ROSH HASHANAH: HASHEM IS OUR KING
When we come to Rosh Hashanah, we note what the sefer Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah states. Achai verayai, he says, “My Brothers, my friends; you know that in the tefilos of the yamin nora’im, the chief theme is kavod shamayim. ותמלוך אתה השם לבדך על כל מעשיך, that’s our prayer of the day. “Hashem should reign alone over all of His works.” That is the crux of the day. The avodah of Rosh Hashanah is “Hashem Melech.” “Hashem is King” is the mercaz, the core, the ikar of this day.
Now the truth is that the Torah does not explain the reason for this important day. About Rosh Hashanah all it says is: ויום תרועה יהיה לכם – “It should be a Day of Teruah for you” (Bamidbar 29:1). But what’s this teruah all about? That the Torah doesn’t tell us here. We’ll soon see however that there is a peirush on this word teruah elsewhere in the Torah. We’ll come back to that soon.
Now even though it might not be so evident in the words of the Torah what Rosh Hashanah is all about, and what teruah is meant to teach us, but when you look in the seder ha’tefillah you see that it’s all malchiyos. There are other things too, but even the zichronos and shofros are all connected with the first element, the element of Hashem Melech. So before we even begin, we’ll explain the word melech. Lashon hakodesh has different ideas about language, about words, than the umos haolam have. The nations when they say “King” they mean “the person who acquired power.” Other good qualities, he may have, and he may not have; all it means is that he has taken the reigns of a kingdom. But when you look at the word melech in lashon hakodesh, it means more than power, much more than that.
MELECH IS CONNECTED TO MILKAH
Now if you remember, one of the daughters of Tzelofchod was named Milkah. It was an old Hebrew name, way back. Now it doesn’t say Malkah which would mean queen or princess. It says Milkah. What does milkah mean? When you turn to Aramis (see Daniel 4:24) you see that it means, counsel, wisdom. Like we say in the gemara, nimlach, he thought it over. Nimlach is translated as nisya’eitz, to take counsel.
So the word melech means “the One who has eitzah, who has wisdom.” Not merely that He has the power to rule the world, but He knows how to rule the world. The chochmas Hashem is the most outstanding form of His malchus. השם בחכמה יסד ארץ – “Hashem founded the world with chochma, with wisdom” (Mishlei 3:19). Now of course He founded it with power, no question about that. But chochma is the real explanation of the whole briyah. קונה שמים בתבונה – He established the heavens with understanding. Every detail in the briyah is filled with infinite wisdom, and therefore wisdom is the hallmark, the defining trait of Creation. And therefore, when we say Hashem Melech, it means much much more – infinitely more – than the word “king” used by the umos haolam. Our king is not one who gains power but rather one who deserves power because of His ability to rule with wisdom. The Creator is indeed All-Powerful, but His endless wisdom in the management of the world is the reason for His title of King.
SO WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?
When you go back to the beginning of the history of our nation, when the Am Yisroel stood at the Yam Suf, they made a great declaration. They said a number of things, but we’re going to listen to the last thing they said. You know when you write a shtar so you have to be chozer, to repeat, the content of the shtar on the last line, beshitah achronah. Like they say in America: “What’s the bottom line,” the shitah achronah. And what’s the bottom line, lehavdil, of the shiras hayam? The last thing they said was השם ימלך לעולם ועד – “Hashem will reign supreme forever and ever.”
GIVING A MISHEBEIRACH TO HASHEM
Now, we also say that every morning. Every day in davening we say: “Hashem will be King forever and ever.” And we’re happy to say that. Why not? It doesn’t cost us any money. Maybe you even read in a sefer that saying Az Yashir b’simcha will bring you good things. Good, very good. But what does it mean? What does it mean that we’re saying that “Hashem should reign forever?” He needs us to say that? He needs our haskamah like I need a hole in my shoe. Hashem is a melech without our saying it. We have to say “He should reign”?! We have to give a “mi shebeirach” that He should be a king forever?! What’s that about?
And it’s not only there; it’s all over. Whatever tefilos we say this great day, and we say many, we’re always mentioning His malchus. מלוך על כל העולם כולו בכבודך – “Reign over all the world in Your glory.” You hear that? We’re falling on our faces, and we’re begging Him, we’re entreating Him with tears, “Please Hashem, reign over the world.” Doesn’t that sound silly? Don’t worry about Him! He’s in charge of the world. He needs us?! To us it seems superfluous. We have to ask Him to reign over His works? Is that our bakashah?!
HASHEM NEEDS OUR SUCCESS
And the answer is Hakadosh Baruch Hu made the world for the purpose that there should be man who would recognize that He reigns over him. And why did He do that? Because He needed men to give Him recognition?! No. Hashem needs men to bestow upon them the great benefit, the greatest success that they could possibly achieve and that is the understanding that Hashem Melech, that Hashem reigns. That’s our success in this world – Awareness of Hashem as the Melech, the only one with true power, wisdom and kindliness. And if we’ll come into this world and we’ll understand that theme, if we’ll just get into our thick heads that Hashem is the King, then we have lived successfully. And then, when our time is up, we will go to eternal happiness as a result of having achieved the purpose of our existence.
