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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Rosh’

Stories For Rosh Hashanah

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Few people loved Bnei Yisrael as much as the great tzaddik, Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. His very fiber and being was permeated with love for the Jewish people and every Jew’s pain was his own. As the Yomim Noraim approached, he would gather together all his strength and ability to plead the case of his beloved nation before the Throne of Mercy.

One Rosh Hashanah, Reb Levi Yitzchok heard the pitiful cries of a poor man who lived next to his shul. He listened and kept quiet. When the time came to blow the shofar, Reb Levi Yitzchak ascended the pulpit, donned the kittel, took the shofar in his hand and began to recite the prayer of “Lamenatzeach’’ seven times. The congregation repeated the prayer after him.

Suddenly, Reb Levi Yitzchok stopped and waited. The congregation waited silently for the rav to make the bracha and begin to blow the shofar. One hour passed, and nothing happened. The people began to fidget and some were clearly frightened.

Reb Levi Yitzchok then put aside the shofar and addressed the congregation.

“My friends,” he said, “outside of my window sits a man who has been in prison for many years. Because of it he knows very little Hebrew and nothing of prayers. Hearing us davening in this shul has made him very sad and in a crying voice he is pleading to Hashem, ‘Father in Heaven, you know that I can’t pray, although my heart longs for prayer. All I know are the 22 letters of the Jewish alphabet, which I do hereby repeat before you. Will you in your infinite mercy arrange these letters into the proper words of prayer?’

“Hashem is now busy arranging these letters into words. We will have to wait until He is ready to hear us.”

Forbidden On Shabbos

Still another time, Rosh Hashanah fell on Shabbos and Reb Levi Yitzchok rose to proclaim: “Father in Heaven, according to Your own Torah, You are required to write a good decree for Your people, Your beloved children.”

The people looked at each other in amazement. What did he mean? Why was this Rosh Hashanah so special?

Reb Levi Yitzchok saw their puzzlement and explained as follows: “Today,” he said “is the holy day of Shabbos, when it is forbidden to write. Thus, even the Heavenly Court is forbidden to write today – except to save a life. That means writing an evil decree is forbidden – but a good one is permitted. To save a life it is permitted to write on Shabbos.”


The Price of Hair

One year on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a young man training to be a barber passed by the home of Reb Levi Yitzchak. His head was uncovered, and his many wavy curls were carefully combed over his forehead.

Seeing him through the window, Reb Levi Yitzchak called him in and said: “Why do you grow your hair that way?”

“Because my job brings me in touch with many noblemen,” said the young man, “so I have to make myself look good.”

“Listen here. I’ll give you a gold ruble if you cut off those curls. After all, wearing your hair like the gentiles is against the commandment in the Torah – ‘You shall not walk in the way of their laws.’”

“No!” said the youth.

“Very well,” said the tzaddik, “then I will give you three rubles.” The youth did not agree – and still would not agree even when the offer reached 20 rubles.

“If you cut off your curls at once,” said Reb Levi Yitzchok, “I promise you a share in the World to Come.”

No sooner did the youth hear these words than his hand dived deep into his pocket for his scissors, and within seconds he had cut off his wavy curls.

“Master of the Universe!” exclaimed Reb Levi Yitzchak. “How strong is the faith of Your people, even the simplest among them! How many weary hours of work and trouble must such a young man go through to earn just one gold ruble! Why, 20 rubles is for him an undreamed-of fortune… And yet, what he was not willing to do for 20 gold rubles he did for a share in the World to Come, even though he has never laid eyes on it!”

The Heavy Load

It was the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The shul was crowded. Reb Levi Yitzchok himself was leading the congregation.

Reb Levi Yitzchok’s soft, vibrant voice touched the heartstrings of every worshipper. As he pronounced the words, his voice broke, and everyone’s heart was filled with remorse. Each pictured himself standing before the Judge of the Universe.

Reb Levi Yitzchok recited line after line of the solemn prayer, which the congregation repeated, until he came to the line: “To Him, Who acquires His servants in judgment…”

Here the Rebbe paused, for the words died on his lips. His tallis slid from his head, revealing his pale face; his eyes were shut, and he seemed to be in a trance.

A shudder passed through the congregation. A critical situation must have arisen in the Heavenly Court; things were not going well for the petitioners.

A few moments later, the color returned to Reb Levi Yitzchok’s face, which now became radiant with joy. His voice shook with ecstasy and triumph as he recited: “To Him, who acquires His servants in judgment!”

After the service, the Rebbe explained: “While we davened, I felt myself lifted up to the gates of heaven, where I saw the Satan carrying a heavy load. The sight filled me with anxiety, for I knew that he was carrying a bag full of sins to put onto the Scales of Justice before the Heavenly Court.

