From the Holy Ari of Safed
TearsThe master disclosed that if one doesn't
shed at least a few tears during the High Holy Days, it is evidence that his soul
is flawed. He added that when one finds oneself suddenly aroused to tears on the
High Holy Days, it is a sign that at that moment, one's soul is being judged in
the Heavenly Court above. In anticipation and trepidation of the judgment, one
is overwhelmed by tears.
(Shulchan Aruch of the Arizal, Hilchos Rosh HaShanah)
From the Chasidic Masters
On Rosh Hashana we accept G-d's kingship over the world,
metaphorically erecting a "structure of sovereignty." To construct a physical
building, three building materials are used: stones, earth (dust) and water. In
the spiritual sense, these correspond to the letters of the prayer book, a sense
of humility, and our tears. By reciting our prayers humbly on Rosh Hashana and
with tears that come from the heart, we establish G-d's Kingship over all of creation.
(From Sefer Ham'amarim Kuntreisim)
From the Rebbes of Chabad
What is the essential aspect of Rosh HaShanah? The coronation
of G-d as King. Thus, our Sages quote G-d as asking: "Say before
Me... verses reflecting My Kingship to make Me King over you."
Until we have accepted G-d as King, serving Him through
the observance of mitzvos is not relevant. And so our Sages quote G-d
as saying: "Accept My Kingship, and afterwards accept My decrees."
Therefore teshuvah, which serves to atone for failures in fulfilling the
King's decrees, is relevant only after His Kingship is accepted.
Our acceptance of G-d as King relates to His essence - a
level above all revelations. The observance of the mitzvos relates to
G-d's will as it has come into revelation, for all the mitzvos are expressions
of His will.
Teshuvah, which atones for transgressions of His will, relates
to a higher level of G-dliness, but one which still shares a connection
to His will. For a level which totally transcends G-d's will must also
transcend the service which repents for transgressions of that will. Thus
teshuvah still relates to revealed levels of G-dliness. The acceptance
of G-d as King, however, relates to G-d's essence, which transcends all
From this, we can appreciate the uniqueness of the souls
of the Jewish people - that they can affect G-d's very essence and evoke
in Him a desire to be King. To be able to affect G-d's essence, however,
it is necessary to express the inner bittul that lies at the center of
every Jewish soul. This is expressed in our request of G-d: "Reign
over the entire world in Your glory."
G-d's essence knows no bounds. Since the influence
drawn down by the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is rooted in
G-d's essence, this influence is not restricted by any limitations of
the spiritual cosmos. The influence is drawn down precisely as He desires
it to be. And what He desires is certainly good, as it is written: "In
the countenance of the King, there is life." Penai, translated here
as "countenance," also means "inner dimension." Thus
any desire emanating from G-d's inner dimension will surely be associated
with life and goodness.
This will be revealed on the material plane, for G-d's essence
is connected to our material reality. And so it is that every Jew will
be inscribed for a good and sweet year, filled with open and apparent
(Adapted from Sichos Kodesh 5723)
Some Laws and Customs
HEARING THE SHOFAR
The Torah mentions the word 'tru'ah' (a shofar sound) three
times with reference to blowing the shofar. Each truah is known to be
preceded and followed by a straight sound called teki'ah.
Hence, a person is obligated to hear on Rosh Hashanah at least nine shofar-sounds:
'tekiah'truah-tekiah, tekiah-truah-tekiah, tekiah-truah-tekiah.'
Our sages have ruled that after long years of exile, we can no longer
be certain how the truah is sounded: whether it is a staccato sobbing
sound or a burst of groans; or is it a combination of both groaning and
sobbing tones which is called truah. Therefore, we sound all of these
shofar tones, and call the sobbing sound 'truah' and the groaning
Therefore, the order of the shofar-sounding is: The man who sounds the
shofar utters the blessing and sounds a tekiah, then a shvarim-truah and
finally a tekiah. He repeats the same order 3 times, thereby sounding
12 sounds: 3 times shvarim-truah - hence 6 sounds, 3 tekiot preceding
the shvarim-truah sounds and 3 tekiot following - a total of 12 sounds.
He then sounds tekiah-shvarim-tekiah 3 times - a total of 9 sounds. He
concludes with the sounding of tekiah-truah-tekiah 3 times, also a total
of 9 sounds.
The total number of shofar sounds (thus far) are 30 - with all the doubts
concerning the three possible definitions of truah resolved. These thirty
shofar notes are first sounded after the Torah-Reading and before the
Musaf prayer. They are called tekiot-meyushav. It is customary,
but not obligatory, for all to stand. Hearing these 30 sounds fulfills
one's obligation to hear the shofar on Rosh HaShanah.
Later, when the congregation stands during the Musaf prayer, another
30 notes are sounded - 10 after each of the 3 central blessings of the
silent Musaf prayer: mal-chuyot, zichronot and shofrot.
These blasts are called tekiot-meumad, since the entire congregation
is then obliged to stand.
Then, during the cantor's repetition of the Musaf prayer, yet another
30 notes are sounded - 10 after each of the 3 central blessings. During
kaddish after Musaf, before the phrase beginning titkabel,
another 10 sounds are blown. The grand total is thus 100 sounds of the
(Many Sephardic communities add another long tekiah blast in order to
total 101 sounds: the numerical value of Mikhael, the chief angel;
some Chassidic communities sound an extra cycle of 30 sounds at the conclusion
of the prayers, "To confuse the Accuser.)
"Out with the old year and its curses!
with the new year and its blessings!"
Tova tikateiv v'tihateim
YOU BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED
FOR A GOOD AND SWEET
OF HAPPINESS AND GROWTH!
Last year's Rosh haShanah