And therefore, when we say ותמלך אתה, we’re asking that Hashem should reign in the minds of men, that He should reign in our minds. We pray that we should recognize that there is one Designer for the universe, and He has one design, and the design stretches from the beginning of creation to the end of history with a plan. That’s called malchus. That’s a kingdom. It’s done with a plan, it’s altz g’cheshbont. It’s all arranged with a perfect seder, and everything was made for that purpose, that mankind should arrive at this understanding that He’s in charge.
STOP LOOKING AROUND… WHAT ABOUT YOU?
And so when we stand in the shul tomorrow and we say ותמלך אתה השם לבדך על כל מעשיך – “Hashem, You should reign alone on all of Your creations,” you yourself are the most important creation you’re talking about. What we’re actually saying is that we ourselves are most in need of this bakashah. We’re asking You, Hashem, to give us success in understanding that. It’s not an altruism, that you’re really worried about the savages in the interior of South America, “Hashem please rule over them.” You’re a big tzadik, standing there all day on Rosh Hashanah, and you’re thinking ותמלוך…על כל מעשיך – You should rule over everyone. And you’re thinking about the Mexicans and the Scandinavians and the Israelis – you’re thinking about everyone except yourself !
Now, of course, we wouldn’t begrudge them if they also said Hashem Melech. We’d be happy if the savages and the Mohammedans and the Notzrim would also be mamlich Hashem Elokei Yisroel- and one day they will, no question about it – but what about you?! You have to be worried most about the interior of yourself. The most important question is, is He in charge of you? Are you aware of it? That’s number one! Charity begins at home. You have to know that Hashem is King; that’s your biggest concern, yourself. That’s what life in this world is about.
THE SHEVUAH IN SHIRAS HAYAM
And that’s why the Am Yisroel made that commitment to Hakodosh Boruch Hu at the Yam Suf: Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed. It was a commitment; a neder. It was a shevuah they were taking: We’re proclaiming now that Hashem is our king forever. Not a king in the sense of a mashal, some vague idea, a word in the siddur that means nothing at all; but He’s actually our King now, they said, and we take our orders only from Him. That was the shevuah. We are going to announce always, all our lives, Hashem is Melech.
And that’s our job in this world, to continue that commitment that our fathers and mothers made at the Yam Suf; to proclaim Hashem as King over ourselves all the days of our lives, and all day long. You want a glass of water? ברוך אתה השם מלך העולם. Every time you say a bracha mention that; melech haolam, melech haolam. It’s not an accident; it’s not just there to be poetic. כל ברכה שאין בה מלכות אינה ברכה – “Any bracha you say without mentioning the kingship of Hashem is not a bracha” (Brachos 12a). That’s what you have to be getting into your head all the time. Whatever you do you have to say malchus.
MOHAMMEDANS HAVE THE WRONG ADDRESS
All our lives, Hashem is considered our melech. There’s no nation in the world that does that. Nobody is mamlich Hakadosh Baruch Hu anywhere near to what Am Yisrael does. And besides, they have different ideas. They’re talking in the wrong direction altogether. Muhammadans are not talking to the real Hashem. They’re talking to a false borei, an imaginary borei, who has “chosen” this fellow from the desert – that’s Muhammad – as his navi. That’s not Hashem; no such thing. It’s the wrong address ingantzen. So when a Mohammedan gets down on his knees and he’s praying with such devotion; “Ahh,” you think, “that’s a frum goy.” No; he’s praying in the opposite direction; his back is to Hashem. And when the Notzrim pray, they’re praying to I don’t want to say what. A mamzer. A basar vedam. So all the umas haolam are praying to their false gods, and there’s only one nation in the world that is proclaiming Hashem Melech – we’re the only ones with the right address!
That’s why it says משה ואהרן בכהניו ושמואל בקראי שמו – “Moshe and Aharon were among His kohanim, and Shmuel was among those who called out in His name, קראים אל השם והוא יענם – they would call out to Hashem and He would answer them” (Tehillim 99:7) What does that mean? Why mention Moshe, Aharon and Shmuel Hanavi? What’s the connection between them? So we’ll explain as follows: You know, when the bnei yisroel saw what happened to Mitzrayim, so Moshe Rabeinu said השם ילחם לכם, from now on Hashem is going to fight for you. It’s not merely a figure of speech; He is your King! From now on all their battles were waged by Hashem. They said “Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed”- they actually made Him king and He answered them. That’s how it was from the time of Moshe and Aharon; they recognized Hashem as the king, and they called out to Him, ויענם, and He answered them. And that continued through the entire period of the shoftim, down to Shaul Hamelech. They cried out to Hashem. והוא יענם, He answered them. Shmuel Hanavi was the end of that period. After that, things changed. After Shmuel, that great era of “And He answered them,” came to an end. What happened during this great period of our history? And what changed?
