Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: HaShem Is In Charge, Our Ancestors Lived That, We Need to Improve

I have this wonderful machzor, the Machzor haM'foresh.  It has lots and lots of stuff I've never read.  To be way more honest than I should be, I bought it because I thought it was so cool to have an all Hebrew machzor with lots of footnotes and margin notes explaining the t'filos.  It is also chock full of all those piyutim we never say.  I got the whole set when I went to Israel with my wife for our 20th wedding anniversary.  Of course it was 80% or more gaiva to buy them at that point in my career.  On the other hand, my Hebrew has improved a bit over the last 16 years and I saw recently that R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held them in very high esteem.

This year I decided to take some time to learn through the kavanos for shofar section of my machzor,   Heady stuff.  Lots of cool Zohar's and medrashim with a translation into simple Hebrew in the margin.  Paradise!  The first thing I learned made me feel pretty silly because I had never thought of it before.  Remember the the midwives who defied Paroh's orders?  There names were Shifra and Pu'ah.  "Shifra" because she straightened the babies limbs... she mended them, made them better, from "l'shapehr" -- to improve.  Shofar, it seems, comes from the root meaning to improve.  And that's what the section of musaf known as "shofros" is all about; to wake us up to to t'shuvah -- to improve.  So I needed the Zohar to teach me something that just paying attention to Rashi should have taught me.  Sigh...

In any case, it got me thinking.  The three sections of the Rosh HaShana musaf -- Malkiyos, Zichronos, and Shofros -- are interdependent.  One is not allowed to say one without the others.  The Rosh HaShana musaf lays out a three pronged strategic course to perfection:
  1. Accepting and declaring the absolute sovereignty of HaShem as the King.
  2. Looking to our exulted ancestors as a source of both inspiration and merit for us.
  3. Awaking ourselves to self-improvement.
We have very potent and tangible examples living among us of how any one of these by themselves can lead to to horrific consequences.  Christianity is all about malchus... just believe in oso ha'ish (literally: that guy) and everything is fine.  No requirement for anything but belief; their king died for their sins, they can can live in their sins.  Islam, as much as it talks about their god, he is really just a rallying point.  They are all about dynasties and the power of rulers being passed father to son.  Ethical humanism, reform judaism, and the like are all over self-improvement.  You can believe in a god if you want, but the bottom line is deciding morality and ethics by logic.  You know, like Nazism -- very logical, very ethical by Darwinian standards; human ethicists are, after all, simply smart animals.

The Torah haK'doshah says only all three together can lead to perfection.  Which is why that message is proclaimed loud on clear on Rosh HaShana -- the head of the year; the head which directs and supervises the rest of the year.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…