Points to Ponder

Rosh Hashana 5777

Remember us for life and inscribe us in the book of life (Shmoneh Esrai additons) – Once we ask Hashem to remember us for life, why do we need to ask him to inscribe us too? Don’t we note that Hashem does not forget? Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman Shlita explains that the recall is on the past – we ask Hashem to consider all of the past experiences of life in a light that is positive and thereafter chart a course for us in the future that will lead to a life of eternal נצחיות.

One [thing] I ask of the Lord, that I seek-that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit His Temple every morning (Tehillim 27:4 – Said twice daily during this season) – The Vilna Gaon pointed out a classic contradiction in Dovid Hamelech’s request – a dweller does not have the experience of a visitor. How can one ask for the dual experience? Rina Ariel שתחי' (the mother of Hallel Ariel הי"ד) explained that when a woman  is a guest in another’s home you will find the difference in the way that the two women experience the home.  First, there is the Baala Busta (the home owner) who on the one hand must move around and have the responsibility to take care of her home but at the same time, she also the comfort of having things run under her control. In contrast, the visitor is waited upon, as a guest should, but must be at the whim of the Baala Busta. Mrs. Ariel suggested that Dovid HaMelech noted that the ultimate relation with Hashem is to feel like you are taking responsibility for everything you can in the presence of Hashem, in our homes and in our lives but at the same time being content with the awareness that while the responsibility is ours, the ultimate control is in the hands of Hashem. She mentioned that there is some comfort in life in knowing the dual opportunity this represented.


Stay here (Poh) with the Donkey and I will go with the lad until there (Koh) (Torah Reading of the Second Day of Rosh Hashana) – Why did the Akaida story have to take place so far away? Why did Avraham and Yitzchak need to see the location from a distance? Perhaps Hashem’s intent here is to make one realize that while many desire a comfortable Jewish life in the here and now, the idea of considering a life that one needs to rise to occasions in Yahadus even when it is out of our comfort zone is a crucial one for us to consider. Many of the personalities of Rosh Hashana rise to the occasion in order to meet a challenge. Elkana, whom we read about on the first day of Rosh Hashana travels upward for his date with destiny. The Imahos and Chana, Avraham and Yitzchak – all could have stayed home and argued that it was someone else’s turn to hold the mantle of the Jewish future. None do. Rav Schachter Shlita would often point out that this is the difference between Poh and Koh. One is a limited vision left in what is before you. The other, represents the Jewish eye – on a date with destiny.

K’Bnei Maron – Three interpretations are offered in the Gemara (Rosh Hashana18a) as to what this phrase means. Either it means like sheep, in single file or like the soldiers of Dovid HaMelech. Rav Shaul Yisraeli ztl. noted that there are three different types of people: Some proceed through life like sheep, following blindly without paying attention to what is going on around them. These people focus on simple issues in life and lose out on the bigger picture. Others live life pushing one another off because they leave no room for anyone but themselves. If someone else seems to be taking their space, these people knock them off. Sadly, these people too, are often quickly knocked down. The third group marches like soldiers of Dovid HaMelech – side by side – with the awareness that when they join together and fight under the banner of Hashem, nothing can stand in their way. These are the ones who are successful on Rosh Hashana.