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Rosh Hashanah

Dedicated for the Refuah Shelemah of Yitzchak ben Laura.

Rosh Hashanah

Our Father, Our King

Rosh Hashanah is one of the most awe-inspiring days of the year. On the first Rosh Hashanah, life was given to humanity. Yet on that very same day, it was also taken away. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, life itself, the most precious gift — though granted to many — will inevitably be taken from some. The books of life, righteousness, health, and sustenance are opened and waiting for names to be written within.

When we pray on Rosh Hashanah and the ten days of repentance, we recite “Avinu Malkenu,” which means, “Our Father, Our King.” Hashem sits on the Throne of Judgement during these ten days as an all-knowing, mighty King. However, we beseech Him and call Him our Father, to beg Him to sit on the Throne of Mercy and grant us forgiveness and life for the year to come.

The Rambam says the shofar leads to a great spiritual awakening. There is a story about a boy who went off the derech. He took money from his parents and moved out of their house. Two years later, on Rosh Hashanah, he was walking around the city, smoking and drinking with his friends. A man with a kippah approached the group and asked the boy if he would like to hear the shofar and the beracha. The boy agreed so that he could make fun of the man with his friends. But when the boy listened to the crying, inspiring sound of the shofar, he was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to return home to his parents.

He walked a long way from Manhattan over the bridge to Brooklyn to tell them he wanted to come back home. As he walked into the house, he saw his entire family waiting to eat the Rosh Hashanah meal with a plate set for him at the table. The boy and his parents broke down in tears. His mother and father were waiting for him to come home all this time with open arms.

All year, or even all our lives, we may have transgressed and turned away from Hashem. All we have to do is tell Hashem, our Father in Heaven, one thing: “I want to come home,” and He will take us back with open arms and forgive us. But we are responsible for taking that first step! On Rosh Hashanah, we must recognize Hashem as our Melech HaMelachim—King of Kings. Even though we keep doing the same sins repeatedly, even if it has been a thousand times, Hashem is still our Av, our Father in Heaven, waiting for us to return.


We say in Selichot, “Like paupers and poor men, we bang on Your door.” Rav Naftali Trop once said that there is a huge misconception about Rosh Hashanah that this line in Selichot clarifies. Many of us feel that when we stand in front of Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, we have a lot in our pockets. Baruch Hashem, we have health, a job, a family, and life. So, all Hashem would need to do this year is to stay uninvolved and let us keep what we already have.

Yet, according to Selichot, we are poor men with absolutely nothing. Because when Rosh Hashanah comes, we are not renewing a lease; we are starting a new one. We should not be asking as successful people to continue our good lives, but rather as paupers, as empty-handed people, asking Hashem with humility to find us a job, to grant us a family, and to provide us with a good life.

A Golden Opportunity

Before World War I, a man was working in a stone quarry in Jerusalem. He would chisel marble and rock to harvest the stones. One day, a massive boulder fell on his leg, severely injuring him. At that time, the hospitals in Israel were significantly behind in medical advancements, and the doctor informed the man of his suggestion to amputate the leg. The man refused, and the doctor said, “Well if you go to the hospital in Vienna, there’s a chance that they will be able to save the leg.”

The man went to his rabbi, who helped raise money for a ticket to Vienna. The man made it to Vienna and arrived at the hospital, where the doctor told him it would be a costly operation to repair the leg, which he couldn’t afford. The man broke down, left the hospital, and limped to a park bench where he sat and cried bitter tears to Hashem. Suddenly, a beautiful coach rolled up in front of him, and a wealthy-looking man came out to ask him what was wrong. The man opened his heart and told his story to this stranger. The wealthy man wrote a note on a paper and said, “Give this to the doctor at the hospital. They will take care of your problem.”

The man returned to his hotel with the folded note, feeling defeated. He thought, “What will this goy be able to do? He can’t help me.” The man recounted the day’s events to the hotel host. The host asked to see the note and gasped, “Do you know who this was? You met the Kaiser, the Emperor of Austria! He signed this note telling the doctors at the hospital to repair your leg! You will be healed!”

The doctors fixed the man’s leg, and he returned to Jerusalem. He went back to his rabbi to tell him about his experience. After he told the story about how the Emperor of Austria came to him and listened to his tearful pleas, the man broke down again. The rabbi said, “Why are you crying? This was a miracle from Hashem!” The man cried, “If I had only known I was speaking to the very powerful Kaiser, I would have asked for the world. I can’t believe I had his ear, and I let him go so quickly.”

On Rosh Hashanah, we are standing in front of Borei Olam with a golden opportunity to do teshuvah and to ask for whatever our hearts desire. This is a special time when we are incredibly close to Hashem, and it is a sin to take this holiday for granted. The Rambam says that a person must look at himself as if his scale in heaven is at 50:50. He must take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to be close to Hashem, do teshuvah, and pray that his mitzvot will outweigh his averot.

We read on Rosh Hashanah the stories of Sarah and Chana. Both these women were physically incapable of having children. However, because of Hashem’s infinite kindness, both women’s prayers were answered on Rosh Hashanah. This teaches us that anything is possible on this day.

11 Reasons Why We Blow the Shofar

1. Just as trumpets are sounded at a coronation, the shofar crowns G‑d as King.

2. The shofar is like an alarm clock that wakes a sleeping soul on Rosh Hashanah.

3. Just as it was blown at Har Sinai, the shofar reminds us to rededicate ourselves to Torah.

4. The sound of the shofar is like the voice of the neviim—prophets who told us to correct our ways.

5. The shofar’s cry reminds us of the screams and tears shed for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash.