“For a moment the bag was left unattended, so I went to it and began to examine its contents. The bag was crammed with all kinds of sins: evil gossip, hatred without reason, jealousies, wasted time, which should have been spent in study of the Torah – ugly creatures of sins, big and small.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Short Subjects On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Setting The Date

Rabi Pinchas and Rabi Chilkayahu said in the name of Rabi Shimon: “At this time of the year all the malachim gather before Hashem and ask Him, ‘Ribbono Shel Olam, when is Rosh Hashanah?’ Hashem replies, ‘Let us ask the earthly court and we will abide by their decision.’”

Rabi Hoshaya taught: If the earthly court decreed that today is Rosh Hashanah, Hashem commands the angels to call the heavenly court into session. He orders the prosecutor and the defendant to be ready to start trial. “For my children on earth have decreed that this day is Rosh Hashanah,” says Hashem.

If the earthly court has decided Rosh Hashanah should be postponed to the following day because of a leap year, then Hashem orders the heavenly court to postpone its sessions to the following day. Why? Because a “decree issued by Israel is considered as law by the God of Yaakov.”

Never Frighten The People

Chazal relate the following incident (Gemara Yoma): Once on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol remained a long time in the Kodesh HaKedoshim praying fervently for the welfare of Bnei Yisrael.

The people became frightened thinking that something might have happened to him. His fellow priests asked him when he came out. “Why were you so long in the Kodesh HaKedoshim?”

“You should be glad,” he answered, “that I remained so long. I was davening that Bnei Yisrael should have a good year and the Beit HaMikdash should not be destroyed. Don’t you appreciate my efforts on your behalf?”

“While we appreciate your efforts on our behalf,” they replied, “we ask that you abide by the edict of Chazal who said that the Kohen Gadol should not take too long in the Kodesh HaKedoshim, because Bnei Yisrael might begin to worry that something might have happened to him. You must have consideration for their feelings.”

The Blowing Of The Shofar

Rabi Yitzchak said, “Why do we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, once while standing and then again while seated? To confuse the Satan.”

Rabi Abuhu said, “Why do we blow shofar with the horn of a ram? Hashem announces: ‘Blow before me on the horn of a ram so that I may remember the sacrifice of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham, and I will consider it as if you performed their deed and it was you who were sacrificed.’”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

It’s My Opinion: Free Yom Kippur And Rosh Hashanah Tickets

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, The Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, and many participating synagogues in Florida have joined forces to make sure that every Jew can be accommodated with seats for the upcoming Jewish holidays. It is a very special project.

Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are traditionally times that synagogues raise funds by charging for seats in their sanctuaries. However, this expense can be a very difficult challenge for those who barely manage financially from month to month. Unfortunately, these are times where living from paycheck to paycheck is not an unusual occurrence.

Families who have just dealt with back-to-school clothing and expenses find themselves tapped out. Seniors who live on social security or pensions often do not have a dollar to spare. Just putting food on the table and a roof overhead is a daunting task for many of our brothers and sisters.

For some unaffiliated Jews, attendance at a synagogue on the “high holidays” is the last vestige of clinging to their faith. It should not be taken away.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh – All Israel is responsible for one another. If you or someone you know can use this help go online at Jewish.Miami.org/highholidays, which includes a link to the list of participating synagogues, or phone 305-371-7328.

To accommodate everyone and to ensure security, advance registration is required.

See you in shul!

Shelley Benveniste

Two Days Rosh Hashanah, Eruvin, And Eggs

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Why is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, so different from other Jewish holidays? On the face of it, it does not seem to follow any pattern. It is celebrated for two days, not only in the Diaspora but also in Israel. Yet the Sages refer to the two days of Rosh Hashanah as one long day – yoma arichta.

On Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot we keep Yom Tov for two days because during the time of the Second Temple there was doubt whether the month preceding Yom Tov was a chodesh chaser of 29 days or a chodesh maleh of 30 days. But on Rosh Hashanah the doubt was exacerbated for the following reason: In the case of other festivals, such as Pesach, the emissaries the bet din dispatched to advise outlying districts of a chodesh chaser had 14 days to reach their destination. In the case of Rosh Hashanah, however, the emissaries had no time at all. In fact, as soon as the witnesses had testified on the 30th day of Elul that they had sighted the new moon, that very day was declared Rosh Hashanah. And on Rosh Hashanah the emissaries could not travel more than the techum Shabbat distance of two-thirds of a mile beyond Jerusalem. As a result, even people living inside Israel but outside of Jerusalem remained in doubt.