WHO NEEDS A HUMAN KING?
Up until the time of Shmuel Hanavi the bnei yisroel didn’t even dream of a human king. A human king?! Hashem is our king! Hashem is our king! And everybody lived with that truth. Everyone said “Hashem is our king.” You remember when they came to Gideon who was the war hero, who saved the Bnei Yisroel from their enemies, and they said we want to make you a leader, a king. So Gideon said “You can’t make me king – Hashem is your king.” Did you ever hear such words? Now, to us it sounds like just words. It sounds good: “No, Hashem is your king.” It sounds very frum to us. But Gideon actually meant it; that’s how people thought in the good old days of our nation. Hashem Melech! Hashem is our King!
But years later, they asked for a king in the days of Shmuel Hanavi at the end of his life, the people asked for a king. עתה שימה לנו מלך לשפטנו ככל הגוים (Shmuel I 8:5). Ooooh, you’re asking for a human king now. So now you lost Hashem as your king. Of course Hashem is still there, but now He’s hiding. He’s behind the scenes. It’s behester panim. He doesn’t show Himself. If you don’t recognize that He’s the king, if you’re asking for a king, then something is very wrong. Of course, they said , “We know Hashem is our king, but we want a human king, someone who sits on a throne,” but what it really meant is that they didn’t know that Hashem Melech. And for the Am Yisroel, that was a tragedy. Because the purpose of life is to know that Hashem is our King.
HASHEM DOESN’T BECOME KING UNTIL THE SIXTH DAY
In mesechta Rosh Hashanah the gemara states, בשישי היו אומרים, on the sixth day of the week, the Levi’im sang in the Beis Hamikdash, השם מלך גאות לבש. That’s that kepitel that begins “Hashem reigns and He is clothed in majesty.” Now why did they choose that for the sixth day? That’s the question the gemara asks. And the gemara says על שם שגמר מלאכתו, because on the sixth day Hashem completed His work of creating the universe, ומלך עליהן, and He ruled over them. “Over them” means over all the things that He created. So when He created all these things, that’s when השם מלך גאות לבש, that’s when He began His reign. We see from this gemara that from when did the malchus Hashem, the reign of Hakadosh Baruch Hu begin? Only on the sixth day, when man was created and the creation of the universe was completed.
Now we know that’s not true – absolutely not. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is השם מלך עולם ועד, He’s the king forever, אבדו גוים מארצו, even though all the nations would disappear from His world, He’s still the King because He doesn’t need anyone to make Him the King. A human king becomes a ruler if somebody, let’s say, one of the chief barons approaches him in the name of all of the nobility, and he bestows upon the king a belt of royalty, a scepter or some other sign of royalty. A human king, if he doesn’t have a people, so he’s not a king. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu is essentially melech, He’s intrinsically a King. And that’s what’s stated actually stated in that possuk. השם מלך, Hashem reigned, גאות לבש, He is clothed in majesty. But not any majesty that people put on him, לבש השם עז התאזר. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is clothed with a strength התאזר, that He girded Himself. התאזר is reflexive. It means He girded Himself with strength. He didn’t need anyone to make Him a king. So we must understand therefore what the gemara means by telling us that when He finished the creation of the universe on the sixth day then השם מלך, that’s when He became the King. What does that mean?
WE’RE NO MORE THAN THE BACTERIA IN THIS RUG
From this gemara in Rosh Hashanah, we see that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is not interested merely in being a King, because for that He didn’t need to create the world. He was the king before He created the world, and He’ll be King forever, even if the world would be destroyed. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, however, is very much interested in being king over us. How much is He interested? It’s impossible for us to express how greatly interested He is that there should be someone to see, to realize, to recognize that He is a king.
Now don’t make a mistake. That’s not because Hakadosh Baruch Hu is interested in the applause, in the acclaim of humanity. As mentioned a number of times here, all of humanity to Hakadosh Baruch Hu is no more than all the bacteria in this rug right here. If the bacteria in this rug would all applaud one of us, that man wouldn’t be tickled at all. It wouldn’t mean a thing to him. So why does Hakadosh Baruch Hu seek to have mankind recognize His kingship?
IS HASHEM GOOD OR SELFISH?
We’ll explain by something which was explained once here but it’s an important principle. We say in our tefilah טוב יצר כבוד לשמו, the Good One created all this glory for His name. Hashem is called the Good One, and He is said to have created all this glory for His name. All of the kindliness we see in this world, the Good One created for His name – to glorify Himself. The question is if He created for the glory of His name, so it’s no sign that He’s a good one. When a man does things for somebody’s benefit but not to be recognized then you can say he’s a good one, but when someone performs deeds of kindliness but his motive is to be recognized, so how could you call him the good one? And yet, it says טוב, the Good One, יצר כבוד, created all this glory, לשמו, for the purpose of His name. It’s a contradiction. If He did this because He is good, if He made this universe because He is kind and benevolent, if He bestowed all this happiness on us because He is good – it’s a lot of fun to walk out in the street and breathe in air and be able to walk and to look and to enjoy life – if He gives us all this from benevolence, because He is good, then He didn’t do it because of His name, to glorify Himself. But if it states that He created all of this glory for His name, that people should recognize His name; so why do we call Him good?