6. The shofar is a ram’s horn, reminding us of Akedat Yitzchak and our own capacity for self-sacrifice.

7. It fills us with awe and humility as we contemplate how Hashem fills all space and time.

8. We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us to examine our deeds and see how we can improve them.

9. Like the shofar when Mashiach comes, the sound of the blast will remind us of G-d’s salvation in our everyday lives.

10. The shofar during Mashiach will be at a time of universal understanding that Hashem is King, and the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of this unity.

11. The call of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of the cries of the soul yearning to return to Hashem.

Final Tally

Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron once said that if someone does a mitzvah with joy, the Orchot Tzaddikim says the reward is 1,000 times greater than if he did it feeling like it was a burden. And if one does a mitzvah with humility, it is 1,000 times greater than if he does a mitzvah with arrogance. The Ben Ish Chai says if one does a mitzvah on Shabbat, the reward is 1,000 times greater than that of a mitzvah done during the week. So imagine if a person does a mitzvah on Shabbat with joy and humility. That’s 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000. That’s the reward of 1 billion mitzvot!!! We must take the opportunity before Rosh Hashanah to stock up on as many mitzvot as possible so that we can be ready for the Book of Life b’ezrat Hashem!

Something Money Can’t Buy

Kivi Bernhard, a jeweler living in Atlanta, is an international motivational speaker. The author of the internationally acclaimed business book: Leopardology: The Hunt for Profit in a Tough Global Economy, is a frequent popular speaker for large corporate events. He is also an observant Jew.

Some time ago, Microsoft invited him through his agent to present a keynote address at their conference for senior executives from all over the world. Kivi looked at the date. The keynote address was scheduled for Shabbat, and the presentation would require the use of electronic devices, power points, videos, mics, and recordings, so Kivi apologized to his agent and politely declined to attend.

A senior Microsoft executive decided to resolve the issue by offering Bernhard almost double his speaking fee. He explained that the meeting had been set a year and a half in advance and it could not be changed at this point. He also explained that the bulk of the event centered on Bernhard’s theories presented in Leopardology.

Kivi once again apologized and remained adamant that he would not speak on Shabbat.

At some point, the executive at Microsoft was ready to pay him an astronomical fee of six figures. Tempting as it was, Kivi knew that was his test. He explained to Microsoft's Senior Global VP that he was not declining because he wanted more money, but that G-d told the Jewish people to observe Shabbat, and that his Jewish observance was his priority.

They deliberated and called him back to let him know they would reschedule the entire conference to Sunday. He said that would work and that the original price would work too. Indeed, the Microsoft conference opened with a keynote address by Kivi Bernhard.

A few weeks later, the Microsoft VP reached out once again to Kivi about an experience he had while on a private jet with Bill Gates. The executive related to Mr. Gates the unusual experience of having to reschedule an entire conference for Microsoft in order to accommodate “a Jew’s observance of the Sabbath.”

The VP told Kivi that the story made quite an impact on Mr. Gates, who remarked, “There are some things that just cannot be bought with money… I guess the Sabbath is one of them.”

Kivi shared the story and said that it was Bill Gates who allowed him to grasp the value and meaning of his sacrifice. Bill Gates gave him an understanding of wealth, and that having Shabbat is an example of true wealth, as it is priceless.

On Shabbat Rosh Hashanah, we don’t blow the shofar, not because the blowing of the shofar is problematic, but in case someone will be tempted to desecrate Shabbat and carry the shofar to shul. It seems inconceivable that the Sages would deprive us of the benefits afforded by one of the greatest mitzvot we have—simply on account of a few people who might carry instead of storing the shofar in shul. Therefore, we must conclude that the Sages understood that on Shabbat it is actually unnecessary to blow the shofar, because what we normally accomplish through sounding the shofar is accomplished when we don't blow it on Shabbat.

As we discussed earlier, the shofar represents G-d’s eternal place as King of Kings. We rededicate ourselves to Torah and look inward to improve our deeds to solidify Hashem’s glory. When we don't blow the shofar, it shows we accept G-d as King, we adore and safeguard Shabbat, and we solidly accept the words of the Torah and the authority of our rabbis. Therefore, by not blowing the shofar on Shabbat, we can bring about even greater Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim—accepting the kingship of Heaven.

May we all remember to take advantage of the golden opportunity we have during Rosh Hashanah, to pray to Hashem, to do teshuvah, and to ask for anything, even if it seems impossible. May we witness the incredible miracles of Hashem answering our prayers for the good. May we help others and help ourselves by giving tzedakah, doing chessed, and righting our wrongs. May we keep Shabbat sacred!! And of course, may we hear the sound of the shofar announcing Mashiach’s arrival soon! Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and fulfilling year of accomplishments, mitzvot, and maasim tovim! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shana Tova!

Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Point

· Have we prayed on Rosh Hashanah, feeling as if our pockets were full?

Etz Haim

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Le’ilui Nishmat…

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

Yehoshua Ben Batsheva

Luratte Bat Masouda

Esther Bat Menucha

Uri Ben Rahel

Rivka Bat Dona

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at Checks can be made out to “A Life of Torah” for $101 and mailed to Jack Rahmey at 2387 Ocean Avenue Suite #1G, Brooklyn, NY 11229(please put in the memo “Divre Torah”)

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