Torah Fax

Friday, September 10, 2004 - 24 Elul, 5764

Torah Reading: Nitzavim-VaYelech (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:54 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:53 PM

The Prosecution Rests 

TDuring this busy time before the High Holidays we try to increase in many aspects of our Jewish life - extra Tzadakah is given, Psalms are said as well as Selichot, Penitential prayers and we generally add in kindness and good deeds. Yet, oddly enough, there is one ritual, normally done each day during the month of Elul, which is skipped on - of all days - the day immediately preceding Rosh HaShannah. Each day during the month of Elul, we blow the Shofar after the morning prayers. Though these Shofar blasts are only customary, they are in preparation for the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh HaShannah, which is a Torah obligation. And yet, specifically on the day before Rosh HaShannah, Jewish Law tells us that this preparatory Shofar blowing should be skipped. The only thing more peculiar than that ruling is the reason given for it: the Shofar is not blown in order to "confound the Satan." Simply put, if we don't blow the Shofar, the Satan will think that we have finished with the Shofar for the year, that somehow Rosh HaShannah has already passed, and he will therefore neglect to appear in the heavenly court on the New Year and act as the accusing angel - guaranteeing that the Jews will be inscribed for a sweet New Year.

(Incidentally, there are actually a number of things done during this season for the purpose of confounding the Satan. One example: Birkat HaChodesh, the Blessing of the New Month, is a prayer recited on the last Shabbat of each month in which we pray for success and happiness in the coming month. Nonetheless, Jewish Law rules that Birkat HaChodesh should be omitted on this Shabbat, which not only precedes the new month, but also the New Year. Again, the reason given is the same: to confound the Satan.)

A word about Satan: Satan, Jewish tradition (as opposed to non-Jewish tradition…) tells us, is the Biblical term for one of G‑d's holy angels who has the sad job of "balancing the playing field." He is the accusing angel who tries to present arguments against G‑d's doing anything positive for humanity. During the High Holiday season, it is this angel who argues against granting us a sweet and healthy New Year, G‑d forbid. Interestingly, it is taught that since Satan is an angel, he understands that G‑d wants us to have a sweet year, full of blessing, which will enable us to fulfill as many Mitzvahs as possible. Nonetheless, it is also G‑d's will that there should be discussion and debate in Heaven about such divine decrees, and Satan, much like the court appointed lawyer who has to argue in defense of a reprehensible criminal, must unwillingly argue against the best interests of the Jewish people.

But can such a simple ploy trick an angel of G‑d? Can't Satan look at a calendar and see when Rosh HaShannah will be? Even if this ploy worked once, can't we assume that after a few years Satan became wise to our tricks and won't fall for the deception again?

Chassidic thought puts this seemingly less-than-profound discussion in its proper light. Maimonides writes that the Shofar is supposed to act as a wake up call. "Awake you slumberers from your deep sleep," he writes, "and shake off the follies of your day to day life. Take to heart what is truly important in life and turn sincerely to G‑d." This message, conveyed the Shofar, actually encapsulates the entire theme of the day of Rosh HaShannah - by shaking off the "follies of our life" and turning to G‑d, we can merit to be inscribed in the Book of Life and have a good and sweet year.

Now when Jewish tradition established the custom of starting to blow the Shofar a full 30 days in advance of Rosh HaShannah, from the beginning of the month of Elul, the idea was to get a "head start on the Holiday." By hearing the holy and awesome blasts of the Shofar throughout Elul, the intent is that we should be inspired to turn to G‑d and grow to a whole new level - even before the onset of Rosh HaShannah. Thus, when we skip the blowing of the Shofar on the eve of the New Year, we are in effect saying that we don't need the inspiration of the Shofar to awaken us to Teshuvah and repentance. After a full month of hearing the Shofar we have sufficiently developed to the point that we are have truly reached a high level of Teshuvah. Omitting the Shofar on that day is not a ploy to trick the Satan but a sincere statement that reflects the great spiritual growth we have experienced during Elul. This reality, which Satan is well aware of, is indeed confounding to him. How can he claim before G‑d that we are not deserving of a sweet New Year when he knows that, by virtue of the fact that we didn't blow the Shofar on the eve of Rosh HaShannah, we have grown in our service of G‑d by leaps and bounds? Satan knows full well that Rosh HaShannah will soon be here, but he also knows that he has no argument to make in the heavenly court. He has indeed been confounded.

Let us hope that we merit to hear the "blowing of the great Shofar" announcing the arrival of Moshiach. At that time, all evil will be eradicated and Satan will be confounded forever.  
       
Moshiach Matters

Though the Jewish people have experienced much crying in their history, be it crying of sadness, bitterness or pain, when Moshiach comes this will be reversed by a good, positive cry - as Jeremiah writes (31:8), “With crying they shall come.” The revelation of Moshiach will be so exciting, people will cry tears of joy and exuberance. (The Rebbe, Sefer HaMa’amorim MeLukat IV, p. 351)

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

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