Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Essence of Rosh Hashana
To dedicate this lesson

Big Pockets and a Little Faith


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 28 5780
"And so ends the year and it’s tragedies; let the New Year and it’s blessings begin!"

This famous phrase, while it can apply to virtually every year, certainly seems most apropos for this year of 5780 that now is coming to its conclusion. For months and months, we have been virtually trapped inside our homes and inside our borders by an invisible yet deadly enemy (for those who are "G-d-challenged" and prone to proclaim, "I only believe in things I can see with my own two eyes!" what do you say now, in the face of Corona?!).

And now, we are facing a "traumatic Tishrei" filled with confusion, contraction and chaotic restrictions, and so we wonder, "How will we get through it? How will we win our atonement in the first 10 days, and then celebrate '’Z’man Simchatenu' - the time of our unabridged happiness over Sukkot - in the last 10 days?"

Well, the first piece of advice is remembering that Hashem is, above all, a "Shomeya Tefila;" He hears prayer wherever they are said, and in whatever form they take. Remember the story of the uneducated Jew who repeats the Alef-Bet over and over, then looks up to Heaven and says, "G-d; I don’t know the prayers as others do. So please take my letters and You arrange them in the proper order." Could there be a better Tefila than this?!

But there is another strategy as well. In Ta’alat Zu, one of the Rosh Hashana piyutim that undoubtedly will be excised this year in the interest of brevity and safety, we are told that Hashem taught us an eternal formula for forgiveness. He instructed us that even when we ourselves might not be worthy of redemption, we certainly are related to those who are. And, as we Israelis know all too well, you don’t need protekzia as long as you know the right people!

And so He advised us, "mention the 10 Tests of Avraham, who was saved every time, because he never lost His faith in me. Remember Yitzchak, who - at 37 years old – saw what was coming at the Akeida yet did not buckle or bolt. If you don’t manage to say all the 9 blessings of the Musaf? Then just have in mind Chana, who never lost hope and whose prayer mentions G-d’s name 9 times. And the 10 verses cited in the Zichronot – these bring to memory the ten-fold bracha received by Yaakov, who surely did not have an easy life. And do not forget that Rachel’s prayer - fulfilled in our own time - to return the Jewish People from Exile to Eretz Yisrael, fell upon receptive ears, because she put others before herself. Just mention their names and I will credit you!"

These are our "silent partners" who eternally underwrite our efforts - and they have big pockets.

We Jews have a unique ability to face adversity and overcome any challenge, no matter how daunting. We aren’t prophets, and none of us know why this pandemic has been sent our way, nor are we sure just when it will end. But what we do know is that we have the DNA ("Daven Now & Always") to stay strong and plead our case before the Almighty. May He hear us, cheer us and clear us of our misdeeds.

T’hay Sh'nat P’la'im, Amen – May it be a year of wonders, amen. Shana Tova to all.
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