“Thus saith the L-RD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the L-RD of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no G-d.” – Isaiah 44:6, JPS 1917 Tanach
September 20, 2019 (Elul 20, 5779)
The First and the Last, by Tzvi Schnee
As Rosh HaShanna approaches, we are reminded to do teshuva in preparation for Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgment). As the time draws near, consider the following statement about H’Shem, Who proclaims, “I am the first, and I am the last” (see above). He was there in the beginning, and He will be there in the end. He is the Everlasting G-d. Therefore, in our own lives, He was also there in the beginning, and will be there until the end. If we believe in Him as the One True G-d, then the importance of carrying that belief throughout our lives is paramount.
Moreover, within the framework of our expectations, in regard to the New Year on the Hebrew calendar, we may also keep in mind that He is present with us from the beginning of the year until the end. Yet, the question may be asked, are we aware of His Presence? Unless we recall His Presence on a daily basis, even for a minute or two in the morning before we start our day, then He will not necessarily be within our thoughts throughout the day. “Shiveesee H’Shem l’negdi tamid – I am ever mindful of H’Shem’s presence” (Psalm 16:8).
Only if we make the effort to place His Presence before us, by recalling Him to mind day by day, will we become cognizant of His Presence in our lives. Therefore, H’Shem should be first at the beginning of our day when we wake up, and He should be last when we are preparing to go to sleep. In this manner, we place a seal of protection upon ourselves in the morning and evening. Without acknowledging our connection to Him, we are opening ourselves to the undercurrents of negativity that surround us, the whirlpools of hatred, mockery, and ungodliness that even have the potential to permeate our soul, G-d forbid. “Save me, O G-d; for the waters are come in even unto the soul” (Psalm 69:2, JPS).
In order to rid ourselves of the murkiness that has already crept into our souls, careful reflection upon our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs is required. For the sake of renewal, at the time of the New Year, what better time could there be than when the King is in the field, ready, willing and able to hear our prayers? As we draw closer to H’Shem, He will draw closer to us; so, it is up to us to take that first step, and He will meet us halfway (Yoma 39b). “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the L-RD of hosts” (Malachi 3:7, JPS).