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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Rosh Hashanah

Parshat Rosh Hashanah

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Rosh Hashanah Edition                                                                                 Print Version
1 Tishrei, 5783 | September 26, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein zt"l
I Love You, Hashem

When we think of Rosh Hashanah, we tend to think of teshuva and how we can change ourselves in order to earn a favorable judgment heading into the New Year. But the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva paints a different picture and goes in a different direction. It’s great if you go to a court case with a great lawyer, but better than that is developing a great relationship with the judge. If you have that, then even if you should be given a “ticket” because you did something wrong, the judge will be forgiving. He’ll find a way for you to get out.

This is what how we want to approach Rosh Hashanah, says the Rambam. We want to create a relationship with Hashem that when we walk into the court room, and the Satan says, “Now we are judging so-and-so…” Hashem will say, “Oh, my daughter… Life! … Next …”

How do we develop this relationship?

Often, it feels that we need to be induced into fear in order for us to change our ways. But the Rambam doesn’t says that. The Rambam makes clear that the tone of our relationship with Hashem is very different than one of fear.

“A person should not say, ‘The reason I am keeping the mitzvos in the Torah is so that I should earn a reward in the Next World, and I do not want to sin because if I do, I will be punished.’ Someone who serves God in this way is doing so out of fear, and this is not the ways prescribed by the Sages. Those who act this way are those who lack understanding. Someone who serves Hashem out of love, doesn’t serve Hashem for reward in this world or the Next World, but rather just because he loves God.

This is the greatest way to serve Hashem, as it says in Shema, ‘You shall love Hashem with all your heart and all your soul.’ It doesn’t say that you should fear Hashem with all your heart and all your soul. It says you should love Him (Hilchos Teshuvah, 10:1).

Now what does this mean? Should I hug Hashem, buy Him a nice rose, maybe buy Him a nice card. How do you love Hashem?

You should love Hashem so much that your soul should always want to be tied to loving Him.

Now the Rambam says something that might make you fall of your chair. Because I almost did when I read it.

“You should be so into loving God that it should make you sick. You should be lovesick for Hashem.”

Where do we find this idea being reclected? In Shir HaShirim, Chapter 5.

Shlomo Hamelech’s most poetic of writings, Shir HaShirim, is filled with God’s most impassioned and expressive love towards us. Its words awaken us to remember His unbounded affection of us, and spurs us to take steps of our own to experience this delightful relationship.

Shlomo Hamelech paints the following scene.

Hashem comes to “His garden,” a metaphor for us, the Jewish nation. He enters our hearts and souls, referring to us as His sister and bride, terms of beloved endearment. He brings with Him aromatic spices and fragrances, awaiting the moment we will see one another and feel the depth of each other’s love.

But what are we, the Jewish nation, doing?

“I am sleeping,” Shlomo Hamelech writes. We are resting, our eyelids closed and head nestled on the soft and cool side of the pillow. However, adds Shlomo, “my heart is awake.” Our feelings for God, however dormant they may seem, are alive as ever.

As we lie on our beds, reclining and relaxing, we hear a sound. It’s coming from the front of the house. Someone is banging on the door, or more accurately, our souls. Hashem is stirring us to come close to Him. That knocking on our soul is that feeling which reverberates in our heart and mind that we want to change, come close to Hashem and better our life.

“Open up!” God pleads of us. “Open up your heart!” Hashem wants to talk to us. Hashem wants a relationship with us. “Open up My sister, My beloved friend, My dove, My perfect one.” God has such endearing ways to refer to us. Then Hashem continues.

“My head is dripping with dew.” Hashem comes to us with an abundance of blessing, as if it’s dripping off His head.

But what do we answer? “I’m sorry Hashem, I already took off my clothing and am in my bed in pajamas. I can’t put them on again! I took a shower already and am clean. If I get up, I’m going to get dirty!”

To this answer of ours that we don’t want to open up our heart, Hashem has no choice but to turn around and leave.

