means a self-sacrifice for the sake of peace, for Hashem's kingdom is never more enhanced than when all His children are united to do his will. "Let us blend into one brotherhood to do Your will with a perfect heart" (Rosh Hashanah prayer service).
At the end of the daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer, we take three steps back when we say the words "O'seh shalom bimromav. . . - He who makes peace in the heights, may He make peace upon us and upon all Israel." Sometimes for the sake of peace one must take steps backwards.
"Yom teruah - a day of blowing it shall be to you," we proclaim in the Rosh Hashanah prayers. But the word teruah (blowing), says the Chozeh of Lublin, a saintly Chassidic leader of the 18th century, also stems from the Hebrew word rayoot meaning friendship. In other words, it is a day of friendship, love, and peace amongst all of the Jewish people. It is with this love for our fellow Jew that we make this Rosh Hashanah a fulfillment of the verse at the end of the Aleinu prayer, "Hashem will be King over all the world - on that day Hashem will be One and His name One."
Rabbi Dov Ber Weisman writes from Atlanta.
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