Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rosh Hashanah 5777

Rosh Hashanah 5777:

Most of Elul has already come and gone!  The special, special month, in which, it is easier to return to Hashem.  And we are already almost at Rosh Hashanah - the Day of Judgment.  So I think it is time to share with you all some inspiring insights on Rosh Hashanah - the time we are about to be at: 

Rosh Hashanah and the time around it are especially for Teshuva – returning to Hashem.  And during this year, we have strayed (in some ways)!  Try to think about a lot of what you (me, all of us) have done through the year.  I am sure that if we all look even a little hard, we will likely find a lot of sins and the like. 

But Hashem, in His Great Kindness has sent us a time like this that is, as we are told, an easier time to return to Him.  Also, He, in His Great Kindness has given us the Parshios at this time, which talk about Teshuva, to remind us, give us more encouragement, and to inspire us to do what we must right now.  The time is here!  Have any of us served Hashem even close to properly?!  Can any of us say that we have?  We have gone against Hashem, the Most Blessed, the Great King, for our own desires.  Do you realize just how awful this is?  Hashem is so, so kind to us and gives us only good, yet we find a way to still defy Him!  The gravity of this is more than any of us know, likely.  A lot of people think of a sin as “Well, it’s just one sin”, but it is much more serious than that!!  And if we think about it, we have really sinned a lot.  We have strayed far from Hashem!  So, with all this, how do we return to Him?

There is a Passuk in Tehillim (103:12), which says "As far as from east to west, so may Hashem distance our sins." There is a beautiful comment on this from HaRav Naftali Trop zt"l and the Chasam Sofer zt"l, which we will use to explain our above question:  At first, they say, this verse from Tehillim seems very strange:  The distance from east to west is huge!  However, they say beautifully, think about if a person is facing eastward.  If he now wants to turn to the west, all he has to do is just turn around!  Then you will be facing the proper direction.[1] 

So too, this is what we must do:  We might have been facing the wrong direction in life.  But we must just decide to return to Hashem!  Then we can turn around, so to speak, and be facing the right direction!  Then we must just follow this road, and stay on it all the way to the destination.  It is for every single person to do - turn around your life!  You can do it!  Everyone can!  We must remember this. 

But, we must know:  It is never too late.  No matter who we are, no matter what we do and have done, we can and must return to Hashem wholeheartedly and cling to Him.  And the time to do it is right now!  Some might, Rachmana Li’tzlan, get depressed about themselves though.  And they might think; “How can I even try to stand before Hashem?  I have sinned so much!” But the first verses of this week's parsha - Nitzavim - teach us otherwise:  The Torah says that all of us are standing before Hashem – all of us!  No matter who we are, we can still stand before Hashem, and return to Him.  You can never be too evil or too far to return!  Hashem, in His Great Kindness lets – not only that, but wants – everyone to come to Him and return. 

All of us are the children of Hashem, and there is no point where any of us are beyond return, as we have discussed.  No matter how far we feel from Hashem, He is still always there, and waiting patiently for us to return wholeheartedly and in truth to Him.  So let’s, B’Ezras Hashem try to do so right now!  It is time! 

In fact, the holy Reb Itzele Peterburger (HaRav Yitzchok Blazer zt”l) quotes from the Sages, who tell us that the Shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah confuse the Satan so that he will think that this is the Great Shofar, and Mashiach is here.  Even though for so many years we have been blowing Shofar, and Mashiach has not come, the Satan still thinks that maybe this year, we really did do Teshuva  and brought Mashiach.  Some people, says Reb Itzele, give up hope of getting better.  They say “I have lived through so many Rosh Hashanahs and heard so many Shofar blasts without doing Teshuva – I’m hopeless.” People who think along those lines, concluded Reb Itzele, are worse than the Satan himself.[2]

Hashem has given us all a holy Soul – part of Him, so to speak.  Don’t think that just because we haven’t done Teshuva yet doesn’t mean we won’t now:  True, we sinned this year, and defied Hashem; but now we are ready to do Teshuva!  We are not hopeless!  Nobody is!  We must remember this coming into the Day of Judgment. 

And remember; a good beginning is so important for the entire journey, and if we, B'Ezras Hashem Yisbarech, start 5777 off with true Teshuva, we will likely, B'Ezras Hashem, (if we keep the mindset with us) have a good year in serving Him. 

But what about the rest of this year?  It is lost, and what is done is done right?  The Chiddushei HaRim asks a very similar question about the Minchah prayer of Erev Rosh Hashanah:  We say in Shmoneh Esrei every single regular weekday "Bareich aleinu es hashana hazos...' - 'Bless upon us (for us) this year...' But he asks; how can we say this on Erev Rosh Hashanah?  What do we mean 'this year'?  The year is basically over!  There are only some hours (or days, as the case may be) left! 

Answers the Chiddushei HaRim beautifully:  Even with only some minutes left in the year, we can still correct the entire year.  As long as we return to Hashem in absolute truth, and say sorry and feel regret for all the sins of this past year, then we can correct the entire year!  Amazing!  Think about this! 

So now, it is time for all of us to think about what we are doing and what time is coming.  The Day of Judgment!  It is very, very soon!  And Hashem is waiting for us to return to Him and recognize Him.  And we must all do this.  We must!! 

And when we hear these last Shofar blasts of 5776, we must all remember, B'Ezras Hashem, what they are for:  The Rambam zt"l tells us that the Shofar blast is to wake us up from our slumber.  We have been essentially sleeping spiritually.  But now it is time to hear the Shofar, wake up, and return to Hashem Yisbarech, the King of kings, wholeheartedly and in truth. 

And may HaKadosh Baruch Hu help every single Jew to return completely and truly to Him, and stay with Him, right now and always, Amein vi'Amein, Kein Yi'hi Ratzon. 

I wish every single person a wonderful, wonderful night, a L'Shana Tovah U'mesukah, and Kesivah V'Chasima Tovah.  And may Hashem Yisbarech help everyone to have this, and may He inscribe us all in the Book of Life, Amein vi'Amein.

Refoel Berel

[1]  Selichot, Teshuva and Elul.  Shiur given by HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita.  Also, The Torah of Brisk and other Gedolim:  Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.  Teshuvah: Changing direction.  Pages 32-33.  By HaRav Shimon Yosef Meller shlita. 
[2] Sparks of Mussar, pages 122-123.  By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications Ltd©.  
[3]  Selichot, Teshuva and Elul.  Shiur given by HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita. 

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