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    I once flew to Miami for
    one night, to deliver a
    talk. I returned to
    Brooklyn the next
    morning, taking a very
    early flight out of Miami.
    It was too early to pray Shaharit before the
    flight, so I had to pray after I arrived back in
    New York.
    By the time I got to Brooklyn, it was around
    9am. I figured it wouldn’t look right for a
    Rabbi to show up at a 9am minyan in a
    community synagogue, because people
    would not realize that I had just flown in
    from Florida, and would be unimpressed that
    I am praying so late in the day. I therefore
    decided to pray in an Ashkenazic synagogue,
    assuming that nobody there would know me.
    I was there in the synagogue, and sure
    enough, in walks a fellow from our
    community, whom I knew.
    Oddly enough, the first thought that went
    through my mind was, “What’s this guy
    doing at such a late minyan?! That isn’t
    The fact that I was at a late minyan was

    understandable – I had just flown in from
    Miami. But the fact that he was at a late
    minyan initially struck me as improper…
    We have a natural tendency to look this way
    at other people’s behavior. Our initial
    reaction is negative and critical. Rather than
    think that maybe he was up all night with one
    of his children, or maybe he was working
    late, or maybe he, like me, just returned from
    a trip, did not immediately enter my mind.
    This is something to think about as we
    approach the judgment of Rosh Hashanah.
    The basic mitzvah of shofar on Rosh
    Hashanah requires blowing a series of
    teru’ah sounds, and a teki’ah sound before
    and after each teru’ah. Different opinions
    exist as to what the word “teru’ah” really
    means, whether the teru’ah is what we call a
    teru’ah, what we call a shevarim, or a
    combination of both. We therefore blow all
    these sounds in order to cover all possibilities.
    We can gain deeper insight into the teki’ah
    and the teru’ah by looking at the situations in
    which these sounds were blown in the Torah.
    We read in the Torah that Moshe would blow
    a teki’ah in order to assemble the leaders, or

    the entire nation, to convey to them Hashem’s
    instructions. The teki’ah, a straight, smooth
    sound, thus has a positive association. The
    teru’ah, however, was blown when it was
    time for the people to embark on a journey,
    or to go out to war. This sound is thus
    associated with fear and uncertainty. Indeed,
    the Gemara says that the teru’ah simulates a
    crying sound, expressing anxiety and dread.
    Taking this one step further, the Rabbis
    explain that the smooth teki’ah sound
    symbolizes Hashem’s attribute of kindness,
    while the “crying” of the teru’ah symbolizes
    Hashem’s attribute of strict justice. What we
    try to do on Rosh Hashanah is to “surround”
    the din (judgment) withchesed (kindness).
    Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment, but we
    have the ability to “smother” the judgment
    with kindness, to earn Hashem’s grace and
    mercy as He judges us. This is the symbolism
    of the teru’ah surrounded on both sides by a
    And one way we do that is by judging other
    people with grace and mercy. If we are kind
    and compassionate in the way we view other
    people, then Hashem is kind and
    compassionate in the way He views us. But
    if we judge other people critically, without

    giving them the benefit of the doubt or trying
    to understand why they act and speak the
    way they do, then this is how Hashem is
    going to judge us.
    Of course, this takes a good deal of effort,
    and a good deal of creativity. We need to
    train ourselves to come up with possible
    explanations in our mind for why people do
    what they do, rather than instinctively
    criticizing them. If we make this effort, and
    do everything we can to view other people in
    a favorable light, then Hashem will view us
    in a favorable light, as well, and inscribe us
    all in the book of life, health, happiness and
    prosperity, along with all Am Yisrael, Amen.