What’s our origin?
I read a story that I want to begin with from Rabbi Perez’s book, ‘Leading the way’. A woman is sitting at the edge of the river where she sees a scorpion struggling for safety. The scorpion is slowly drowning as it battles. Eventually she puts out her had to try and help it but it stings her with his tail and continues struggling in the water. Again she tries to save it but keeps getting stung. After a while a passerby shouts out, “Fool, do you want to kill yourself trying to save that creature?” To this she replies, “Because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I deny my nature to save it.”
This story highlights the limitless potential for greatness that we all have access to, despite adversity. On Rosh Hashana we have an opportunity to connect to our moral conscience and the spiritual beings that we can be. This power of transformation, transcending the physical to be spiritual is what Rosh Hashana is all about.
Mrs. Ester Wein (from Torahanytime.com) quotes ideas from Rabbi Moshe Shapiro on the theme of Zichronot – Remembering that I want to share. There are 3 themes of the Mussaf Amidah which correspond to the 3 names of Rosh Hashana. Art scroll has clearly labelled these for us. – Yom Hadin – Malchiyot, Yom Hazikaron – Zichronot, and Yom Teruah – Shofarot.
The main theme of RH is judgement, so we would expect to ask somewhere in the davening, “Give us life” תן לנו חיים. It is not there or anywhere in the davening. We don’t daven for anything that we need on Rosh Hashana. In the first three berachot we have זוכרנו לחיים which was added by the Gaonim in the 800’s. This was a controversy at the time because it is against Halacha to add requests into this part of the Amidah. Therefore it is not a request; it is a statement, a reminder that Hashem will remember us for life.
Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of when Hashem decided to create man and the world. Nissan is the first month of the year and this is when Hashem actually created man. Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of this initial decision to create man. Each year on Rosh Hashana, Hashem is deciding if man is worth ‘re-creating’ again. At this point in our history we had no needs. It makes no sense to daven for things yet because we are not yet in existence. So what are we praying for if not our needs? We are praying to continue to live in a world that is aligned to the master plan from original creation. Man was created perfect with an intense inner knowledge and spiritual connection to the Creator of the world. Hashem had a spiritual goal for his creations. From that moment on we were given freedom of choice and we started to slip up, we started to sin. These sins have taken us further away from that initial goal. But luckily it is possible to return to that center and that alignment through teshuva. If that center or alignment is not within us, the moral conscience that we were created with, then there is nothing to return to. We have lost what defines us, and what would be the point of our lives continuing. If the center is strong and it is directly connected to G-d then we can return. We have to ask ourselves if this center exists. Who are we? What is important to us? What are we really doing here? Is it all just about me and my needs?
People are prepared to give up their lives for something greater than themselves, their ideals, justice, truth, love or something that they believe in. It makes them feel necessary and needed. When we know we are here to do or accomplish something, this is our center. If we feel we don’t matter we wouldn’t want to live. Imagine your spouse said to you, “Sweetie, you can eat, drink and be merry and do whatever you like because you are irrelevant anyway and you have nothing to contribute to society anyway, and no one cares.” How would that make us feel? We all want to be a part of something. We want to feel that we matter and that we can make a difference. We are here for something and we know it. This feeling comes directly from our connection with Hashem. It is our G-dly center.
In this world man can create an awareness of Hashem in any profession that he does, he is able to elevate himself and make a Kiddush Hashem. So, Hashem needs us for this role. If we know that this is our center, and we live our lives this way then we are doing what we came here to do. It is possible that we can slip up and become self-centered and veer off the path of our purpose. When this happens we have the ability to do teshuva and come back on track. So, when we say זוכרנו לחיים we are not asking for anything, we are saying to Hashem that it is the day He is deciding if we are worth re-creating, if we are worth re-investing in.
In the Amidah in Zichronot we remind Hashem of acts of greatness throughout the generations in history when our ancestors proved we knew who we were. At the time of Noah we moved so far away from our centers that Hashem decided to destroy the world. ויזכר ה את נוח. Noah came along and Hashem decided that the world was worth reinvesting in. There was a moral center. We are reminding Hashem of the acts of greatness where we proved who we were and HE should continue to recreate us.
Then we say, “Remember us for good” when we recall the Akeida. Here it speaks about how Avraham overcome his mercy for his son to do the will of Hashem. This was superhuman. He conquered his rachamim as a father, to do the will of G-d. At this point Hashem made the Brit with Avraham to never forget us. We are reminding Hashem of this that He should see Avraham’s great sacrifice and decide that we must continue to exist because as his descendants we have this potential within us.
In Shoforot the prayers are supposed to awaken us. To bring us back on track to our center. On Rosh Hashana we are not praying for what we need or want, we are appealing for the privilege to be able to live another year and be given permission to be re-created as man originally was. RH is where we tell Hashem that we know who we are, how we were originally created and how to come back to that spiritual center. For this reason we must continue to exist in this world and Hashem must decide to continue re-creating us each year Hashem’s original intention was that it is GOOD to create man. Rosh Hashana is about proving that original decision was right and that He should continue to do it.
We can’t have Yom Kippur without Rosh Hashana. Yom Kippur is about correcting where we veered off, but we can only do that once we have come back to where we came from. RH is about knowing ourselves and introspecting deeply which is defined by our purpose and our connection to Hashem. On RH we stand and say, YES we have reconnected to our inner self and we are worth re-investing in.
We have many hours in Shul to map out and plan what we want our spiritual selves to be like in the coming year. Let’s remember the essence of the woman who tried to save the scorpion. Let’s be able to provide a reason to Hashem to ‘re-create’ the world with us in it because we know our role. Let’s align our ideals and feel a part of something greater than ourselves by re-connecting to our purpose. Let’s also remember that at times we will veer off this path and we have the free choice and a
bility to return. Let’s be inspired by our great ancestors and their example, and by doing all this we are saying YES we are worth re-investing in.
May this Rosh Hashana be a time where we are all able to re-connect to our inner G-d center by coming back through the process of teshuva to live the lives that we were originally created for. I wish us all profound days of uplifting introspection that will not end when Rosh Hashana does, but that we continuously come back to our essence and make lasting changes in our lives & choices. The big question is, are we physical beings having a spiritual experience now and again, or are we spiritual beings transcending our physical experience and living G-dly lives?