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Shabbat Rosh Hashana - Haazinu 5774

Parashat Hashavua: Today

Rav Daniel Mann

Certainly we know that Rosh Hashana is a very important day, but, according to the Sefat Emet (Rosh Hashana 5639), in many ways it is “hayom” (today, the day, or this day). He asserts that several places in Tanach that mention “hayom” are referring to or hinting at Rosh Hashana.

One such reference is in regard to accepting Hashem’s kingdom. With Kri’at Shema, we twice daily accept Hashem’s kingdom. It says in that context that Hashem commanded us about Kri’at Shema “today” (Devarim 6:6). Says the Sefat Emet, this hints at Rosh Hashana, where the main service of the day is around the concept of malchiyot, accepting Hashem’s kingdom in a particularly intense and focused manner. This is the day on which we were created and in which our vitality is renewed, and so it is the perfect time to renew our recognition of our relationship with Him.

Another example of hayom relates to the most defined mitzva of the day – the blowing of the shofar. The Sefat Emet connects between this mitzva of the present and our ultimate success in the future. The pasuk in Tehillim says, “today if you listen to His (its?) voice.” On one hand, this can be a hint to hearing its (the shofar’s) sound on Rosh Hashana. On the other hand, the gemara (Sanhedrim 98a) understands this pasuk as the condition for the coming of Mashiach, as Mashiach told R. Yehoshua ben Levi that he was coming “today,” and the next day he had to clarify that he was talking about coming “today, if you listen to His voice.” The combination of these two ideas connects with the Zohar’s comment that Tishrei is a month that is appropriate for the coming of Mashiach.

The Sefat Emet points out that “hayom” relates in another way to Rosh Hashana. At the Akeidat Yitzchak (the Binding of Isaac), which we recall prominently throughout Rosh Hashana, it says that “it will be heard today, on the mountain of Hashem it will be seen” (Bereishit 22:14). This “today” also relates to Rosh Hashana, as the midrash (Bereishit Rabba 56:10) says that Avraham asked at the time that when Hashem evaluates the sins and virtues of Yitzchak’s offspring, he should consider the akeida. Indeed we say in Mussaf of Rosh Hashana, “the binding of Yitzchak shall you remember for his offspring today.”

He concludes that we also stress the importance of the blessings being related to this day of Rosh Hashana in the beloved tefilla Hayom Te’amtzenu.” Finally, this relates to the idea of the pasuk (Tehillim 2:7) – “today I gave birth to you.” Chazal and the commentaries connect this pasuk to the coronation of either David or Mashiach. The Sefat Emet seems to be explaining as follows. On Rosh Hashana, not only were we created but we also renew our life with vigor for the whole year on this day.

With the “tour” of Tanach, Chazal, and our tefilla, the Sefat Emet helps us realize that there is perhaps no “day” like this one to connect the strength of the distant past (creation) with another past (akeidat Yitzchak) to give us strength in the crucial present (our coronation of Hashem and our day of judgment) and prepare for the hopefully imminent future (the coming of Mashiach).

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