14 Sep Rosh Hashana
Just one step
Sometimes, taking just one step forward in avodas Hashem will make all the difference. Consider what happens when two people are rushing into an elevator, but one of them is one step ahead, resulting that only he entered the elevator before the doors closed, leaving the other person behind. The consequence is that one of them will reach a high floor, while the other won’t. That one extra step made all the difference.
The Satmar Rebbe zt’l gave this example and taught that if you take one step forward in avodas Hashem, more than your fellow man, it could be that you aren’t just one step ahead of him. It could very well be that with that extra devotion, you entered a cycle of siyata dishmaya, which will elevate you to very high levels, while your friend who didn’t take that step, will be left behind. There are many levels to climb in avodas Hashem, and if you take that extra step, Hashem will lift you higher and higher.
When Yaakov Avinu was traveling to Charan, he passed Har HaMoriah (where the Beis HaMikdash would be built) and he forgot to daven there. Realizing his error, he immediately turned around to go back. In one moment, the earth jumped for him and he was on Har HaMoriah. But he had to take the first step to return and then Hashem brought him there. So too, if one desires to serve Hashem correctly, and one has to take the first step, then Hashem will take him to ever higher places. These lessons are related to attaining emunah, because if on Rosh Hashanah (or at any other day) one makes a firm commitment that he wants to live his life with awareness of Hashem, with deveikus to Hashem, with emunah, that decision might evoke siyata dishmaya, enabling him to reach very high levels. It won’t only be that one step he took; rather he has entered an elevator, which will bring him swiftly to very high levels of emunah. But the first step forward must be our own. On Rosh Hashanah, we say Hamelech many times, because our service on Rosh Hashanah is to believe and to proclaim that Hashem is the King of the world. The custom is that the chazzan begins Hamelech from his seat, and then he goes to the amud to continue the tefillah. This is to hint that one must proclaim that Hashem is King wherever he is. In his place, with the struggles he is going through, he should proclaim that Hashem King.
Several laws of shofar are derived from the cries of Sisro’s mother. She was looking out her window, waiting for her son, Sisro, to return. She cried, “Why is his chariot late? Why hasn’t his chariot arrived?’” (Shoftim 5:28). She shed one hundred tears, and therefore we customarily blew one hundred tekiyos on Rosh Hashanah. Sisro was a great warrior. He won every war he fought. So why was his mother worried when he didn’t arrive when she expected him to? She thought, “He won every war until now, but who knows what happened this time?” Things can change. The past doesn’t promise that the future will be the same. On Rosh Hashanah one should think in a positive mode, therefore, thinking in a positive note, let it be known that from Rosh Hashanah on, things can change for the better. The Avnei Nezer zt’l said this is the reason we eat honey on Rosh Hashanah. The sweet honey comes from the very same bees that can cause pain and discomfort. This is to hint that on Rosh Hashanah, the hardships of the past can turn around themselves and become sweet like honey. Shulchan Aruch (Yorah Deiah 84) states that if parts of an insect falls into honey, at times, it becomes permitted and kosher, because everything dissolves and turns into honey. The Shem MiShmuel taught that the same is with regards to Rosh Hashanah. It is a day when things turn around. All the bad of the past can turn around, and leave us with a sweet future. Yosef was released from prison on Rosh Hashanah. Everyone has his own personal imprisonment, and one can be released on this day. In the Yotzros of Rosh Hashanah, we say, Zecher La Yashur….. These words are referring to Leah who was in her seventh pregnancy; she davened that the child in her womb would become a girl, and although she was expecting a boy she gave birth to Dinah (as this is discussed in Rashi, Bereishis 30:21). Why is this mentioned in the Rosh Hashanah tefillah? This is because an extraordinary change took place, and that is related to the theme of Rosh Hashanah; a time for the most extraordinary changes to be accomplished.
We don’t say in the tefillah, Hayom Hayah Haras Olam, “Today the world was created,” rather, Hayom Haras Olam, “Today the world is created.” Similarly, we say, Ze Hayom Techilas Maesecha- “This day, the beginning of creation…” Reb Yohonoson Eibshitz zt’l says that these indicate that every year, the world is brand new.7 And as everything is new, new and better things can happen. Furthermore, we can do teshuvah, and become like a brand new-child, with new and improved deeds. Even if in the past we weren’t devoted to Torah, or our middos weren’t proper; we didn’t daven with kavanah, and so on, it can change on Rosh Hashanah. And then Hashem will make Rosh Hashanah the beginning of a new era for us too; an era of parnassah, refuos, and yeshuos.
It is important to add that when we say that on Rosh Hashanah we improve our ways and start anew, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one becomes an entirely different person in a day. Rather, it means that he has new goals and objectives, and he takes on small kabbalos, which will set the path for change.