A Rosh Hashanah Message

Sep. 2, 2013

We read at the beginning of the book of Iyov (Job):

"And it was the day, and the angels came to stand against G-d, and the Satan also came among them. (Iyov 1:6)

The Zohar (Bamidbar 231a) says that "the day" means Rosh Hashanah, when G-d judges the world. The "angels" are the Heavenly Court, the seventy angels appointed over the seventy nations of the world. What does it mean that they came to "stand against G-d"? The first and most important subject on which people are judged is whether they give honor to G-d's name. If they did not give honor to G-d's name, His servants and the Torah, then they are considered standing against G-d. This includes anyone who did not care or do anything about the desecration of G-d's holy name in the earth.

What does this statement of the Zohar have to do with the story of Iyov? We continue reading: G-d said to the Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Iyov? There is none like him in the earth, a clean and upright man, who fears G-d and turns away from evil." The Satan said, "He is only righteous because he is enjoying prosperity. But if You stretch out Your hand and take away all that is his, he will surely curse You." The Gemora (Bava Basra 16a) explains that the Satan's intent was to defend Avraham Avinu, who lived at the same time as Iyov. G-d was praising Iyov more highly than Avraham (Avraham was called only "one who fears G-d" – Bereishis 22:12 whereas Iyov was given that praise plus three other praises), so the Satan proposed to test Iyov to show that he was not as great.

In the end, Iyov complained that G-d had punished him unfairly, and G-d said (38:2), "Who is this who darkens My counsel with thoughtless words? I wrote such great things about you in the beginning of this book, and you have ruined it all." Iyov replied, "You hid Your intentions. Had I known that this was all a test, I would not have said the things I said." G-d said, "Avraham did not know that his Ten Tests were tests, and yet he withstood them." (Rashi)

Iyov may have been more righteous than Avraham Avinu. But in the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, Avraham was favored, because the first subject of judgment is, as the Zohar says, whether a person gives honor to G-d's name or sits by idly while others desecrate it. Avraham lived in a time when the world was steeped in idolatry. He had the courage to stand up and proclaim that the idols were worthless and only G-d had power. He was willing to be thrown into a furnace in order to give honor to G-d's name.

"There were ten generations from Noach till Avraham, and all were sinful, until Avraham came and took the reward of all of them." (Avos 5:2) The Gemora (Chagigah 15a) says that every person starts out with one portion in Gan Eden and one portion in Gehinom. When one person becomes righteous and another wicked, the righteous one gets his own portion plus the wicked one's portion in Gan Eden, while the wicked person gets his own portion plus the righteous one's portion in Gehinom. Why this transfer of portions? The answer is that in order for a tzaddik to be a tzaddik, he must overcome the influence of the wicked. Avraham came into the world after the idolatrous ideology had already been built up for ten generations. To reach his goal of giving honor to G-d's name in the world, he had to counteract the cumulative effect of all those generations, so he deserved to get their portion of Gan Eden.

So we see that the great mitzvah of kiddush hashem, giving honor and holiness to G-d's name, is our key to emerging from Rosh Hashanah with a favorable verdict for two reasons: it is first subject of judgment, as the Zohar says, and it entitles us to get not only our own reward but also the reward lost by the people whose influence we are counteracting. For a century now the Zionists have been building up their ideology and now, with all their religious newspapers and propaganda books, they are stronger than ever. Fortunate is he who comes and denounces this idolatry!

We say in the morning prayers, "A man should always be G-d-fearing in secret and in public…sanctify Your name through those who sanctify Your name, and sanctify Your name in the world…blessed is He who sanctifies His name in public." What do we mean by asking G-d to sanctify His name through those who sanctify His name? If they already sanctify His name, what is there left to ask for? Furthermore, it seems that the ending of the prayer "blessed is He who sanctifies His name in public" does not match its beginning, contrary to the general rules of blessings.

The Shibbolei Haleket raises the question of whether to say the words "in secret" in the above prayer, because it would seem to imply that a person need only fear G-d in secret. His conclusion is that the words "in secret" are an integral part of the prayer and stem from its origin - according to the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu (chapter 21), this prayer was composed in a time when Torah was scarce and the government had passed decrees against keeping the Torah. Then a Jew should at least be G-d-fearing and keep the Torah in secret. But we know that that is not enough – the purpose of the world is to sanctify G-d's name in public. In such difficult times, when we sanctify His name only in secret, we pray: "Sanctify Your name in public through those who are now able to sanctify Your name only in private. Blessed is He Who will in the future sanctify His name in public!"

Faithful Jews have always been opposed to Zionism, but for many decades that opposition has remained largely hidden from the world at large. Our organization has been making efforts for several years to bring the sanctification of G-d's name into the public realm. We have had, thank G-d, a good measure of success, but our expenses are very high. As this Rosh Hashanah approaches, we ask our friends and supporters to continue funding our activities, and in this merit may they be inscribed for a good and sweet new year, and be blessed in all their endeavors.

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