But there is no paradox, and both principles are true. And that’s because the greatest good which can be bestowed on anybody, the greatest benevolence which can be bestowed on any man, is if you make him Aware of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That’s the greatest perfection of a man. The more he is aware, the more he feels Hashem, the more he believes in the Creator, the more he feels His imminence, the more he feels he’s standing in the presence of the Creator, then the greater that man is and the more perfection that man has acquired. There’s nothing higher in life. ראשית חכמה יראת השם – The greatest and the highest of wisdom, is for a man to feel the presence of Hashem. He certainly is bestowing millions of benefits on mankind because in the world there are all kinds of benefits, all kinds of happiness, all kinds of good things we’re enjoying, but all of them have one common purpose and that is to bring us to recognize the Creator and that is the highest good of all.
And that’s what it means when it says that Hakadosh Baruch Hu completed the creation of the world, ומלך עליהן, and He ruled over them. Because the kingship of Hakadosh Baruch Hu is demonstrated to us by the things of the world. The purpose of all the things in the world is to announce to us that there is a Creator. Now let’s get that into our heads. The fundamental purpose of all the things in the world is to demonstrate that Somebody made them. That’s important, because that’s the foundation of understanding all of reality. Whatever you see in this world has that purpose to make you Aware of the Creator. All day long, wherever you turn, whatever you see, you should be seeing and saying Hashem Melech.
CARS ARE BICYCLES FOR GROWNUPS
Only that it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s difficult sometimes to recognize Hashem in this world because there are so many things that distract us. גם את העולם נתן בלבם, Hashem put the love of the world into men’s hearts, מבלי אשר לא ימצא האדם את המעשה, so that people shouldn’t discover the work of creation, אשר עשה האלקים מראש ועד סוף, that He made from beginning to end. Hashem didn’t want us to see that He’s alone in this world. That’s too easy. It wouldn’t be a test for us. So He puts into this world bicycles for children. He puts automobiles for grownups. He puts good times and He puts food. He puts marriage and children and money. All the things, some of them big mitzvos, some that are not mitzvos. Whatever it is, people are busy all the time, parnasah, ambition, making a living, this and that, streets and cities and newspapers and bungalows. Everything in the world is working in order that people should get their minds off Hakadosh Baruch Hu. גם את העולם נתן בלבם, He put the world into their hearts, מבלי אשר לא ימצא, that man shouldn’t discover, את המעשה, the work, אשר עשה האלקים, that Hashem did מראש ועד סוף. It’s all His, but it takes some effort to see Him.
Now I’ll explain that a little more, a little more deeply. When Hashem created the world, He said yehi ohr, let there be light. And there was light. ויהי ערב ויהי בקר – And as the earth revolved, there was night and day. Now where did that light come from? Did it come from the sun? There was no sun yet. So where did it come from? It had to be coming from somewhere if the earth’s revolution was causing day and night. So what was the source of this light? Mei’ayin, it came from nothing. It came from Hashem, yesh meiayin. Light is energy, you know. It came from Hashem’s energy. Alef lamed, א-ל, means energy. Hashem said let light start pouring out to this world, and light poured forth. It was light emanating, streaming forth from a certain point, but without a source; no sun!
Now had we been around at that time, we would have been impressed by that great lesson. Light comes from Hashem! If we could have been there at that time before the sun existed, we would have become Aware of Hashem like nobody’s business. “Look, the light comes directly from Hashem. There’s nothing else except Hashem. He’s the power of the world. Alef lamed, He is kel, He is energy. He is the source of all energy.” That would have been a tremendous Awareness of Hashem Melech; that would have been a Rosh Hashanah to remember.
And then, four days later, Hashem created the sun. Now the sun seems to us a great gift because it illuminates the world. The sun pours millions of tons of horsepower, of energy, every day in the form of light on this earth that keeps things going here. And we can only see because of the sun.
THE SUN DARKENS THE WORLD
But the truth is the sun darkens the world. The sun constantly conceals the truth because now you look at the sun, and you think the sun is the one that gives us the light. And that’s the great deception, the great sheker, of the sun. The sun has no light. It’s only Hakadosh Baruch Hu using the sun as a lantern. It’s still His energy, only now, instead of seeing energy coming from space without any cause except Hashem Himself, now we’re deceived into thinking it comes from the sun. And what happens as a result? As a result, millions of people worshiped the sun instead of worshipping Hashem. And even we, lehavdil, we don’t worship the sun, but when we see the sun, we think it’s the sun that produces the light. We know that the sun has thermonuclear processes. We know all about it. It’s like an atom bomb exploding constantly, a hydrogen bomb exploding constantly, producing energy on the sun and that causes it to come down here in the form of light energy. We know all about it! We think we know, but it’s all a deception. It’s only an excuse not to see the truth. The real truth was before the sun.
