A Drash for Rosh Hashannah 5774
by Marc Mangel
Welcome to the Days of Awe. We might ask “Why are they called such?” Clearly the answer cannot be “Because RH and YK fall now”, since there are other candidates for awesome events in our calendar.
The Rabbis pondered this question too.
In the Mishnah we are told that God judges everyone on RH. We are not told exactly the criterion that are used, but can assume safely, I think, that God recognizes individual differences and we are judged not on an absolute scale, but on the scale of relative to our potential to be a successful Jew.
That is awesome.
But it is really in the Talmud that we get to the awesomeness. It says
• “Man’s sustenance is determined between RH and YK”
• “Man is judged daily”
At first these seem contradictory, but Rabbi Shalom Dov Baer explained that they are not. He said “determined” means that between RH and YK the flow of heavenly kindness is set for each person for the entire year. Yet the form of this kindness is determined daily, translated into the physical world according to how we match up against our potential.
So we are then stuck with the problem of how to achieve that potential. To my mind, nobody thought longer and harder about how each Jew can achieve his or her own potential, rather than fit into a standard mold, than the last Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He designed a 10 step program:
• A house full of (holy) books
• Shabbot candles
• Sanctity of the family
• Love of the people Israel
This year pick one, or two, or ten and actualize them. How? Well, here are some examples
Tefilin – if you have never put on tefilin, learn about them, or speak with one of the local Chabad rabbis to try it out
Torah – Try reading a bit of the upcoming Torah portion each day, or reading a Psalm a day, or try simply being rather than doing for just a few hours on Shabbat
Mezzuza – Put a mezzuza on the doorway in your home. Renters can use stick-um so that they don’t put nails or screws into a door jam.
A house full of holy books – buy a new holy book in hard copy or for your electronic device, or check one out of the Kol Tefilah library
Shabbat candles– if you don’t regularly light Shabbat candles, try it for a couple of weeks and see what happens
Kashrut – try to by an item with a Hecksher when you are grocery shopping to replace one that does not or go to Trader Joe’s and buy kosher meat even if it costs more.
What about Tzdaka and Love of the Israel? They allow us to jump start this process of achieving our potential. Give to a Jewish organization.
Let’s have it be a truly awesome new year by joining the 10 step program.