The Medrash relates a fascinating dialogue that takes place between the Almighty and His ministering angels:
At times, the Almighty informs the angels to be ready to judge the people the next day, for it will be Rosh Hashana. However, the next day when the angels arrive at the Heavenly court, they notice that the atmosphere is not one of Judgement. They inquire why was there a change in plans, and the Almighty explains, “According to My calculations Rosh Hashana should have been observed today; however, I authorized in the Torah that the holiday begins only once My nation proclaims the new month. They proclaim this after accepting the testimony of two witnesses who saw the appearance of the new moon. Since witnesses did not yet appear in the earthly court, they are not authorized to proclaim the new month of Tishrai and to establish the Holiday of Rosh Hashana. The Heavenly Judgement is therefore postponed until witnesses show up!”
Our Torah invested us with such awesome power! We determine when the Divine Day of Judgement is to commence!
The Talmud asks, why do we repeatedly sound the Shofar during the Mussaf prayers on Rosh Hashana? Wouldn’t one time suffice? The Talmud answers, we do this in order to confuse the Satan. Tosfos explains that the first set of blasts causes a certain amount of confusion for the Satan. However, when the Satan hears the second set of blasts he is convinced that this is the great Shofar call at the end of time, when Satan will be eliminated and powerless. This makes him panic, allowing him no time to prosecute.
Rashi explains that the Satan becomes confused when he sees the love and endearment that we have for the Mitzva, since we repeat the Mitzva of Shofar over and over. This display of admiration for G-d’s commandments silences the Satan from stating accusations against us.
The Talmud, when discussing the proper instrument to be used for the Shofar blasts, states that one may not use the horn of a cow, since it would remind G-d of the sin of the golden calf and would in fact bring an accusation against us. The Talmud asks, the only time we are concerned with reminding G-d of this sin is when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. Why are we concerned with using the horn of a cow for the Rosh Hashana Shofar? Answers the Talmud, the sounding of the Shofar reminds G-d to recall and remember our devotion and the dedication of the binding of Isaac and G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai– this memory makes it as if we are standing in the Holy of Holies! The horn of a cow is thus totally inappropriate.
The Sfas Emes derives the following amazing idea: When our Holy Temple in Jerusalem was standing, one of its features and highlights was the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the three festivals, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos, when one became immersed in G-d’s evident Presence in the Holy Temple.
Although today we no longer have this opportunity, on Rosh Hashana, when the Shofar is sounded, whose performance is akin to the service in inner sanctum – the Holy of Holies – we have the opportunity to once again experience an intimate and personal encounter with the Almighty during which it is an auspicious time to contemplate our spiritual and personal aspirations and hopes for the coming year. This exercise, together with the Shofar’s power to confuse the Satan, serves to afford us an affirmative inscription in the Book of Life with abundant blessings!
With our best wishes for a
happy, healthy and blessed New Year,
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family
I would like to thank Rabbi Shmuel Flam and Mrs. Madeleine Jacobs whom have graciously given of their time and expertise each week to review and edit the Shabbat Message. Special thanks to my wife Malki, for her assistance, advice and support! I consider it a great privilege to be able to spread Torah ideas and values to the masses through e-mails, faxes and our website.
Thank you for being such a great audience!
Your questions, suggestions, input and support is much appreciated!
Rabbi Dovid Saks