יהי רצון מלפניך…שתחדש עלינו שנה טובה ומתוקה
May it be Your will… that You renew for us a good and a sweet year.
One of the most widespread customs associated with the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of consuming various food items – e.g. carrots, leeks, beets, dates, pomegranates, head of a fish – for a good omen. Intending to serve as a source of merit for our upcoming year, we hope that we will be blessed with a new year filled with prosperity, success and productivity.
Of the many foods eaten, arguably so, the apple and honey serve as one of the main highlights. Taking an apple and dipping it into honey, we wish that the year we are about to embark upon be full of sweetness.
Yet, this is not the only instance in which honey plays a significant role in Judaism. In praise of the Land of Israel, the Torah tells us that it is a “Land flowing with milk and honey” (Shemot 13:5). Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between the nature of honey mentioned in this verse and that which we use on the night of Rosh Hashanah. As explained by Chazal (Ketubot 111b), the honey referred to in this Pasuk is that of date’s honey. And as common custom has it, the honey used to dip our apple in on the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of a bee. Yet why is that so? Why in fact do we not use date’s honey and instead resort to bee’s honey?
As any keen observer would quite quickly notice, the manner in which honey is obtained from a date and a bee are strikingly different. When a date is crushed, its honey easily and smoothly flows straight out. Little more is necessary to attain the desired honey from within the date. It is in this respect that Eretz Yisrael is praised as a land flowing with honey. When the Jewish people abide by the Torah, the Land produces an overabundance of blessings, including sweet honey, which is easily obtainable and accessible by all.
But such is not the case with bee’s honey. Aside from the difficult process which the bee undergoes in producing the honey, the concerted effort needed to procure the honey subsequently is not so simple and easy a task. Needing to contend with the bees and circumvent their stinging efforts used to protect themselves and their honey, only after much labor can one anticipate returning with anything.
Yet that is the very point. Our definition of a sweet new year is a year of effort and accomplishment, of labor and fulfillment. We are not simply looking to enjoy an easy year where we do not work and feel any sense of achievement. Quite to the contrary, we recognize that by exerting ourselves to confront challenging situations and overcome them, we will attain the sweetest life possible.
Such is the message of the bee’s honey. A sweet year is a year of fulfillment, of attainment and of satisfaction. Yet we understand that such sweet feelings are only a byproduct of hard work and much effort. And that is best represented by the bee’s honey. If we wish to enjoy such sweetness, there is no better place to look for it than the beehive.
by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman
וצונו לשמוע קול שופר
… And has commanded us to hear the sound of the Shofar (Blessing over Shofar Blowing)
As a young man was once driving down the highway and looking forward to a wonderful day ahead of himself, there was one problem: traffic was heavy. Figuring that he would make best use of his time by listening to a Torah lecture as he drove, he inserted a CD of a lecture into his car radio.
No more than a few minutes went by until he heard the sounds of a siren. Looking down at his speedometer, his heart fluttered. Had he been speeding all along and not noticed? He didn’t think so. Without giving the matter any further thought, he pulled over to the side of the highway expecting a police car to soon pull up behind him.
After a few moments and still no sight of an officer, he looked behind himself. There was neither car nor any person there. And then he heard the siren again. Slowly looking in all directions, he tried to pinpoint where the sound was emanating from. And then it hit him. Listening closely to the CD player in his car, he heard the sound of a siren. The noises were coming not from outside his car, but inside his car. As the lecturer was speaking, an ambulance or police officer must have driven by and the recording picked up the sound. Breathing in a sigh of relief, he was happy that he was spared an expensive ticket.
Looking back over his shoulder, he made his way back onto the highway and joined the traffic. Now traffic was very heavy. Bumper to bumper, he was barely moving. Wondering if something had happened during those few minutes he pulled aside, he began looking for the source of the traffic. And then he saw. An accident had taken place, whereby a large truck had collided with the car driving right next to it.
Now, while most people who drove by gave the accident one look and moved along, this man was shocked. Thinking to himself, he remembered that before he had pulled over to the side of the highway, a large truck was driving right next to him. And now before his very own eyes, that same large truck collided with the car beside it. Had it not been for the false siren sounding from his car earlier and delaying him, perhaps he now would have needed a real siren himself.
As we enter the days of Rosh Hashanah, the sound of the Shofar rings in our ears. It is a call for us to awaken and examine our own lives. While it may seem that such sounds reminding us to change are an inconvenience, in truth, they are what will ensure us another year of life. It is through hearing the call of the siren and Shofar that we will be able to momentarily pull over to the side of the road in our lives and reinvent the wheel that will steer us in the right direction.