But then something happens, God forbid. Illness strikes, no shidduch comes through for months, a couple goes for years without children, a family seriously struggles financially. When this occurs, we get out of bed and open the door! Now we need someone. When Hashem comes to us, we were sleeping; but now that we need Hashem, we spring into action.

Now we open the door. We look for Hashem, frantically wandering the city, but He isn’t anywhere to be found. We call out to Him, but He doesn’t answer. The guards circling the city find us wildly running and searching for God, and must contain our disorderly behavior. They beat us. We feel pain in our legs, tears streaming down our cheeks and aching in our heart. We want to send a message to Hashem, but what can we tell Him now?

Should we pout and cry out with tears, “I’m sorry … Forgive me!” No. That’s not it. It doesn’t work, Shlomo Hamelech tells us.

Rather, do the following. Approach the daughters of Jerusalem and say, “Swear to me that if you find My beloved, Hashem, tell him, ‘I am sick in love with You.’” Don’t tell Hashem that you are bad, that you did something wrong. Don’t tell him that you need His forgiveness, and that You want Him to help you. Just tell God one thing: I am sick in love with You.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is not about beating ourselves up. It’s about a relationship with God. And when you find yourself lost in despair and without knowing how to get yourself close to God again, just tell Him that you love Him. There is nothing more important to you. You grow sick without His love and everything you want is Him.

When you tell Hashem this, He will find His way back into your heart again. He will fill your life with His presence and nourish your soul.

This is also what the Rambam says further. How can we love Hashem?

“It is like a person who cannot get his mind of a woman he loves, and all he can think about all day is her. You think about her, when you are standing and sitting, eating and drinking. Your mind is always thinking about her.

Some time ago, a girl told me about a relationship she had gotten into with a boy in yeshiva. I told her one thing. “This boy is having a hard time now learning, because his mind is so fixated on you.” That is the feeling had when you love someone so much. And that is how our feelings of love should be for Hashem.

When a student of mine is in a serious relationship and it seems that they are going to get engaged soon, it’s not hard to tell. He loses a lot of weight. He loses fifteen pounds, and I ask him, “Are you getting engaged?” Sometimes, though, right after they get married, they gain it back, plus more.

Can we say that our relationship with God is such that we can’t eat, can’t sit and He’s on our mind all the time? That is where we need to go. Fear is not a good foundation for a relationship. If a wife fears a husband, that is not a good relationship. If kids fear their parents, it’s not a great relationship.

Dovid Hamelech says, “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha – Serve Hashem with happiness” (Tehillim 100:2) and also says, “Ivdu es Hashem b’yirah – Serve Hashem with fear” (Tehillim 2:11). How can this be? How can you serve Hashem with both love and fear?

The fear you have is fear of hurting the person who you love and who loves you. It is not the fear of getting punished. “Hashem, You give me life, You give me everything. I fear to do something that is against what You want. I don’t fear that You’re going to burn me. That’s not Judaism. You’re going to go to Gehinnom, God is going to fry you, you’ll turn over, and make sure you’re well done, and then you’ll get fried again. And you know what, maybe you don’t even deserve Gehinnom, so you’re not even going to get in there. You’ll fly around the world, and be in a rock and in a fly.

Do you think that’s the relationship Hashem wants to have with you? He’s just a mean, angry, vengeful God. That’s how He wants you to walk into Rosh Hashanah? “ … Don’t hurt me …” That’s what a father wants from His children?

Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Tov. Our Sages tell us that when you leave shul, you are supposed to be singing and dancing, and eat a fatty meal. How can that be? It’s the day of judgement and maybe I’m going to die! Maybe I’m going to get cancer or get very sick. What do you mean, “Go home, drink wine, eat duck, dip the apple in the honey …”? What are you happy about? You came out of court and you don’t know what the judgment is?

But that’s what the Torah tells us. We’re not supposed to walk out of shul, feeling scared. “Please, Hashem, please don’t hurt me …” That’s what we might have been taught, but it’s not right.

