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Rosh Hashana 5769

September 29, 2008
Right Side News is a friend of Israel and is glad to publish this article from Yoram Ettinger on Rosh Hashana.
Guide For The Perplexed

Yoram Ettinger
Assembled from various Jewish Sages

1. Rosh Hashana is celebrated on the sixth day of The Creation, which produced the first human being. Rosh (Hashana) means in Hebrew "beginning," "first," "head," "chief." The Hebrew letters of Rosh are at the heart/middle of the Hebrew word for Genesis, "Bereshit," which is the first word in Old Testament. Just like The Creation, so should the New Year and our own actions, be a thoughtful (brain-driven) - rather than a hasty - process.

Rosh Hashana is celebrated at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which means Genesis in ancient Akkadian. Rosh Hashana is referred to as "Ha'rat Olam" (the pregnancy of the world), and its prayers highlight  Motherhood, Optimism and the pregnancies of Sarah the Matriarch and Hanna, who gave birth to Isaac the Patriarch and Samuel the Prophet respectively. Sarah (the root of the Hebrew word, Israel ) and Hanna (root of the Hebrew word for Pardon, Amnesty) were two of the seven Jewish Prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Hanna, Devorah, Huldah, Abigail, Esther.  Noah – who led the rebirth of humanity/world – also features in Rosh Hashana prayers.

2. The Shofar (ritual horn) is blown on Rosh Hashana as a wake-up call to mend one's behavior.  Rosh Hashana is also called "Yom Te'roo'ah" (the day of blowing the Shofar). Shofar is a derivative of the Hebrew word for Enhancement/Improvement (Shipur), which is expected of human beings during the New Year. The blowing of the Shofar is intended to assemble the People and to awaken one's conscience and soul-searching, a prerequisite for improvement. Such a process requires humility, symbolized by the Shofar, which is bent and is not supposed to be decorated.

The Shofar is the epitome of Peace-Through-Strength: It is made from the horn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped with strong horns, in order to fend off wild animals.

While the blowing of the Shofar (by a single person) is a major virtue, listening to the Shofar (by the entire congregation) is at least as pertinent a virtue (just like the relationship between the single person who makes a blessing and the plurality which responds, "Amen," which is the Hebrew root of "Faith" and the numerical combination of Jehovah and Adonai). The Hebrew root of "listening" is Ozen – ear in Hebrew - which contains the balancing mechanism in our body. Ozen is also the root for "Scale" and "Balance" (good deeds vs bad deeds), which is the zodiac sign of the month of Tishrei.  Both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are observed during the month of Tishrei.

The three ways of blowing the Shofar express the inner soul (Te'kiyah), human actions (She'va'rim) and spiritual integrity/kindness/generosity (Troo'ah). 

The three series of blowing the Shofar highlight Liberty of human-beings under G-D's Kingdom (Malkhooyot), the centrality of history/memory/roots (Zichronot) and enhancement (Shofarot).

The blows of the Shofar represent the three Patriarchs, the three parts of the Old Testament and the three types of human beings on judgment day (pious, evil and mediocre).

The Shofar is blown four times on Rosh Hashana, leading human-beings from the material world, through the creative world, the world of Creation, toward the spiritual-Divine world, which is allotted ten Shofar blows (wholesomeness in Jewish tradition, just like the Ten Commandments).

The Shofar is blown 101 times, which is the numerical value (in Hebrew) of the name Michael, a Guardian Angel, which was one of the names of Moses.

3. The pomegranate - one of the seven species blessed by the Land of Israel - features during Rosh Hashana meals and in a key blessing on Rosh Hashana: "May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate." The pomegranate becomes ripe in time for Rosh Hashana and contains - genetically - 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish laws (of Moses). It was employed as an ornament of the Holy Arc, the Menorah (candelabrum) and the coat of the High Priest. It is employed as an ornament for the Torah Scrolls. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for pomegranate, Rimon – which is known for its crown - mean sublime (Ram). The pomegranate (skin and seeds) is the healthiest fruit: high in iron, is an anti-oxidants, anti-cancer, decreases blood pressure, enhances the quality of blood and the cardiac and digestion systems. Rimon is a metaphor for a wise person: Wholesome like a pomegranate.

4. Commemoration Day ("Yom Hazikaron" in Hebrew) is one of the names of Rosh Hashana. One can avoid - rather than repeat - past mistakes by learning from history. The more one remembers, the deeper are the roots and the greater is one's stability and one's capability to withstand storms of pressure and temptation. The more stable/calculated/moral is the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashana), the more constructive will the rest of the year.

Rosh Hashana commemorates:
Faith in – and Fear of - G-D;
Optimism in the face of daily adversity;
The first human-being, who was created on the sixth day of The Creation;
The cycle of nature - seed planting season and the equality of day and night;
The opening of the Ark of Noah following The Flood;
The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (thou shall not sacrifice human beings);
The three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were conceived/born during the month of Tishrei, which is called "The Month of the Strong Ones" - Nature and the Patriarchs;
The release of Joseph from Egyptian jail;
The receipt of the Ten Commandment and the Torah (which impacted the US Constitution);
Deliverance from spiritual and physical slavery (which inspired the Abolitionist movement);
The Prophet Samuel (who inspired the US Founding Fathers, the rebellion against the British monarchy and the leading Puritans) was conceived, in Tishrey.
Reconstruction of the Second Temple and destruction of both Temples ;
The ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel ;
The first of the Ten Days of Personal, Annual Self-Examination (similar to a full service of one's car: brakes, airbag, gears, oil, filter, alternator, bearings, engine head, head-gasket, valve, belts, wheel alignment, piston, combustion, cooling system, distributor, electronic control unit and electricity).

5. Rosh Hashana is universal – not just Jewish – stock taking (repentance) day (Yom Te'shuvah, Yom Ha'deen in Hebrew) - the first of the Ten Days of Atonement, culminating on Yom Kippur. A Hebrew word for atonement/repentance is Te'shuvah, which also means spiritual and physical Return (to core values and to the Land of Israel ). On Rosh Hashana one is expected to plan a "spiritual/behavioral budget" for the entire year. The prerequisite for a wholesome "budget" is humility, a pre-condition for an effective "stock taking." The three Hebrew words, Teshuvah (Repentance/Atonement), Shivah (Return) and Shabbat (Creation concluded) emerge from the same Hebrew root.  They constitute a triangular (personal, national and spiritual) foundation, whose strength depends on the depth of Education and Commemoration. According to King Solomon, "The triangular cord cannot be broken."

May the past year's curses be over, and may we earn the blessings of the coming year!

Yoram

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