The shul youth group was trying to raise money to travel to a special Shabbaton so they decided to put on a charity car wash.
They made a large sign that read:
CAR WASH FOR KIDS TRIP
On the scheduled Sunday, business was very good. But, by two o’clock the sky clouded, the rain poured, and there were hardly any customers. Finally, one of the kids had an idea.
He printed a very large poster with the words:
WE WASH. GOD RINSES. (Next to the words was an arrow pointing skyward.)
They made enough money for Shabbatons for the next few years!
1st Aliya: Moshe begins by describing the presence of Hashem in nature as being as evident as the rain or dew that nourish the fields and gardens. G-d is entirely just, always good, always compassionate and forgiving. Therefore, all destruction and negativity must be ascribed directly to the ill fated decisions and actions of His children.
2nd Aliya: The Jew must always remember that he was chosen from among all other nations to be nurtured by the direct ministrations of the Creator. We were born in a “desolate, howling, wasteland” and protected till we were able to assume responsibility for our unique relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.
3rd Aliya: Unfortunately, humankind’s tendency is to forget the degree of their dependency upon Hashem and to create the illusion of self sufficiency and independence. “Yeshurun thus became fat and rebelled…”
4th Aliya: We will then be punished with exile and persecution. Chased from our land and sold into slavery, the Chosen People will experience what it means to be independent of Hashem’s direct protection and benevolence.
5th Aliya: However, the other nations will fail in the very same manner that we did. They will assume that their ability to enslave the Chosen People and ravage Israel is proof of G-d’s impotence and their own prowess and strength. Therefore, they will be punished and destroyed and the Chosen People will again recognize Hashem’s primacy and control.
6th Aliya: Moshe’s song ends with the Jewish people singing forth their acceptance and understanding of divine purpose and justice.
7th Aliya: Moshe presents the entire “song” to the nation and reemphasizes that the condition for keeping the Land is adherence to Torah and serving Hashem.
Parroting Your Messages
A non-observant Jew was once walking down the streets of Israel when he came across a lost parrot. Apparently, it had flown away from its owner and landed helplessly on the street. And so, caring about the survival and life of the parrot, the irreligious Jew brought it home.
Days passed by for the parrot in his new cage in a new home. Finally, Friday night arrived. For this individual, though, Shabbat was no different than any other day of the week. At least he thought so. That was soon going to come to an end.
Shabbat Shalom! Shabbat Shalom! The parrot began wishing his newly found owner Shabbat Shalom!And again Shabbat Shalom! He couldn’t get enough of it. The entire Shabbat, all that could be heard out of the parrot’s mouth were these two resounding words: Shabbat Shalom!
The man got the message. He himself was to begin wishing others Shabbat Shalom! And in fact, he began his journey back to Yiddishkeit, returning to his roots. For all of us as well, we would be wise to listen to those messages which come our way. They may not always be as overt as a talking parrot, but then again, you never know.
Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi
Having successfully established and run an electric company for a number of years, the owner eventually grew old and intended on retiring. Looking to sell the company, a friend of mine wished to buy it. He was relatively young, yet was ambitious and determined to make a successful life for himself. But there was only one problem: where would he get the credit to make such a large purchase? Applying to one bank after another, each one promptly rejected him. His hopes looked quite dismal, but he was not ready to give up.
After spending tireless hours attempting to find a bank which would agree to lend him the money, he finally found the one. But that was only after twenty-seven banks had previously refused him. It was only on the twenty-eighth attempt that a bank complied.
Going through with buying the electric company, he went on to achieve tremendous success. Close to a billion dollars of revenue were brought in for the company. While accomplishing such a feat was surely remarkable, there was something else that impressed me even more.
As I one day entered his office, I was in for a surprise. His office walls were not simply graced with tasteful and elegant design; there was something more to them. Hanging behind his desk were the twenty-seven refusal letters he had received from all the banks he had applied to, yet was rejected.
“Let me tell you something,” he said to me. “If I would have given up after the first few tries, I probably would be working for another person running this company. But my failures never deterred me. And in truth, the failures themselves brought me to achieve this success. After every fruitless attempt in applying to a bank, I learned what I could do to improve and be better equipped for my next try. And in that respect, those twenty-seven failures were in reality my greatest successes.”
The wise words of this man speak for themselves. We should never be deterred by our past failures and letdowns. Quite to the contrary, they are what build us and prepare the way for our greatest and most treasured triumph.