For Rosh Hashanah

From Yishmru Daat, page 102, (Hebrew text here), this is a paraphrase and translation of Reb Zalman’s text:

This day is the anniversary of the start of God’s handiwork” (i.e. the creation of the universe), “a remembrance of the first day.” (The above is a text from the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf prayer called Zichronot / Remembrances.)

Since our time is one of Paradigm Shift-ing, i.e., radical change is happening on our planet and in our religion on a scale as powerful as the time of Reb Yochanan Ben Zakai, the time when the second Temple was destroyed, we can no longer only rely on our ancestors who sent deep wisdom our way in the liturgy and traditions of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. In addition to this, each of us must accept upon ourselves that we will be the agents for change. We each bring divine sparks. We are empowered to “roll up our sleeves” and take action to bring about the change and establish “God’s kingdom.”

This is Rosh Hashanah‘s theme said in the prayers with this language:

“Dear God: Reign over the whole world in Your dignity.”

This text may be interpreted differently by different people. But despite our differences, every way of understanding brings an important piece of the puzzle.

When we hear the Shofar we may be thinking, “Papa, Papa, I’m not perfect, have mercy on me for my inadequacies!” Nonetheless, we can’t just rely on help from On High as a powerless one passively waits for a response. You are empowered to tap into a yearning for a better world through establishing a connection with the Source of blessing and to send your yearning upward. We are in an intimate relationship with Hashem. At this time, we should take the first step in that relationship to improve its quality and closeness.

At the time of Rosh Hashanah, we affirm our intention to work on this relationship, and to remain committed to it. Toward this end, here are three themes of the day:

Malchuyot / God’s Kingship: We are empowered as agents of Hashem. We must put our energy into the world and send it up to God to increase the power of God in heaven and this world. As it says in scripture:

“Please let the power of Hashem increase” (Numbers 14:17).

And in the Talmud (Shabbos 89a): God says to Moses: “Offer Me your support.”

We are, none of us, mere “oops-es” of God. Each one is empowered to take on the holy work of establishing God’s kingdom in the coming year. It is not enough to work on behalf of humanity and to reduce injustice:

We must give energy to our spiritual lives and connect with the Divine.

God has a “longing” for our connection with Her/Him, for our love and support. This is what the tradition teaches. We must concern ourselves with the needs of on High. The Jewish people provide for their Father in heaven through the Torah, and mitzvot that soar upward. Without fear of God and love of God the work of our hands doesn’t fly upwards (Tikunei Zohar Kodesh 25).

And therefore: “It is our duty to praise, etc.” with generosity of spirit to invest our energy to add power that brings for a good k’tivah v’chatimah / inscribing and sealing on our behalf. And what regarding the subject of malchuyot / God’s kingship in our lives? We must prioritize our spiritual lives in addition to our good works. For it’s not enough that we pray, “Write us into this or that book,” if we are not writing our own qvittel / note by ourselves. For from the Heavens they answer, “Why do you cry out to Me?” (Exodus 14:15).

You should write the plans for the coming year,” and in order to do it, we have the responsibility to evaluate the priorities such that holiness and uprightness have precedence in evaluating possible actions, choosing those which add to our investment in spirit.

Zichronot / Remembrances: Hashem remembers all the things forgotten. Every day a voice goes forth from heaven, from Mount Horeb, proclaiming, saying: “Woe unto them, unto the people, for their disregard of the Law” (Mishnah Avot 6:2)

Oy! How many times in the year did we hear the voice from heaven? How many times did holy inspiration come down upon us in which we at first decided to raise the state of our consciousness, but then, alas, the inspiration — “theophany” — like a dream flew away. And even though at the time we were feeling God’s nearness — we felt committed to bringing it into our lives — nonetheless, we put a stop to living in accord with it, and this holy moment disappeared from our remembrance.

So on Rosh Hashanah, it’s on us to go deeply into our memory and to bring forth the holy moments we felt into the consciousness and with them, to write our qvittel for the coming year.

Shofarot / Shofar blasts: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom!” For we are still prisoners of habit that becomes second-nature — i.e., we do them without thinking. And how many of the things we customarily do, how many habitual behaviors won’t help for chayyim tovim / for a good life!

And we have already learned that if we want to get ourselves to stand on holy ground the bat kol says “Take your shoes off your feet” (Exodus 3:5) — i.e. loosen the locks that are on your habits, and go out from the brutal slavery of exile that is called “addiction.” For if we are still slaves of habits that won’t help our living in a way in which we can, in joy, be facing Hashem’s presence, we will not be able to hope for a signing and sealing for a good life for the coming year.


It is our responsibility to pray on behalf of the raising of strength and power of Hashem that will magnify and sanctify the name of the Holy one blessed be S/He in our world.

“Today, may You strengthen us; today, may You bless us; today, may You exalt us.”


One Response to “For Rosh Hashanah”

  1. Barbara Drosnin Says:

    Thank you Seth, for posting this at just the right time. I will be sharing this.
    R. Zalman’s words/thoughts/intent raise me higher and higher.

Leave a Reply