Rosh Hashana & Ha’azinu- Faith and Remembrance

Click here for printer-friendly PDF version

הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ, כִּי כָל-דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט; אֵ-ל אֱמוּנָה וְאֵין עָוֶל, צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא

The rock (G-d)- His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A G-d of faith without iniquity, He is righteous and fair (דברים לב:ד)

These pesukim, amongst the opening verses to שירת משה in פרשת האזינו, are seemingly an introduction to G-d’s true nature; He is perfect, faithful, and righteous, and we, His creations, are by contrast not. It seems interesting that in introduction to his inspiring final song to עם ישראל, Moshe would introduce G-d as this imposing, always-perfect, unrelatable entity. Perhaps “א-ל אמונה” has a deeper, more approachable meaning.

Sifrei, the מדרש הלכה on ספרי במדבר and דברים, has a radically different approach, one which has interesting implications on the holiday that we will commemorate immediately before שבת האזינו. He writes, simply, that the poetic wording “א-ל אמונה” teaches us that G-d created the world through faith. As the all-knowing creator, G-d would definitely have known the implications of creating a world- of all of the sin, all of the corruption, all of the rebellion that could happen in a world inhabited by His imperfect creations. Nonetheless, G-d, in His almighty mercy, believed in the human race- that they would make the right decisions despite the statistical improbability that it would actually happen. Through this faith, He created the world, and therefore, Hashem is referred to in שירת האזינו as “א-ל אמונה,” the G-d of faith.

This מידה of our G-d was not just limited to the creation of the world 5774 years ago- it has been in effect at every stage of our national development, since the times of אדם הראשון, נח and אברהם אבינו, and it applies to our day-to-day lives as well. Very few of us can say that the good that we have done for the world outweighs our sins, and those of us who do say so are probably not being 100% honest. Nonetheless, G-d, in His ultimate mercy, judges us not only on what we did, but also on the potential good that we can do- this attribute of G-d’s mercy is something important to keep in mind as we pray on Rosh Hashanah for positive judgment and placement in the ספר החיים. With Hashem’s help, we will all merit a שנה טובה ומתוקה.

This idea sheds an interesting new light on תשובה. For the entire month of Elul, the Jewish People around the world have been soul-searching and repenting for our sins, continuing into the “crunch-time” of the first ten days of תשרי, commonly known as the עשרת ימי תשובה, finally climaxing on יום הכיפורים at the end of which our fates our sealed. The only שבת during the עשרת ימי תשובה (excluding one that coincides with ראש השנה or יום כיפור), is known as שבת שובה, and a special הפטרה is read for the occasion. Towards the end of it, we read from the end of ספר מיכה:

מִי-אֵ-ל כָּמוֹךָ, נֹשֵׂא עָו‍ֹן וְעֹבֵר עַל-פֶּשַׁע, לִשְׁאֵרִית, נַחֲלָתוֹ לֹא-הֶחֱזִיק לָעַד אַפּוֹ, כִּי-חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא. יָשׁוּב יְרַחֲמֵנוּ, יִכְבֹּשׁ עֲו‍ֹנֹתֵינוּ; וְתַשְׁלִיךְ בִּמְצֻלוֹת יָם, כָּל-חַטֹּאותָם. תִּתֵּן אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב, חֶסֶד לְאַבְרָהָם, אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ, מִימֵי קֶדֶם.

Who is like G-d, who pardons sins and overlooks purposeful sins for the rest of His heritage? He has not retained His anger eternally, for He desires kindness! He will again be merciful for us, He will suppress our purposeful sins, and He will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Give truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, as you swore to our forefathers in ancient times. (מיכה ז:יח-כ)

מיכה הנביא seems to conclude his נבואה with an important reminder of the essence of תשובה; it takes place on G-d’s kindness, that, as we saw above in פרשת האזינו, He can overlook our past sins in His faith that we will do right, despite all of the odds against this. However, this caveat on תשובה cannot let us overlook the main point of repentance- the remembrance of our sins, and regret for our wrongdoings. We must personally own up to our mistakes and remember what we did wrong before we can merit א-ל אמונה forgiving our sins in His faith. Only through this זכירה, can we merit complete forgiveness for our sins

Rosh Hashana, the two days leading up to שבת when we read מיכה’s final words, is a holiday centered around remembrance. Also known as יום הזיכרון, the Jewish New Year is a time when G-d remembers our actions and judges us accordingly. In our תפילה on this hallowed holiday, our עמידה primarily contains three brachot, all of which focus either on G-d’s might (מלכויות), His promises (שופרות), or His attribute of remembering (זכרונות). On both days, we read Torah portions focusing on G-d remembering, either His promise to שרה of a son, or His promising to אברהם אבינו that his offspring will eventually be a huge nation that will inherit their foes’ lands (which G-d is still in the process of fulfilling). This idea of זיכרון is definitely present on ראש השנה, and Jews worldwide spend 49 hours begging G-d to remember us for good and judge us for good. Yet, when יום הזיכרון is over, and many of us feel like we have lost the battle to be written in ספר החיים, we get another chance- the rest of עשרת ימי תשובה. As we read the הפטרה of “שובה ישראל,” we are reminded that G-d is on our side- He created the world and keeps the world running with faith in our potential to do the right thing, and even if we have a bad track record, He will still forgive us, because, as we’ve said many times since Saturday night; “ה’ ה’ א-ל רחום וחנון”- Hashem has a repeated מידת רחמים of “יקוק”, which מפרשים interpret as G-d having equal compassion and mercy before and after sinning. He will forgive us, but all we need to do is try and show Him that we’re worth having faith in.

With Hashem’s help, all of us will merit to be written in the ספר החיים, and all of עם ישראל will merit a שנה טובה ומתוקה, full of happiness, health, safety and unity. Furthermore, in the merit of our תפילות, we will hopefully see a complete and final fulfillment of the ברכה that Hashem gave אברהם after he nearly sacrificed his son, of:

כִּי-בָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ, וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְכַחוֹל, אֲשֶׁר עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם; וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ, אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו. וְהִתְבָּרְכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ, כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ, עֵקֶב, אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלִי.

For you will surely be blessed, and I will increase your offspring like the stars of the heaven and sand on the seashore, and your children will inherit the gates of your enemies. And all of the nations of the world will want to be blessed like your children, because you have listened to my voice. (בראשית כב:יז-יח)

Very speedily in our days. שנה טובה and כתיבה וחתימה טובה to everyone.