by Rabbi Natan Halevy
This Rosh Hashanah is a monumental one. So many changes have been occurring in our World. On Rosh Hashanah, the energy and life force of the world is renewed for the entire upcoming year. It is a memorial of the beginning of creation. Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year.” Just as the blueprint of our body resides in our brain, so too, on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem is empowering us to design a blueprint of our upcoming year.
For this reason we place a tremendous focus on blessing our year on these two days. Hashem has given us the gift of knowledge of how to prepare for the new Jewish year.
We fill our New Year with prayers and blessings to increase the blessings for our year. We have special meals on Rosh Hashanah to renew our faith in Hashem and request His blessing so that we and our families merit sweet years. We eat spiritually symbolic foods in order to draw down blessings connected to all our needs.
We focus on that which strengthens us and our spiritual fortune and well-being.
The Torah says 3 things remove the evil decree: teshuva, tefila, and tzedaka. Teshuva signifies returning to Hashem. Tefila requires praying to Hashem from the depths of our beings. Tzedakah involves sharing our gifts and giving charity and our time to others.
Spiritually, Rosh Hashanah is a combination of opposites. We feel awe and trepidation in anticipation of the judgement that takes place. Yet at the same time we feel joy and hope that the year will be a sweet and blessed one. Hashem is directing us to feel the whole spectrum of emotions. When we are able to feel opposing emotions, and they reside in us simultaneously, we can have a full life unencumbered by the psychological and emotional protective defenses we put up in our lives. Hashem wants us to be whole and complete people.
Kabbala describes the different spectrums of emotions as different energies, or ‘Sefirot’ in Hebrew. The blowing of the Shofar relates to the Sefira of ‘Gevurah,’ the energy of Justice and the emotion of awe and fear of Hashem. The Shofar is calling us to wake up to the deeper spiritual reality of existence and to return to Hashem. Symbolically, the Shofar is narrow at one end and gets wider at the other end. We start in a narrow spiritual place, but with effort and concentration we reach higher levels of connection and experience. We reach spiritual culmination of the energies of Chesed which is the energy of Kindness and the emotion of love of Hashem, together with the deep awe and reverence of Him Who is our Father and King.
190 years ago, the Chatam Sofer wrote about the difficulties that would befall the world in 5780, the year that is ending now. He took hope in the fact that the coming Jewish year is 5781. This number is connected to the gematria (numerical value) of “ashpot” or “trash heaps.” In Hallel, Psalms of praise, we say “Mi ashpot yarim evyon,” or Hashem “lifts the poor one from the trash heaps.” The Chatam Sofer explains that in this new year, Hashem will lift us from the trash heaps of our difficult circumstances and bring great salvation to our nation and the world.
May we all be blessed with a Shana Tova U’metuka, Amen.