I was once listening to a recording of the badchan Rav Yankel Miller, a chasidish comedian, who told jokes and amusing stories. It was very funny. At one point he asked, why does Rosh Hashanah come before Yom Kippur? He said, on Yom Kippur we get forgiven for our sins. So, it would be great to go into Rosh Hashanah, Judgment Day, with a clean slate. I was waiting for the punch line; after having some good laughs I wanted the humor to continue and just did not expect a dvar Torah sneaking in. Don’t get me wrong, Torah is always good, but it caught me by surprise.
He actually continued and gave an answer; I was thinking it was a setup for a really funny ending. However, he said that in the sefer Chovos Halevovos it states that if a person has gaavah but does not sin, it is worse than a person who sins but feels bad and does not have gaavah. So, there was no joke at that point. It was a dvar Torah. Later in time, I saw some tzaddikim ask this same question.
We know that starting in Elul we start saying Le’Dovid twice a day at the end of davening. It states “Le’dovid Hashem uri (my light) ve’yishi (my salvation)”. Chazal expound on the words “my light” as referring to Rosh Hashanah, and “my salvation” as referring to Yom Kippur.
I understand how Yom Kippur is referred to as salvation because we are forgiven, which is a salvation. Why is Rosh Hashanah referred to as light? I was thinking that as Rosh Hashanah passes, we can have an enlightened clarity that Hashem is the king of the world and we, ki’ilu, coronate Hashem as our king. This could be why Dovid HaMelech called Rosh Hashanah “my light.”
All of our good deeds should be rooted in this truth that Hashem commanded us and that is why we are doing the mitzvos. At times we can do mitzvos on autopilot without the thought that Hashem is behind it. We are spiritually in the dark, so comes Rosh Hashanah and gives us the light, the clarity that Hashem is the king and decides everything. We do good deeds because our king wants us to. The Rambam explains a reason for the mitzvah of shofar is, wake up you sleepy ones from your slumber. We are at times spiritually asleep; we need the light to get us out of the darkness. One could have light, but if he is sleeping he won’t enjoy the light. So on a day that is referred to as light we need that alarm clock, we need the shofar to wake us up and take the clarity that Rosh Hashanah gives.
This could also answer why we need to have Rosh Hashanah first. We need the light, we need the clarity to see before whom we seek repentance. After gleaning clarity from Rosh Hashanah we are much more prepared to ask forgiveness befitting our holy king.
It’s interesting that Rosh Hashanah is referred to as light and so is the Torah. It states in Megillas Esther that the Jews had light; Chazal teach the word light is referring to Torah. Why do we have both Rosh Hashanah and Torah as light?
In the beginning of Tehillim, Dovid HaMelech wrote of the proper way to act. The person desires Hashem’s Torah and in his Torah he will meditate day and night. The Gemara in Kiddushin asks, Whose Torah is it? The pasuk first calls it Hashem’s Torah, but then calls it “his torah,” i.e. it belongs to the one who learns it?
The gemara answers that at first it is Hashem’s Torah, and through toiling it becomes ours. I think this happens by having the clarity that it is Hashem’s Torah. We realize the Torah comes from Hashem and is perfect and there’s no limit to its wisdom; then we will put in the effort to earn our portion. How do we get this clarity? By tapping in to Rosh Hashanah, which gives us light. We ask Hashem every morning before Shema enlighten our eyes to your Torah. Why do we ask if the Torah itself is light? I think it is as explained, we need the clarity first to realize it, and then we can hope to grasp some of the light of the Holy Torah.
Let’s hope to coronate our king and get the clarity that He is the almighty and hope to keep this clear vision by learning Torah daily so the inspiration and clarity for Rosh Hashanah stay with us.
Kesiva ve’chasima tova. Shana tova to all.