Even inside Jerusalem, confusion reigned. Nobody knew whether the witnesses who would testify to the sighting of the new moon would arrive on the day of the 30th, in which case Rosh Hashanah would be on the 30th day, or whether they would not arrive, in which case Rosh Hashanah would be on the 31st day. On the night immediately following the 29th day of Elul and on 30th day of Elul itself, people hedged their bets. They ceased work, went to the synagogue, recited the Rosh Hashanah prayers and blew the shofar, all in a tentative state of mind. Perhaps, they fretted, the witnesses will not come today, the 30th, and tomorrow, the 31st, will be Rosh Hashanah by default and a day’s work would have been wasted. But then again, perhaps the witnesses would come. So how could they risk working?

The Levites in the Temple fretted, too. If the witnesses would not arrive by Minchah time on the afternoon of the 30th, the Levites had to proceed to offer up the tamid, the afternoon sacrifice. But they did not know which Psalm to sing when doing so. Should they sing the special Rosh Hashanah Psalm, or the weekday Psalm? One year they chose the weekday Psalm only to see the witnesses arrive after Minchah and prove them wrong.

In this situation, the rabbis decided to dispel the doubt. They decreed that if witnesses would arrive after the afternoon sacrifice on the 30th day of Elul, their testimony would be ignored and the 31st day of Elul would be declared Rosh Hashanah. Furthermore, in order to provide certainty for the Levites and in order to prevent people from working on the 30th of Elul after Minchah time, the rabbis merged the 30th day of Elul with the 31st day, declaring them both one long day.

From this decree on, the two days of Rosh Hashanah – unlike the two days of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot – were no longer celebrated out of doubt but out of certainty. This distinction between the status of the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the two days of other festivals has practical ramifications. For example, on Rosh Hashanah, one may not extend the techum Shabbat 4,000 amot in two directions, as one may on the two days of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Because the two days of Rosh Hashanah are merged into one yoma arichta, only one eruv techumim could be placed for both days to walk 4,000 amot in only one chosen direction. Similarly, the argument that an egg laid on the first day of Pesach, Shavuot, or Sukkot could be eaten on the second day of these festivals would not apply. An egg laid on the first day of Rosh Hashanah could not be eaten on the second.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple, the dilemma of the Levites was no longer a concern. Accordingly, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai decreed that the testimony of witnesses arriving after Minchah on the 30th of Elul would once again be accepted, thereby rendering Rosh Hashanah one day. If witnesses did not arrive by nightfall of the 30th, Rosh Hashanah would be two days. Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s decree did not, however, apply to the Diaspora, where it could not be known on the 30th day, whether the witnesses had arrived or not. Accordingly, in the Diaspora Rosh Hashanah remained two days, by decree. The Babylonian rabbis who came to Israel applied the same decree to the land of Israel, even after the time of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

Although nowadays we now which day is genuinely Rosh Hashanah, we continue to celebrate two days – everywhere – out of respect for the tradition of our ancestors.


Raphael Grunfeld’s new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zera’im,” will be published shortly.

Raphael Grunfeld

Happy Rosh Hashana from the IDF

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

This video is from 2013, but we’re celebrating Rosh Hashana this year too!

We’ll post the latest IDF Rosh Hashana video once it’s up.

Video of the Day

Rosh Hashanah Greetings From The Chofetz Chaim

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The Chofetz Chaim, whose scholarship, leadership, and Torah legacy will exist for all time, is indisputably at the top of any list of the greatest rabbanim of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

I have often written in these pages about the palpable sense of living, breathing history when I hold, and behold, correspondence written by important historical personalities. But what can one say to describe the feeling of holding a document handwritten by the likes of the Chofetz Chaim? Other than stating the obvious – that this document remains my personal treasure of treasures – I can only note that the very idea that these are the actual words, pen on paper, written by this Torah luminary causes trembling in my hands and my soul.

Rav Israel Meir (HaKohen) Kagan (1839-1933) is perhaps best known for his campaign to teach his fellow Jews about the laws of lashon hara (forbidden speech, including libel and slander). Toward that end, he published his first sefer, Chofetz Chaim, which earned him his moniker, and two other works on the subject. The name comes from Tehillim (Psalms) 34:12-14:

“Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully. Shun evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”

His related sefer Sh’mirat HaLashon serves as an inspirational work designed to motivate the reader to be vigilant in the ethical usage of his speech and the avoidance of others’ unethical speech.

The Chofetz Chaim wrote on many other subjects and ultimately published more than 20 sefarim. But without doubt his most important sefer and magnum opus is the Mishnah Berurah, a six-volume commentary on the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch, R. Yosef Karo’s digested compilation of practical Jewish law. Combining the Chofetz Chaim’s own explanations and differing opinions with those of other post-medieval authorities, it has become perhaps the primary authority on Jewish daily living among Ashkenazic Jews.

