Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019
(19 Elul 5779)
Rosh HaShannah Approaches
by Tzvi Schnee
With the approach of Rosh HaShannah, many of us may have in mind the delicious apples and honey, two traditional foods to symbolize the hope to bring in “a sweet new year.” Yet, we should not be taking the idea of a sweet new year for granted; rather, towards the end of the month of Elul, we should compel ourselves to consider the state of our soul, by preparing ourselves through teshuvah (repentance). Some of us may already be trembling with fear, leading to teshuvah mi’yirah (repentance motivated by fear). There are two types of teshuvah mi’yirah. The first is doing teshuvah out of fear of punishment. The second comprises an acknowledgment of awe towards H’Shem, resulting in a feeling of shame, when we realise that H’Shem knows the condition of the soul, inclusive of sins comitted in thought, speech, and deed. A higher level of teshuvah is teshuvah mei’ahavah – teshuvah motivated by love of H’Shem (G-d). This involves doing teshuvah in order to please Him; knowing that H’Shem is merciful; we should be encouraged to confess our sins, so that we may look forward to His forgiveness.
During the High Holidays, we address Him as Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father, Our King. We have the opportunity to relate to Him as a loving Father, as well as a regal King. These two approaches are complimentary: we are H’Shem’s children; we are also His subjects. As His children, we may attempt to comprehend the compassion that He expresses towards us, by way of wanting the best for us, and forgiving us when we fall short of His expectations. As His subjects, we may realize, upon careful consideration, that we are subject to His commandments, inclusive of both His guidelines for us to lead a righteous life, and his warnings against straying from the derech (path) of life. Rosh HaShannah is a time of reconciliation, when we begin the year anew, with an increased comittment to improve our relationship with H’Shem, as well as with ourselves and others.