Hashem Melech. God is King.
That is the theme of Rosh Hashanah.
What does it mean for us?
We are accustomed to a world in which “the people rule.” That is the theory. One man casts a vote, and it is tabulated along with the rest. The winner theoretically becomes the leader. We have grown up to believe democracy is normal and irreplaceable and irrefutably correct.
In the world of Torah, it is not like that. In the Real World, we have zero say in Who’s the Boss.
I am not joking when I say God is terribly unpopular in this world. If you don’t believe me, just look how people behave. They know He has made rules for us, and they usually ignore those rules and behave as if He does not exist. As the Prophet says (Isaiah 1:3): “An ox knows his owner, and a donkey his master’s trough; [but] Israel does not know, My people does not perceive.”
God is King.
It does not alter the situation one iota whether we want Him to be King or whether we believe He is King. We can vote against Him until our finger is numb from moving the voting machine lever, but it won’t help. In the Real World, we are the ones who lose if we don’t understand that He is the Complete and Eternal Master.
In reality, there is no such thing as democracy. We decide nothing – except to the extent God has given us permission to decide. We have no power except what He allows us to have. If we want to live in reality and to have a good year and a good life, we had better come to terms with this.
There is a corollary here. We are surrounded and outnumbered. The world is trying to kick us out of Israel and frighten us everywhere by declaring that we are the villains, the outcasts and the pathetic minority. This is an old story, but it is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
This is a positive sign, because just before the coming of Moshiach it will seem we have no hope whatsoever and that we are completely surrounded by our enemies. Not only that, it will seem that we are so totally hopeless ourselves that there is no reason God should even want to rescue us.
Where is there a hint of this? In the Chumash, of course. Ma’ase avos siman l’banim – the actions of the fathers are a sign for the children. In Egypt, we were at the 49th level of descent into the morass of idolatry. One more millimeter and we would have become … Egyptians. At the very last second God took us out of slavery and rescued us from the utter depths.
And then we marched out of Egypt to the shore of the Red Sea, and there we were totally surrounded, the Egyptians on one side and the sea on the other. It was all over. Or so it seemed. But “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of God that He will perform for you today’” (Exodus 14:13).
At that moment, God’s will became visible to the entire world. The Children of Israel marched through the sea and were saved; our enemies were drowned, never to rise again.
These are our marching orders for Rosh Hashanah 5770: “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of God that He will perform for you today.”
The nations of the world call for change. They want something new, but we are exactly the opposite. We endure forever precisely because we cling with a tenacious grip to the unchanging words of the holy Torah.
The Torah has not changed. God has not changed. We cannot allow ourselves to be afraid of these empty people who threaten us.
God is with me. I have no fear. How can man affect me? [Psalm 118]
Our entire responsibility is to hold fast to our Torah and trust in God. But it is a huge responsibility, because it implies we must give up our belief that alien cultures can save us.
Remember, only 20 percent of the Children of Israel made it out of the Land of Egypt. Only 20 percent marched with Moses. Eighty percent, in the words of Rashi, were “wicked individuals who did not wish to depart from Egypt.” If we want to live in the world of Moshiach, we will have to want to leave exile, and exile means the civilization of the other nations.