“HAVE MERCY” SEEMS OUT OF PLACE
And that’s why we say in the bracha of yotzer ohr, when we praise Hashem for creating the luminaries, מה רבו מעשיך השם, and then right in the middle we interrupt with something that seems lo k’inyano, something out of place. We’re talking about the great creation of the luminaries, we’re thanking Him for creating the sun, yotzer ohr, and then all of a sudden we’re asking Him to have pity on us. אלקי עולם ברחמיך הרבים רחם עלינו – “Hashem the eternal One, with Your abundant compassion, have compassion upon us.” While we’re thanking for the sun and the moon and for the light, why in the middle do we say רחם עלינו, have pity on us? It’s a big kasha. If we were talking about tefilos where we’re asking for our benefit, all right, רחם עלינו. But this is a hoda’ah. We’re thanking Hashem for the meoros. When you’re praising Hashem for giving us luminaries, that’s no place, square in the middle to ask for rachmanus, for pity!
So the peirush is like this: אלקי עולם, while we’re recognizing the greatness of the sun, we’re appreciating the light of the sun. “Ah! What a beautiful sun it is. ומתוק האור, how sweet is the light, וטוב לעיניים לראות את השמש, how good it is for the eyes to see the sun. Ah, a pleasure to see the sun; it’s a pleasure to see all of Hashem’s creation.” But still there’s a great sakanah there. Because it’s so easy to forget that we’re seeing nothing except for Hashem.
And therefore we say to Hashem, אלקי עולם ברחמיך הרבים, we are thanking You for the sun. We’re looking at nature, we’re thanking you for the sun, and for everything we can see, but please help us that we shouldn’t be deceived. We shouldn’t think that nature does it. You created the sun. We give You credit, we say it with our mouths during davening, but then we go outside and the sun is shining away, warming us all by itself. Oh no! That’s a terrible thing to think. That’s the greatest contradiction to Hashem Melech. The sun has no power to do anything by itself. The light of the sun is nothing at all. כי הוא לבדו, He Himself does all these things. Not nature. Not the wonderful things we see. And as miraculous as all these things seem to be; it seems to be so perfectly constructed that these things can give you life, and give you all the things you need, it’s a pitoy, it’s a nisayon, it’s a darkness and a deception. Only You, Hashem, ברחמיך הרבים רחם עלינו, You should have pity on us. You should help us. Not the sun. The sun doesn’t help us at all. You are constantly warming us. You are constantly giving us light. We beg of You, we should not make that mistake. We’re asking that You should give us light. You should give us warmth, not the sun, and as the sun is warming us and giving us light, we’re asking that Hashem give us light.
WHAT ARE WE DOING AT KIDDUSH LEVANAH?
So we say “Ribono Shel Olam have pity on us.” We live in such a world with such great manifestations of Your presence, where we can learn to recognize You and Your great kindness but we walk through life like we’re asleep, like dumbbells. And we don’t want to be dumbbells, so we say אלקי עולם ברחמיך הרבים רחם עלינו, have pity on us. Please Hashem, see that we don’t waste our lives. We should recognize the sun. And the moon. It’s so great when you come out and see the new moon. You say in kiddush levanah “even if this is the only thing we did, it’s worthwhile.” Once a month to see the new moon! People when they say kiddush levanah, they think they’re doing a mitzvah and that’s all. But really you’re thanking Hakadosh Baruch Hu that there’s a moon! You have to think into that. And therefore, please Hashem, ברחמיך הרבים רחם עלינו, have pity on us that we shouldn’t waste our lives. Help us because we’re being deceived into thinking that you’re not the melech.
And therefore, it’s so important while you’re studying the world to be able to look through the world and not be deceived by it and recognize the truth of the world. יושב בסתר עליון, the most high, He dwells in secret. Everything seems to be working on its own. אשר ברא אלקים לעשות, Hashem created things that they should do. From now on it seems that they are all doing. Nothing doing! They’re doing nothing at all. It’s only a dream. It’s imagination. Hashem is doing everything! Hashem Melech!
And don’t think Hashem stopped, and He gave it over to nature, and He retired from the field. He is in there all the time. Only instead of seeing Him openly, you’re being deceived by nature, and our job is to open our eyes. The malachim -their eyes are open right now and they say מלא כל הארץ כבודו, because they see right now the truth; but we don’t. We’re deceived by nature, and therefore we say וימלא כל הארץ כבודו, the time should come when His glory will fill the world, and then everybody will see that You’re the One who is in the world. Nothing else. אין עוד מלבדו. There’s nothing else except Hashem. Hashem Melech and nothing else is anything.