I remember a rebbe telling us about reincarnation and saying that if you waste time not learning Torah, you’ll come back as a fly. A fly then landed on my desk, and I said, “Hey Chaim, what’s up? You should have gone to yeshiva and concentrated on what you’re doing.” But that’s not what Hashem wants. I don’t want my kids to be scared that I’ll beat them, burn them or hurt them.

The tenth chapter in the Ramban in the laws of teshuvah, after he discusses all about repentance for nine chapters, tells us that it’s wrong to relate to Hashem out of fear. You should rather be so in love with Him that you can’t sit straight. You walk outside and remark, “Hashem, the sun, it’s amazing. I can see, I can smell, I can hear, I can walk, I can move my hands. The five senses are incredible. When I taste something, my tongue sends messages for me to enjoy it. A person who has no taste, doesn’t enjoy his food; a person who can’t hear, lives in a world without sound and music; a person who can’t see, lives in a world without color.

When you wake up in the morning, you need to be madly in love. If my relationship is out of love, then whatever happens in life, I’ll deal with it, because it must be good for me.

There was once a boy who used to tell all his friends that his father and him have the best relationship in the world. The other boys were very jealous. One day, one of the boys said, “I don’t believe that your relationship with your father is as good as you make it out to be. I’m going to come home with you and see for myself.” So the two boys head home, and make their way outside, as they await for the father to return home.

After playing outside for some time, they come in, and they’re very thirsty. The son takes a look around and sees that there’s a glass of water sitting on the counter. He walks up to it, grabs hold of it, and is about to take a sip when … whack! The glass goes flying out of his hands. The boy’s father had smacked it out of his hand. The other friend, observing this all, quickly came to his conclusion. “You think your father loves you? Look what he just did to you! My father never did that to me. I’m going to tell everyone at school that your father really hates your guts.”

The boy then looks at his father. “Dad, first you embarrassed me. But also, why didn’t you let me take a drink? I was very thirsty.” The father says, “Oy, if you would have drunk it. Your mother asked me to fill up a cup of Clorox so that it could be put into the laundry. I put it on the table, and you thought it was water. Thank God you didn’t drink it. If you would have, it would have burned your insides.”

The boy turned to his father with a child’s smile. “I knew it! I knew you loved me!” That is one level of emunah, faith in Hashem. Real emunah is that the minute the father slaps the boy’s hand, the son turns to the father and says, “Oh, I guess it’s Clorox.” The minute that something happens, the son knows that it must not be good for him. That is real relationship. Why is this? Because if we get up every day and Hashem gives so much to us, it’s amazing. And whatever Hashem doesn’t give us, there must be a reason for it.

Before every Yom Kippur, I write a note to Hashem telling Him what I am going to do differently this next year. I do this because I want to let Him know the reason why He should give me another year of life. The following year I open the envelope to see if I kept what I committed to. If I didn’t, I need to do teshuva about that. I wrote a letter to Hashem because I love Him, and I want to do something extra for Him. If you love your husband or wife, you want to do something extra for them. A present is something extra and you want to hand it to them. So the God Who gives me life, I want to do something for Him. I need to do something extra. I don’t want to be on the unemployment line of life. I want to help His children with chesed and use my life that He gives me. We want to take the life that He gives us and maximize it to the fullest. Until the last day of our life, Hashem waits for us to come close to Him. He trusts that one day we will turn around and do a mitzvah and hit a home run.

The very end of the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva echoes this very point:

“It’s very clear that you cannot come to love Hashem unless you think about Him all the time and let go of everything in the world but Him … Therefore, a person should spend time contemplating Hashem and his relationship with Him.”

How many of us sit at the edge of our bed each night and tell Hashem, “I love you”? I once asked the students in my seminary if anyone would be able to walk out into the middle of the street and yell, “I love you, Hashem! You are amazing!” They were taken aback. But I did it. I went on, and screamed those exact words.

When seeing a celebrity or superstar, fans start yelling and screaming. But when we see Hashem in the morning, we should feel the same way. We walk out of our front door, look up at the sky and be overwhelmed with breathtaking awe.

