ROSH HASHANA THOUGHTS

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER,
CHAYA LEAH BAS RAV DOVID, A.H.
ON HER YAHRZEIT
2ND DAY ROSH CHODESH, 1 ELLUL

It is now the 2nd day Rosh Chodesh Ellul- 1 Ellul . The Kitzur Shulchan Oruch in Chapter 128:2 says that when one writes a letter during this time he should wish his friend a Kesiva Vachasima Tova (A Good Year). We see that we can already talk about Rosh Hashana.

It is also the Yahrzeit of my Mother, Chaya Leah bas Rav Dovid, a.h. For her merit, I'm writing these words. I hope some people gain from it.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, z.t.l. (Sichot Mussar-Hebrew- 5732-p.141 -also in Lekach Tov, Devorim I, p. 231) brings a beautiful way how to merit a good year.

In Parshas Reeh (Devorim 13:13-19) we read about a "condemned city". If some people instigated the other members of their city to worship idolatry, then the people of the city are condemned to die. In posuk 18, which is addressing the executioners of the condemned city, it says, "... and He (Hashem) will give you mercy and will have mercy on you".

This seems a bit repetitious.

The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, explains this posuk in the following way:

"Because He (Hashem) commanded that you kill out the whole city, and even their cattle, this deed creates the nature of cruelty in those that do it. As the Arab executioners have told us that they have a great satisfaction when they kill people, and the roots of mercy are destroyed and they are cruel.

Consequently, this very nature would be rooted in those that executed the people of the condemned city. However, Hashem is assuring them that he will give them a nature of mercy. Despite the fact that the nature (of these acts) should create cruelty, the Origin of Mercy will renew in them a spirit of mercy to nullify the cruel nature that came from their act. (This explains the first part of the posuk " ...He will give you mercy...)

Then it concludes "and will have mercy on you", because as long as the person has a cruel nature, so will Hashem act (cruelly) with him, because Hashem only has mercy on one who is merciful."

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz points out that we see from the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, that the main promise of the posuk is not the giving of the mercy, rather that it enables them to now be treated by Hashem with mercy. In fact the chazal (Shabbos 151b) learns from this posuk "One who has mercy on people, will receive mercy from the Heaven, and one who doesn't have mercy on people will not receive mercy from Heaven".

One might think that this a form of punishment, that if one is cruel with others, Hashem reciprocates with him.

However, we see from the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, that this is not so. The executioners of the condemned city are supposed to kill the people of the city. They were commanded by Hashem. Yet, if not for the fact that Hashem will counteract the nature of cruelty with a nature of mercy, they would remain cruel and Hashem would act cruel with them. Why should they be punished if they are forced to act cruelly?

So we see that this is not a punishment. Rather it is a fact in how Hashem acts with the world. He acts measure for measure, one who acts cruelly, regardless of his good intentions, will be treated by Hashem cruelly. (Rav Chaim, in a different sicha, gives an interesting example. He says that if someone left bread in the oven and it's starting to burn, whoever will put his hand in the oven to save the bread will burn himself. It's a fact, one who puts his hand into an oven, will burn it despite his good intentions.)

Rav Chaim concludes that this is a wonderful way to merit on Rosh Hashana to be written and signed for a good year. Let us be merciful to others and then Hashem will be merciful on us.

I am reminded of an interesting personal story where by acting with concern not to embarrass others brought about that I shouldn't be embarrassed.

This happened about 25 years ago in the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn. It was after Sukkos when we started mentioning that Hashem brings the rain, "Mashiv Haruach U'Morid Hagashem in the second brocho of the Shmoneh Esreh. We only mention, we do not ask that Hashem give us rain in Boreich Aleinu- "Vsein Tal Umotor L'Brocho, in the U.S.A., until December 5-6. (In Israel we start on 7 Marcheshvan). Unfortunately, I had mistakenly thought that once you start mentioning rain you also ask for rain, (that's what you get for not going over the halachos).

Consequently, one morning by Shacharis, I was a bit surprised to hear the chazzan say "Vsein Brocho," and leave out "Tal Umotor". I was more amazed that no one, not even the Roshei Hayeshiva, corrected him. Then I thought, maybe I heard wrong. So, I decided that by Mincha, I would listen better and correct the chazzan if need be.

Now, I was very concerned in not embarrassing the chazzan by yelling out a correction from the back of the beis hamedrash where I sat. (Why I didn't just speak to him in private, before Mincha, I do not know). So, I decided to move up during Mincha to the row right behind the chazzan. This way, if he made a mistake, I would just whisper the correction. Sure enough, the chazzan said "Vsein Brocho". I quietly corrected him, "Vsein Tal Umotor". and the chazzan obliged by saying "Vsein Tal Umotor". However, the guy sitting next to me, quickly corrected the correction and told the chazzan, "Vsein Brocho", which the chazzan again complied with his corrector.

At this point, I gave the guy next to me a puzzled look that seemed to say, "Don't you know that we already started saying 'Vsein Tal Umotor?'"

Then he exploded my misconception by just uttering two words, "December 5".