Tangential to the Mishnah Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim’s Biur Halacha commentary provides a complex analysis of the legal rulings of earlier Jewish halachic authorities. And his Sha’ar HaTziyyun serves primarily to document sources for laws and customs quoted in the Mishnah Berurah while clarifying ambiguous legal statements as well.

The Chofetz Chaim is also famous for establishing the renowned Radun Yeshiva, which he launched after serving as the rav of Radun for a short period of time.

Despite his fame as the “uncrowned spiritual king of Israel,” he was a modest and humble man. He became a genuine folk hero, beloved not only by scholars but also by the masses, as stories of his extraordinary piety and integrity sprang up among Orthodox Jews all over the world. He took a principal leadership role in the Agudat Israel movement in Eastern Europe; traveled extensively – even into his old age, as we will see below – to spread Torah learning and observance; and devoted great effort to helping many yeshivot survive the financial problems of the interwar period.

Believing in the imminent arrival of the Messianic Age, he stressed the importance of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and was a great supporter of the Jewish community there.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

In the 15 Elul 1925 correspondence on his official Radin letterhead, shown here as Exhibit 1, the Chofetz Chaim writes to Rav Shmuel Yitzchak Hillman:

To the honor of my friend, the great and famed Harav Hagaon Shmuel Yitzchak Hillman, shlita, Rav in the capital city of London

As I have not been home for an entire month this summer, my response to kvod torato was delayed until now, and I hereby extend to kvod torato the greatest return of grace on his great effort for the benefit of selling my sefarim for a total of 25 [Fontaine?] – and I hereby bless kvod torato and kvod bnei beito on this New Year, may it come upon us for good, with great peace from heaven, and all should be written and sealed for a good and peaceful life, and may we all merit a year of salvation and redemption, and may the Honor of Hashem fill the land, Amen v’amen. From me, his eternal friend who esteems and respects him.

                                                                                                         Yisrael Meir HaKohen

[Editor’s Note: “Kvod torato,” in this case referring to Rav Hillman, was common usage for many of the rabbanim at the time. “K’vod torato” – literally, “with respect for his Torah” – underscores the esteem the writer has for the recipient.]

In a postscript, the Chofetz Chaim extends greetings to Rav Hillman’s son-in-law, Rav Yitzchak Halevi Herzog – who would later serve as pre-state chief Ashkenazi rav of Eretz Yisrael (1936-1948):

I also send regards to the well being of his son-in-law, the Rav Hagaon and the well-being of his son, may they all stand on the blessing [i.e., be blessed].

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, Rav Hillman (1868-1953), a renowned Talmudic scholar and posek, best known as a dayan of the London Bet Din. He co-founded the Jerusalem yeshiva Ohel Torah together with Rav Herzog, who married his daughter Sarah and served as its rosh yeshiva.

* * * * *

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

Displayed here as Exhibit 2 is a very beautiful and extremely rare Rosh Hashanah card featuring the Chofetz Chaim. Surrounding his head is the famous verse from Tehillim for which he earned his nickname. Beginning at the extreme left and moving clockwise, the four bars at the edges proclaim “A year of livelihood and support,” “A year of life and peace,” “A year of blessing and success” and, finally, “Renew for us a good year.”

Questions have been raised in recent years about whether the iconic image seen on the card is in fact that of the Chofetz Chaim. Actual original photographs of the Chofetz Chaim, which are extremely rare, include a photo of him sitting outside at the front of his house with other people; a passport picture of him when he was considering a trip to Eretz Yisrael; and a photo of him en route to visit the Polish premier. They have done little to create a consensus for either side of the debate.

Saul Jay Singer

Israeli Postal Service Delivers Letters to God at the Wall Ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Israel Post Director General Danny Goldstein on Monday met with Western Wall and Holy Sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to deliver to him a consignment of letters addressed to God. The holy mail was delivered ahead of the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays, and will be placed in the cracks and crevices of the ancient stones of what used to be a supporting wall for the Temple. The letters were posted from Israel as well as from Russia, China, France, Nigeria, Spain, the Netherlands, the US, and the UK.

Letters to God

Letters to God

Hundreds of letters are mailed to Israel annually addressed to “God,” “Jesus,” “Our Dear Father in Heaven” and “the Western Wall.” These letters, most of which lack a return address, are sent to the Israel Post Lost and Found Dept., which then sends them, every few months, to be placed among the stones of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Back in 2006, a company called Letter to God Ltd. announced a service of placing letters to God, written on the customer’s home computer, in the cracks and crevices of the Western Wall. We are not sure what happened to them, but their website, letter2god.com, is available for the right price. Another example of free enterprise losing out to the nanny state.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-postal-service-delivers-letters-to-god-at-the-wall-ahead-of-rosh-hashanah/2016/09/21/

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