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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Essence of Rosh Hashana

The High (Quality) Holidays

We are in an hour of war. An hour in which the Almighty is very close to us. Those who reside in the Land of Israel, and who find themselves on the front line of the battle, are all messengers of God, faithfully carrying out His wishes.
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This year, like every year, opened with the Days of Awe. Yet, this year, unlike other years, has seen a continuation of the "Days of Awe" far beyond the month of Tishrei. Indeed, the Days of Awe are unequalled in quality; one is capable of affecting great changes during this period - changes which it is difficult or even impossible to make during the rest of the year. These days have special power - these "Days of Awe" throughout the year - like the power they have in the month of Tishrei. They have the power to bring one closer to the Almighty: "God is close to all those who call him, to all those who truly call out to him." And God hears and helps more during such periods than at other times, in all of our struggles and efforts, until the words of the verse, "Return to me and I will return to you" are fulfilled.
These days of conflict with our Arab enemies are like Days of Awe. Amidst the winds of war, and from out of their midst, many things are bound to change - both particulars and general matters. Great upheavals are taking place inside of the nation.

God has granted us the privilege in the course of the past year to take part in another great chapter in the ongoing odyssey of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. In light of the writings of the prophets of Israel the phenomenon of war after the ingathering of the exiles in and of itself comes as no surprise. Many chapters of the book of Psalms are interpreted as relating to the period prior to the advent of the Messiah, the period in which God will reveal Himself and perform justice between the Jews and the nations of the world. Our sages also write at length about the existence of Messianic "birth pangs" and wars.

This confrontation which God has brought upon us appears to be a difficult one indeed. Yet we are well aware that such crises are meant only to give expression to new, previously latent strengths in the nation - the sort of strengths that don’t find expression at all unless there are testing times. All agree that much has been accomplished in Israel’s first fifty years. But now we are being called upon to climb to a new level. We must breath new spirit into all of the existing national frameworks. And only if we possess great faith will our goal , our holy task, be achieved.

We are today in the midst of the seventh year - the "Shmittah" sabbatical year, concerning which the Torah states, "And the seventh year will be a sabbatical year for the land, a Sabbath for God." All who love and are dedicated heart and soul to the land of Israel, have been able during this past year to sense with even grater force the special nature of this year, the focus of which is - like the weekly Sabbath itself - one of coming close to the Creator.

We are in an hour of war. An hour in which the Almighty is very close to us. He resides within the very intimate midst of the Jewish encampment. Like when the Ark of the Covenant would go before the Jewish people in war, announcing the existence of the Divine Presence in Israel. Soldiers in action on the front line merit experiencing a special closeness to God and incredible Divine protection. "For God dwells in the midst of your camp in order to save you and to place your enemies before you, and your camp will be holy. Indeed, in those moments when God is close to us, we are called upon to be especially worthy, exceptional people, and to behave as if we are in God’s presence.

The main traits that are strengthened at a time of war are those of faith and trust. Faith means a willingness to follow God at any price. The one who stays at the front, refusing to retreat possesses superior faith, for he is willing to pay the necessary price. Trust in God is seen most clearly upon the face of one who possesses this trait and who knows with deep inner certainty that his destiny is not in the hands of others, but rests in the hands of the Almighty alone.

Those who reside in the Land of Israel, who find themselves on the front line of the battle, are all messengers of God, faithfully carrying out His desires. As a result, our faith grows daily. With every day that passes and finds us remaining at the front rather than retreating, we gain more and more faith.

At the same time, our quality of trust also grows and becomes more refined. The Sages, in the Talmudic tractate of Sotah, when describing the period prior to the advent of the coming of the Messiah, close with the declaration, "We have nobody to rely upon except for our Father in Heaven." This statement in no way implies a lack of choice. Rather, our Sages understood, via Divine inspiration, that in the final stages of redemption everything will be elevated to a level of unbending providence, and that under such circumstances the most reliable support to lean upon will be the Almighty himself - "Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob - whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:6, JPS Holy Scriptures)

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