ROSH HASHANAH IS THE RECHARGING STATION
And now we come back to Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the opportunity to review and to renew in our minds this important principle. So every time you say השם מלך, you’re not merely repeating a pizmon from the machzor. You’re saying the yesod hayesodos. Every השם מלך is a new opportunity to implant in your mind the conviction that Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Hashem, yud kay vav kay, He is the wisdom of the world, He is the kindliness of the world, and the entire world is nothing but the word that came out of His mouth. בדבר השם שמים נעשו . There’s no world. The world is nothing but the dvar Hashem. He said yehi. That’s why yud kay vav kay is used. He’s the One who said yehi, it should be, and it came out of nothing. The entire world is nothing but the word of Hashem, and therefore on Rosh Hashanah all we speak about is the most important fact in the world, the yesod ha’yesodos, that Hashem is the King, and that there is no other force, no other power beside for Him.
And now we can understand the answer to a big question that has bothered many people. Why is it that Yom Kippur comes after Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Hadin, we’re being judged. It’s a time when Hakadosh Baruch Hu inscribes lechaim or whatever else there is. It’s a great sakanah, Rosh Hashanah. People are not ready to be judged, and they’re judged according to what they are.
WHERE’S THE TESHUVA ON ROSH HASHANAH?
So wouldn’t it be worthwhile if we spent Rosh Hashanah instead of talking about malchus Hashem, we would spend Rosh Hashanah saying forgive us for this sin, forgive us for that sin. At least you’re taking one sin off the scale. And as the side of chovos becomes lighter, the side of zechuyos becomes greater. You could save your life on Rosh Hashanah! So how could I waste time on Rosh Hashanah on talking about malchus Hashem, talking about Hashem Melech, Hashem Melech all day long, when we’re in the greatest danger? If chas v’shalom the scale on Rosh Hashanah on the side of chovah, of accusation, is heavier, then nobody gets a second chance. So we should spend time on Rosh Hashanah saying על חטא שחטאנו לפניך. That seems to us a sensible way. In a time of danger, you have to throw overboard all the ballasts so the ship shouldn’t sink. We have to save ourselves.
Or we should have Yom Kippur before Rosh Hashanah to do teshuvah; we should say viduy, have aseres yemei teshuvah, and so when Rosh Hashanah comes, we will be cleansed of all our sins. So Yom Kippur should come earlier than Rosh Hashanah! But no, we postpone teshuvah until later, until Yom Kippur. And what do we find? Instead of saying על חטא, on Rosh Hashanah, we’re saying ותמלך אתה השם לבדך. We’re praying that You, Hashem, become our King. It’s a big kasha.
THE BIGGEST AVEIRAH!
And the answer is that proclaiming Hashem as King is the biggest teshuva you can make! On Rosh Hashanah you have to do teshuvah! And what’s the greatest teshuvah? We don’t say על חטא שחטאנו לפניך. We don’t say it on Rosh Hashanah. We don’t enumerate this chet and that chet. Because there’s one big chet. There’s one overall failure of mankind that they have to be misaken on Rosh Hashanah, and that’s the failure to recognize that Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed. That’s our big job on Rosh Hashanah. And it’s very important because it’s the Yom Hadin. It’s the day of very great sakanah. Some are nichtav v’nechtam, their fate is sealed on Rosh Hashanah. And yet, instead of saying al cheit all day long, we say Hashem Melech all day long. Which means that saying Hashem Melech is the most important form of teshuva and that’s what Hakodosh Boruch Hu will consider most when He thinks about our fate for the year to come.
There’s nothing in the world. It’s all a deception. Money, cars, houses, even children, everything in this world is a deception. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the only entity that exists in the world, and therefore on this day we remind ourselves, we engrave into our minds that He is everything. And that is the greatest zechus we can accomplish on Rosh Hashanah; to become aware that He’s our King. That’s the most necessary, the most essential form of repentance, and that’s why we forgo all other forms of atonement and asking for forgiveness and we concentrate only on this alone.
BLOWING SHOFAR MAKES HASHEM GREAT
Now when we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is saying עורו ישנים, wake up you sleepers. Wake up for what? Now we could say wake up and remember this, wake up and think about that, but fundamentally the shofar says wake up and think about what we spoke about here tonight. That’s why we blow the shofar. עלה אלקים בתרועה, “Hashem ascends in the sound of the trumpet.” He ascends. How does He ascend? We make Him greater?! Man below takes a horn and saws it off of a ram, and he stands below in a little synagogue, and he gives a blow, and Hashem becomes elevated thereby?! The Creator of the universe with billions of star worlds in which this earth is a speck of dust and because one human being or a thousand or even a million human beings blow on the shofar so Hashem is exalted?!
Now, I said in the beginning of the lecture tonight that we would find a fundamental peirush on why Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Teruah somewhere else in the Torah. Now I know the mefarshim say many kavanos and in the machzor I’m sure you’ll find a number of explanations for shofar, but the yesod of shofar is what Bilam said, ותרועת מלך בו. And it is actually Bilam who came and explained the possuk of יום תרועה יהיה לכם. Bilam said ותרועת מלך בו. What is the teruah that we have? It’s a תרועת מלך.
