Torah Fax

Friday, September 30, 2005 - 26 Elul, 5765
Torah Reading:  Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20)
Candle Lighting time: 6:21 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:19 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 5 & 6

Heads or Tails?

Rosh Hashanah is not just the beginning of the new year, it is also and primarily the "head" of the year. A head is more than just the highest part of our anatomy; it is also that part of us that houses our intellect and the nerve center of our entire body. Similarly, Rosh Hashanah is the brain and nerve center of the entire year. It is the day that will determine the quality of our life-both physical and spiritual-throughout the year.
But there is also another lesson that we can derive from the fact that Rosh Hashanah is the "head" of the year that relates to the way we should view our own heads.  Indeed, to highlight the importance of the "head" metaphor of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to
eat the head of a fish (or even a ram) on Rosh Hashanah, or, at least to have it on our table, as our way of expressing our desire to "be a head and not a tail."
Translating this custom in terms that are relevant to the average person, the following insight can be offered:
Many of the challenges in life that we are confronted with relate to the way we are influenced by the actions of others. Without realizing it, we follow blindly the fads that have been established by others; mostly people we do not know or respect. But once a
fad becomes entrenched in society, even the most independent minded people follow blindly.
Even many non-conforming rebels of the sixties and seventies joined communities where they would wear the same ripped jeans etc., i.e. total conformity with the non-conformists.
The message of Rosh Hashanah is that we should truly be the heads and not tails. This does not mean that we cannot follow the customs of our community, but we must use discernment as to when we should follow and when we should lead.
To help us in this evaluation, we must refer once again to the head metaphor. Just as there is a head of a body and the head of a year, there is also a head of ideas, values and behaviors.
Torah is the head of all wisdom. The Divine commandments (Mitzvot) are the heads of all behaviors. Goodness and kindness are the heads of all virtues. Righteous people are the true heads of society. And, of course, G‑d is the Head of all existence.
When we have to make choices about matters pertaining to our "heads," G‑d, Torah etc., we have to see to it that we become the heads and guides of others. When dealing with mundane matters-things that are morally and spiritually neutral-then it does not matter whether we follow the crowd or we become pace setters.
This then is the lesson of Rosh Hashanah-The Head of the Year. Be a head, a leader in matters of holiness, in all matters that involve the head.
And the follow up lesson from the designation of this day as the Head of the Year is that we must determine where our head is. In what pursuits to we invest our most important faculty-the mind? If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, then to use our minds for things that ought to be wasted is even more terrible. Is our mind obsessed with material pursuits? Is our mind preoccupied with selfish interests? Is our mind involved with petty squabbles and trivial pursuits? Or is our mind focused on growing spiritually? Does our mind dwell on how we can be selflessly devoted to our families and others? Do we concentrate our minds on how we can better serve G‑d, by studying Torah and observing the Mitzvot?
On Rosh Hashanah we ask ourselves: Where is my head? And am I a head or a tail?
Historically speaking, we are living at the tail end of exile, on the very heels of the Redemption through our righteous Moshiach, who will be our head. An important part of the Rosh Hashanah emphasis on the head is that we plead with G‑d to turn our tail situation into a head situation; that He bring an end to the exile and usher in an age when the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d (Head).
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year;  a year when we will all be heads and not tails!  
Moshiach Matters
At the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, bodies will not be born of a father and mother, but will be vivified from "the Dew of Resurrection." Accordingly, they will be holy and pure, and live eternally. They will resemble the body of Adam, "the handiwork of the Holy One, blessed be He," which was utterly pure and refined. (From a discourse of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn)

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