The primary theme of Rosh Hashanah is crowning Hashem ruler of the universe and accepting His sovereignty. Yet, on Rosh Hashanah we ask Hashem to provide for all our needs, including material needs. It is even customary, says the Shulchan Aruch, “to eat fat meat and to drink honey and all types of sweet [beverages] so that the year should be sweet and fat” – i.e., materially pleasant and bountiful.
How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposite themes?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that when we pray for material needs on Rosh Hashanah, we don’t do so for our personal advantage. Rather, we want Hashem to rule over the entire world, but for that to happen – for Hashem’s presence to be revealed everywhere – Jews need to make the physical world a fitting “dwelling” place for Him.
Concealed in all creation are sparks of holiness. Every Jew has been allotted a portion of these sparks, which he or she is destined to elevate out of their concealment and utilize for some Divine intention. Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah, we ask Hashem to give us everything we need to elevate these sparks and fulfill our part in revealing His sovereignty over the world.
Not only lofty Jews seek to fulfill this aim. Even ordinary Jews have a profound desire to use material needs to fulfill His will. Tehillim 107:5 states, “Both hungry and thirsty, their soul languished within them.” The Baal Shem Tov explained: The deeper reason we feel hunger or thirst is because our soul longs to elevate the sparks of Holiness within that food or drink.
One of the most significant ways of making this world a dwelling place for the Divine Presence is by giving tzedakah. The Shulchan Aruch doesn’t emphasize the importance of providing for needs of the poor in Tishrei as it does with reference to Pesach (the Rebbe suggested a reason why), but the Rebbe said that at this time of year mustn’t forget the many families struggling with the expenses of Yom Tov meals, buying a lulav and esrog, building a sukka, etc. We need to ensure that everyone can eat festive meals and fulfill this month’s mitzvos on at least the same level as we do.
And when we give tzedakah generously and wholeheartedly, Hashem responds with generous bounty to all our requests from Him, as we say in Selichos prayers, “L’cha Hashem hatzedaka – You, Hashem, have the tzedakah.”
We wish all our readers, along with all members of the entire Jewish people, a k’siva vachasima tova. May you be written and inscribed for a very good and sweet year.