Audio Roundup 2020:41

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by Joel Rich

Rosh Hashanah has been difficult for me for a long time. Rosh Hashana is both a Yom Din and a coronation night(malchiyot). F Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” So how can we experience the pure joy of a coronation at the same time that we feel the dread of judgement day?

But now I realize that I had really heard the answer many decades ago from Rav Nissan Alpert ZT”L. Everyone questions why on Pesach there is no blessing over saying the Haggadah, after all we are completing the mitzvah of sippur yetziat mitzrayim. Rav Alpert explained that we need to consider the text of a bracha which is usually of the form, “elokeinu MELECH haolam, asher kidshanu bmitzvotav VTZIVANU”. This text implies that before there can be a commandment, there must be an accepted commander. Since on Pesach we are re-experiencing the exodus in which we accepted the commander, we cannot say a blessing before such an acceptance.

I think this applies on Rosh Hashanah as well. It is the very act of accepting HKB”H as our king that engenders the fear of the Yom Hadin exist. If we don’t perceive authority, we have no reason to fear. It’s only once we accept that authority that we can experience our responsibility to that authority. Thus both feelings are caused by the same acceptance. We are thrilled by the ein od mlvado nature of our unique relationship with HKB”H even at the same time as we feel the weight of our assumed responsibility.


I found a fascinating statement by R’Avraham Ben HaRambam in “Hamaspik l’ovdei Hashem” chapter 30 (al shar brachot).
It sounds very much to me like R’YBS on maaseh/kiyum.

[עמ’ 83.] הנראות, כפי שאמרנו, וסיבת זאת – שתי משמעויות גדולות: האחת, שיש שהאדם עושה מצוה באחד מאיבריו כשדעתו מוסחת או מוטרדת והוא יוצא ידי חובת הצורה החיצונית של המצוה בגלל מה שנכלל בהלכה – “מצוות אינן צריכות כוונה”,11 פסחים קיד ע”ב. אולם אין הוא משיג את תכליתה ההלכתית וזאת כמי שלובש טלית שיש בה ציצית כדי להתחמם בה מקור הרוח או כדי להתגונן בה מפני חום השמש הריהו בלא ספק יוצא ידי חובת הצורה החיצונית של המצוה, משום שטליתו מצויצת, אולם אין הוא משיג את התכלית שהתורה התכוונה אליה והיא: “וזכרתם וכו’ ולא תתורו וכו’ והייתם קדשים וכו’


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About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.

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