September 11, 2023 by Lazer Brody
Let’s put Israel’s current events into a pre-Rosh Hashanah spiritual perspective.
In reality, there’s only one choice in the world, between one of two options. Option 1 says that we throw ourselves at the mercy of fate and our own meager efforts to fight against things we’d prefer to avoid and can’t always control, like loss of health and income. Option 2 tells us to rely on a higher, infinitely powerful and much more reliable source, the Almighty.
The vast majority of so-called “enlightened” politically-correct modern society relies on fate. Nothing could be more inane. The result of such reliance is the dependence of millions of them on all types of substances, therapists and ploys to mask their pain. Yet, the mask is not a cure, only a sorely temporary relief.
The holy language that the Torah was written in – biblical Hebrew – is full of the secrets of creation. The Hebrew word for “fate” or “occurrence” is mikreh – mem, kuf, resh, hey. The phrase that everything is determined on Rosh Hashanah – kam R”H – is made up by rearranging the same four letters. The meaning of this is profound.
Imagine that you’re in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah of last year, when we were all looking forward to a hunky-dory year. Imagine that a terrifying dark-side angel barged into shul right before the blowing of the shofar, threw the rabbi off the pulpit and started chastising the congregation, telling them to look to the right and look to the left, because by next year, some of your neighbors and fellow congregants won’t be returning.
“Look around”, the dark-side angel says, because by next year, many of you will lose jobs, businesses and sources of income. And suppose he revealed to us that we’d have an unprecedented wave of terror in Israel and abroad. War threatens to break out any moment. What’s worse, the whole judicial reform question in Israel would throw our country into internal strife, even the brink of a civil war. This is no joke; it was all decreed last Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbi Judah HaChassid lived in 12th Century CE Germany. He was one of the great Ashkenazi scholars of the generation who wrote the classic Sefer Chassidim, The Book of the Pious. His piety was so lofty that Elijah the Prophet would visit his Seder table. He foresaw exactly what would happen in this generation. He writes: “No enemy can harm a Jew until one Jew harms another Jew” (Sefer Chassidim, 209). There’s the news broadcast in a nutshell. The infighting among observant Jewish groups triggers the hate of the seculars against the religious. Then, the hate of the seculars against the religious gives power to Hamas, the Jihad and Hezbollah.
The “enlightened” Jew allowed himself to raise a hand against a fellow Jew who harbors a different opinion. The former thinks he’s a saintly zealot doing the will of the god of democracy. That false god is a proponent of many things that the Torah calls abominations. On judgment day, they’ll show him that he – the enlightened Jew who bows down to the false god of democracy – ignited the violence that spiraled out of hand. How? Why? The so-called “chassid” couldn’t stand rival groups. He chose fate over faith and might over right. Since he thinks he’s right, he’s spiritually blind, equally far from truth and penitence. The blind want to be boss but only the King may wear the crown.
Why is the Jewish New Year called Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year rather than the first of the year? Just as a person’s head determines what the rest of the body will do, Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, determines how the rest of the year will be. People ask, why did Hashem make it like that?
Many Chassidic masters, like Rebbe Natan of Breslev, the Imrei Noam and Rebbe Tzaddok of Lublin give us the answer. Rosh Hashanah is the Coronation of the King, when we crown Hashem as our King. The crown in Hebrew is Keter, the loftiest of the ten spheres of Divine illumination.
There is no void in spirituality, and something is either holy or unholy. Since there’s no middle ground, when a person fails to crown the Almighty, the side of evil becomes his or her king. Instead of crowning Hashem – even though they don’t intend to – they crown the dark side. The Gemara juxtapose Jerusalem and Rome – when one succeeds, the other fails; when one rises, the other falls. The language of Jerusalem is Hebrew. Crown in Hebrew is Keter. The language of Rome is Latin. Crown in Latin is “Corona”. There you have it – when people don’t crown Hashem as their King, the get the default, dark-side alternative, Corona, sickness and suffering.
Rosh Hashanah is not a fashion show, a social club or a walk in the park – it’s the Day of Judgment. The good news is that Hashem is not only King but our compassionate Father in Heaven. When we take Rosh Hashanah seriously, and realize that our entire coming year depends on it, our prayers become more fervent and our efforts to do real teshuva become more real. When we do our utmost to crown Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, and not to put a crown on the follies of the fantasy world of fame and fortune, we can look forward to a wonderful New Year of enhanced Divine abundance and closeness to Hashem, with the coming of Moshiach and the ingathering of our exiles here in our holy homeland of Eretz Yisroel, speedy and in our days amen!