I was once speaking to a group of high school students who had visited a museum of modern art. They were inspired by the incredible paintings and sculptures they had seen. One girl in particular said, “There was a painting of a farmhouse and a lake, and the artist captured the reflection in the lake of the sky and clouds. Rabbi Wallerstein, it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

“Let me ask you something,” I said. “Have you ever come home and looked up at the sky and the clouds and screamed, “Oh my! What a painting!” The painter painted a duplicated. The original is the sky, the cow and the water that Hashem created. That is the original and we often don’t give that attention. But when it comes to the artist, we are blown away. Have we ever looked up at the sky and said, “Hashem, this is the most amazing original I have ever seen! Green grass, flowers, sun, sky, wind on my face … Amazing.”

But the girl was very intelligent and had a rebuttal. “You missed my point. The artist as a human was able to capture what Hashem created. That is amazing.” The rest of the class was wooed by her comeback. But I had my own thoughts on that. “Let’s talk about the painter. How did he see what he was painting? With the eyes, hand and brain that Hashem gave him. Also, who created the colors in the world, and the paint, canvas and everything else used to make the painting?”

Duplicate paintings can be $40 and originals can be $40,000. When we enter Rosh Hashanah, and want to connect to Hashem and come to love Him, we can look into His Torah. And we can also look at the world. Just step outside and take a calm moment, breathe in, and take in everything you see. And that will lead you to love Hashem and appreciate everything He does for you and how much He loves you.

There are four things which make things grow: water, earth, air and sunlight. Take a mint plant and lemon grass plant. If you take these two leaves and crush them, you’ll smell the mint and the lemon grass. But where does the smell of mint come from? Neither earth, water, air or sunlight has smell. How can a rose have smell or red color? What about a banana’s shape? Where does it come from? It can’t come from the four elements because they don’t have any of these qualities.


The whole world did not come into existence by itself. It was created, and if it was created, there must be a Creator. If you walk into a building, there must be a builder. You may have a lot of questions as to how it came about, but one thing you know is that someone built it.

Rosh Hashanah is the day when we coronate Hashem as the King of the world. We say He is Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King. He is our father and can do everything as the king. He has the power to do everything and give us life.

This is what the Rambam is telling us. Hashem loves you and our effort now during Rosh Hashanah is to love Him back.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair

Return of the King

The year is 1943 in a farmhouse of a remote European village. Two shadowy figures struggle to move aside a fake stove. Behind the stove sits a primitive but powerful radio covered in newspaper. One of the figures bends silently over the radio and with well-practiced hands, coaxes it into life. Its vacuum tubes start to glow dully, and the sound of air waves of static can be heard escaping from his large Bakelite headphones. Suddenly the hissing and popping of the static clears and the unmistakable sound of a lone timpani drum quietly fills the room. Dum dum dum dum.

The king was in exile in London. In his place, the Nazis had set up a puppet regime. But the people were loyal to the king, even though he was far away. Every night they tuned in, hoping to hear his voice on the radio, however far away he was. They would never desert him or be unfaithful to him. They longed for the day when he would emerge from exile and free them from their oppressors.

As part of creation, God wanted there to be a tangible symbol of his kingship. And from this symbol, we would be able to glimpse the most distant echo of the glory of heaven. Its awesomeness, its Majesty. For this reason, God created kings.

But a few hundred years ago, kings ruled with absolute authority. More recently, their power has ebbed. And now the king has become the constitutional king. How should we understand this ebbing of the power of kings?

God relates to us through middah k’negged middah, measure for measure. When the world at large believed in a God, we were afforded an ever-present representation of God's kingship in the rule of kings. When the world turned aside from God and embraced atheism, there was a concomitant withdrawal of the power of kings. For some 2,000 years, the Jewish people have been sitting by its radio, listening attentively, waiting for the return of the king. He continues to rule, even though we do not see Him. He rules in hiding, in secret. And we sit by our spiritual radios, our holy Torah, receiving inspiration and hope from Him. We long for the day when He'll return to us, and the world will acknowledge Him as the true ruler. That is the day when the kingship will return to the House of David, and there will come a Rosh Hashanah, when we will crown him not in exile, but revealed for all the world to see.

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