So what is meant when we say עלה אלוקים בתרועה? The answer is Hashem wants to be exalted in our minds. It’s for us. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is elevated in the minds of mankind when they announce His kingship by blowing the shofar. That was the practice in the olden days; when a king began his reign it was announced by a blowing of trumpets. And on Rosh Hashanah Hakodosh Boruch Hu is announced as the Melech by the blowing of the shofar. And the purpose is to remind ourselves that Hashem is the King.
WAKE UP YOU SLEEPY HEADS
And so the shofar comes along on Rosh Hashanah and blows tooooo tooooo toooooo. Wake up you sleepers. Wake up, it’s Rosh Hashanah. What should we wake up about? Al cheit? No, the big chet! Not this little cheit; worry about later, the aseres yimei teshuva, Yom Kippur. All our little chataim are minor things. They are all toldos. They’re all results of the big one. And today we’re dealing with the big cheit; and that’s forgetting Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that’s He’s the King. And so all day long we stand on our feet and shout ד’ מלך ד’ מלך ד’ ימלך לעולם ועד. He’ll forever be the King no matter how many things are in the world. And therefore the more a person gets into his blood the spirit of ד’ ימלך לעולם ועד, the more he deserves to live. That’s the sod of life on Rosh Hashanah. The secret of life is get השם מלך into your blood. Because Hashem wishes us to continue this career of proclaiming His Kingship. That’s what life is for.
Rosh Hashanah comes to recharge the batteries every year and to give us the penimiyus that we ourselves should labor to think about Hakadosh Baruch Hu as a מלך העולם. So as you stand in shul on Rosh Hashanah and the ba’al tokea is blowing, think number one Hashem Melech. We’re announcing the reign of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. That’s what has to get into our heads.
Now isn’t it a pity? A lot of people come on Rosh Hashanah to the synagogue and never once think of this principle which Rosh Hashanah represents. A thousand other things you’ll think about, but not the ikar. And it’s such an important principle, it’s so essential that we think about this, because a man’s judgment depends on his realization of this principle.
SHOFAR BLOW IS A CRY FOR HELP
Now it says in the Torah כי תבאו מלחמה בארצכם, when there comes a war in your land and you have to fight against the invaders, so you should blow shofar and Hashem will hear. Then it also says וביום שמחתכם ובמועדיכם, on the days when you come together to rejoice you’ll also blow shofar. What is this that has two different purposes, crying out for help and rejoicing?
We’re saying two things here and both are one. When we call out to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for help all day long, we say refaeinu Hashem, please Hashem save us. Heal us from our illnesses. Barech aleinu, help us have parnasah so we should have something to eat. We’re crying out to Him. So by crying out to Hashem, we are declaring Him our melech. The shofar that you use in a time of tzarah chalilah to cry out for help, that shofar means we don’t go to anyone else. Even though we have an army, even though we have weapons; no, it’s nothing. It’s only You, Hashem, You’re the one who leads us into battle. So therefore when we cry out with a shofar against our enemies, we are declaring that we have no outlook for any kind of help except from You alone, אין לנו מלך אלא אתה.
And that’s why when the Jews were in the concentration camps when some were going to their deaths, the good ones didn’t forget. The stupid ones, the ones who were not frum before or who were not frum enough, they saw Nazis, they saw fires, they saw a concentration camp, they saw tortures, but they didn’t see Hashem. But the frummeh, the good ones always say “Hashem Melech”. “All this is bluff,” they said. It doesn’t cause us for a moment to forget the truth. And the truth is Hashem is in control of everything. And out of this darkness will come our success because in the midst of all this darkness we recognize the truth of Hashem. And that’s the only thing that’s important in this world.
SHOFAR BLOW IS CRY OF HAPPINESS
Now suppose we’re successful in our lives. You took in your crops. You harvested your field. You have wine. You have oil. You have plenty of tevuah. You’re happy. So now you come together on yontif to celebrate, chag ha’asif, chag habikurim. You have to blow the shofar. ביום שמחתכם ומועדיכם. Why blow then? Same thing. To show that it comes from You. It comes from You. We blow the shofar to say “You’re the king!” Here you have a farmer who worked all summer. He plowed the field. He planted. He worked really hard. He harvested. He threshed the grain. He winnowed it. He ground it. And now after it’s all over, he has a piece of bread, and he says ברוך אתה השם אלוקנו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ. You’re the One who did it. I didn’t do anything. All our labor is nothing. It’s all you. So ביום שמחתכם, when you announce in your happiness that all your success comes only from Hashem, that’s included in תרועת מלך, announcing Hashem as king.
And even when a man goes to his wedding, ah sason vesimchah, he’s drunk with happiness. Everybody’s dancing and singing. The orchestra is playing. It’s all nothing. ד’ מלך. Don’t forget Hashem for one moment. He is right there next to you, between you and the kallah. He’s there. Don’t forget about Him. Nothing in the world should make you forget Hashem.