As the saying goes, "If there was a hole in the floor, I would have climbed right through".

At that point I realized that if I would have yelled out the correction from the back where I sat, that would have magnified my embarrassment greatly. It was my concern not to embarrass the chazzan, which in turn saved me from tremendous embarrassment. The way we act with others, is the way Hashem acts with us.

Being my mother's yahrzeit, I will relate to you a couple of personal stories that show you what a true "Alter Yiddshe Momma" she was.

When I was in High School, getting ready for college, my Rebbi persuaded me (according to my mother I was "brainwashed") that maybe I should learn, and maybe become a Rebbi one day. My parents, especially my mother, were vehemently against it. They wanted me to learn but to also go to college in the evening. Of course the more we fought the more I knew how much they loved me. They never heard sichot about the main purpose of life is not necessarily what are you going to "live with" but rather what are you going to "die with". Based on their understanding of life, they were doing the best thing for me.

My rebbi made a new yeshivah in Monsey and I decided to "run away from home" and go there to learn. It wasn't like you see in the movies where I wanted to sever all connections and communication with my parents. On the contrary, I loved them dearly and I felt that for their benefit this would be the best thing. (See "Do It For Mom And Dad sicha).

So, I made my escape plans. Every day for about a week, I took some of my clothes from my house to the Yeshivah on the East Side-R.J.J. and hid them in my locker. Of course I couldn't take everything, but I had enough. Then that DAY arrived and I executed the final step in my plan.

I didn't want my parents to worry, so I wrote a long letter explaining my decision. I also wrote the address and phone number of the Yeshiva where I would be so they would know where I am and could contact me, if they wanted to.

I gave the letter to a friend and told him to give it to my brothers in a few hours, so I could have a head start in my escape. It seems that this friend gave it to my brothers right away. Nevertheless, I made it to Monsey. Over there, I got a call from my Father o.h. He was always a "kibbitzer-joker" but this time, I think, he went overboard. He said that my mother had a heart attack, which really shook me up. After I ascertained that he was just "joking" he told me that my mother and brother were on their way to "get me."

When they came, they spoke to the Rosh Hayeshivah, then they came to my room. They said they were giving in to my meshugas-insanity and letting me stay. Then came the clincher.

My mother took out some bags filled with my clothing and slippers etc. She came dead set on getting me to come home. But she knew that her stubborn Shloime would probably get his way and stay there. He is my son no matter what and he needs his clothing.

At that point, I broke down crying, realizing how much my mother loved me. This made what I was doing to her much harder. Then and there I davened to Hashem that one day I would make all this aggravation she was getting from me worthwhile.

It took many long and bitter years. Just to give you an idea of how my mother felt I will relate a story she told me one time when I came home for Shabbos.

She told me of a son who took a knife and cut out his mother's heart. He took it in his hands and was running in the streets. At that point the heart cried out, "Loif nit mein kint, tummer ves tu fallen-Don't run my child, maybe you will fall." That is a mother, even when her son cuts out her heart she is concerned for him. That, she explained was our relationship.

I knew that in the Olom Haemes -in the next world she would see the worth of what I was doing. However, I was hoping that my parents would get nachas from me even in this world.

Boruch Hashem, this story has a happy ending. When they saw that I got married and even had a parnassah in Eretz Yisroel, they came to visit me in Eretz Yisroel.

They saw I was truly happy and they were happy. They even went to see my Rebbi who gave me the job, who was also the one who "brainwashed" me. Despite the fact that they were angry with him all the years for what he did to me, they were honest. When they saw that Boruch Hashem it worked out fine, they thanked him.

To this day, we are living happily ever after in this world and the next.

I will end off with a beautiful moshol of the Dubner Maggid.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128:2) brings the tradition of blowing the shofar during the month of Ellul. He explains that the reason is to arouse the people to do teshuvah, because that is the nature of a shofar . It (the blast) arouses and puts fear in those that hear it. As it says in the posuk (Amos 3:6) "Can the shofar blast in the city, and the people wont be afraid?"

Now, we have to understand that listening to the shofar blast alone is not enough. There is more to it.

The Dubner Magid tells a moshol about a certain fellow who went to the big city to eat by his friend. In the middle of his meal he heard sirens and whistles. When he asked his host, he responded that this is how they put out fires. The fellow decided to buy these sirens and whistles for his own town. Sure enough, a few weeks later a fire broke out. He told the people not to worry, as he would put out the fire with his whistles. He blew until he was blue in the face, but the fire just kept raging and burned everything to a crisp. He ran back to the store where he bought the whistles and complained that they didn't put out the fire. The storeowner told him that he was foolish. "The whistles and sirens don't put out the fire, they only alarm and arouse the people to the fact that there is a fire. Now, they have to get water and put out the fire".

So too, the shofar doesn't magically put out the fire of the yetzer horo, rather it wakes us up to the realization that there is a terrible fire burning. Now we have to get the "water" of Torah and Mitzvos and put it out by doing teshuvah.

May Hashem help us to follow these ways and we should be zocheh to a "Kesivah Vachasima Tova".

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