Rosh Hashana 5784

Holiday #1 (332)
Rosh HaShanah 5784 Sept 15-17
From the Ari of Safed From the Zohar From the Rebbes of Chabad Some Laws & Customs
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From the Holy Ari of Safed


The 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 Rebbes of Chabad


The sound of the shofar is called a "teruah" (as in the scriptural statement "a day of teruah will be for you"). Teruah has two interpretations. The first is "pounding and shattering," as in "break them ('tero'eim') with a rod of iron." In spiritual service this represents shattering and nullifying the ego and sense of self, i.e., repentance from the depths of the heart.

The second is "affection and friendship," as in "and the friendship (veteruot) of the King is with him." The commandment to blow the shofar, whose theme is repentance, expresses G-d's great affection for us. For repentance provides a correction for even a person who consciously sinned, unheedful of the consequences. In this G-d shows His essential love for the Jewish people, like a father whose essential bond with an estranged son will lead him to search intensely for stratagems to recreate the former closeness between them. The wording of the commandment, "to hear the sound of the shofar," indicates that blowing alone is not sufficient. One must hear--i.e., hearken to--these two spiritual concepts.

(From Sefer Ham'amarim Kuntreisim, vol. 1, p. 124 - as printed in "Days of Awe, Days of Joy".)

From the Zohar (p.226b)


On Rosh Hashanah the whole world passes in front of Him and each person is judged according to his actions. We have learnt that Rosh Hashanah is the New Year for the king, and who is the king associated with New Year? It is Yitzchak (Gevurah) who is call "Head" because he is one of the heads of the King - in the place called Year.

(Yitzchak on the left side of the tree of the sephirot, represents the sphira-attribute of gevura or "fear/awe", and is elevated from the lower level of Zeir Anpin - the emotions - to consciousness as Binah/ understanding. The other "head" of the seven emotional attributes, on the right side of the tree, Chesed is elevated to consciousness as the sphira of Chochma - wisdom. The elevation of awe to understanding the implications of being before the King in judgement takes place at the time specifically appropriate for that, namely New Year).

Because judgement, which is from the side of Yitzchak, reigns at Rosh Hashanah, it is the time when all people are judged. Each receives their deserved portion (thus setting the pattern for the whole year to come because the interactions over the course of the year will result in each receiving reward or punishment as has been decided on Rosh Hashanah). On the festival of Succoth the world is judged in regard to water (associated with the sphira of Chesed). This is the beginning of the expression of the right side of the King, and is the reason why the joy of blessing of water is felt by all who have been judged favorably. At the time when the water offering was made on the altar in the Temple this joy was pervasive because water symbolizes chesed, the kindness of being forgiven.

There are four specific times the world is judged. Rabbi Yossi said that when you think about these times they could all be summed up in the symbolism associated with the names Avraham, Yitzchak, Jacob and King David. These represent the four times people receive judgement, on the days when the four sephirot represented by those names (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet and Malchut) reign in the world - namely Succoth, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach and Shavuoth. Every single day the books are open and all of the deeds of mankind are recorded but no one is conscious of this and none bend their inner ear to listen to the lessons each day brings. The Torah gives evidence every day and her voice calls out strongly, "Whoever is susceptible to temptation let him study me, whoever is lacking the ability to meditate in his heart about reward and punishment, Torah and mitzvot, study me!" (Prov. 9:3). But no one is aware enough to pay attention to the voice of the announcer.

(Translated by Simcha Triester, Ascent of Safed)

Some Laws and Customs


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 sound 'shvarim.'

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 shofar.

(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!

In with the new year and its blessings!"

L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim




The ASCENT staff


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