CHUMASH IS A SHULCHAN ARUCH
So that’s what Bilam said. ותרועת מלך, it’s a nation that is always talking about Hashem their king. Now you understand that frum Jews live by the Shulchan Aruch. But you have to know that the higher Shulchan Aruch is written in the chumash; the Shulchan Aruch is only a peirush on the chumash. So the first of all of our obligations is to think about what it says in the chumash. Bereishis barah Elokim. Tru’as melech bo. That’s number one.
Now that’s so important, it cannot be overemphasized because people fall into the habit of forgetting. They’re thinking about this halachah, this sugya. After a while they forget. The gemara tries to remind you. It says amar rachmana. It doesn’t say shenemar. It wants to remind you that the Rachmana is saying this. But we forget. We have to continue to keep in mind Hakadosh Baruch Hu even when you’re learning. At all times.
THE #1 REQUIREMENT
We have to understand that. It’s really good to be frum. Wear your tzitzis out. Wear black hats. Wear payos. Be mekayem mitzvos. But you have to know the number one requirement of a yehudi is he’s thinking about Hashem. So try it once in a while. Seriously. Once in a while think about Hashem. Little by little you might think a little more about it. Get in the habit of keeping your mind as much as possible on Hashem. You start with a minute or two. You have to exercise your thinking muscles with one minute or two minutes. It’s not easy but that’s one form of endeavor that we are expected to achieve in this life.
That’s the first Shulchan Aruch of all, and Bilam said that’s the power of this nation. השם אלקיו עמו – “Hashem their G-d is with them.” Do you know why? Because ותרועת מלך בו, it’s only because they are “always proclaiming Him king.”
NOW THAT’S A BRACHA!
We read in the story of Dovid Hamelech that a certain wise woman once said to him that you should be בצרור החיים עם ד’ אלקיך, you should be in the bind of life together with Hashem. What does that mean “bound with Hashem?” It has two meanings. One is when a person is bonded to Hashem, he thinks about Hashem in his day, in his lifetime, in the streets, when he’s at work, in the yeshivah where he’s learning, at home, when he gets up and he goes to sleep he’s thinking about Hashem. The more he does it so he’s bonded in the bundle together with Hashem. Hashem is going to continue and you’ll continue. That’s how she gave him a brachah. With Hashem Elokecha, your nefesh, your soul, your life, should be bound up together with Hashem. And just like you’re loyal and devoted to Hashem, Hashem wants you to continue. He’ll protect you again and again.
And so when people look forward to the ensuing year and they are thinking what program, what resolution, should I adopt that would cause me to find favor in the eyes of Hashem and make me deserving of another chance. Every year we ask for another chance. So we’ll understand that if we look forward to a career of deveikus, of thinking about Hashem, keeping Hashem in your mind as much as possible, then we have a certain bargaining card with Hashem. We could tell Him, look Hakadosh Baruch Hu, we are going to be an eved that recognizes Your malchus. We’re going to declare to ourselves constantly Hashem Melech throughout the year, not merely by saying the words, but by living in consonance with that principle by being in constant deveikus with Hashem. And then you’ll be living for a purpose. That’s a life worth living.
TIED UP IN THE NEXT WORLD
There’s another meaning of tzror hachaim, however. A much more important meaning. Nobody lives forever, and in the World to Come this blessing is of upmost importance. The gemara says העולם הבא אין בו לא אכילה ולא שתיה, there’s no eating or drinking. What is the happiness, the great ecstasy that Hashem promises to those who are loyal to Him? So Rav says אלא צדיקים יושבין ועטרותיהם בראשיהם, they have the crowns on their heads. The Rambam says the crowns are the da’as, the Awareness of Hashem that they gained in this world. You hear that? You’ll have crowns on your head. That’s the da’as that you gained by thinking about Hashem in this world. ונהנים מזיו השכינה, you will enjoy the splendor of the shechinah. So to be together with Hashem and to enjoy the ecstasy of that closeness, that’s a happiness that’s forever and ever and there’s nothing, even Hashem Himself cannot make a greater happiness because Hashem cannot make anything greater than He is. And therefore that was part of her blessing, that you should be צרור בצרור החיים עם ד’ אלקיך, the bond of life.
So Rosh Hashanah is not only for the following year. Many times Rosh Hashanah has something to do with one’s whole life. But not only life. It has to do with the next world too. And when we blow shofar and you’re thinking ותרועת מלך בו, this is a proclamation that Hashem is our melech. All our hopes are on Him. All our loyalty is to Him. And if you say that, then Hashem says “If so, then you’re going to be with Me forever and ever. אני ד’ לא שניתי, I Hashem, I never changed, ואתם בני ישראל לא כליתם, you’ll never come to an end. You make Me your king in this world and I’ll be with you forever, in this world and the World to Come.
לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו