Are We A Role Model for the World?
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky
1. Why Have We Not Succeeded at Being a Role Model for the World?
The Torah states, "Is it to Hashem that you do this, O vile and unwise
people? Is He not your Father, your Master? Has He not created you and
firmed you?" The Targum Onkeles explains that the wisdom of the Jewish
people is the Torah because it is Hashem's Wisdom and the only prescription
for their spiritual development. Yet they are not wise because they do not
appreciate nor adhere to it. The Midrash refers to the Torah itself as a
"Chemda Ganuza a Hidden Treasure," that preceded existence for more than
900 generations. Hashem gave it to the Klal Yisroel because they descend
from the Patriarchs and have great spiritual potential. However, possessing
something of such special value and not using it is the ultimate in
On the Festivals we recite in the Amidah (Silent Prayer), "You (Hashem)
have chosen us from all the peoples; You loved us and found favor in us;
You exalted us above all the tongues and You sanctified us with Your
Commandments." Directly following this we recite, "Our G-d and G-d of our
Forefathers, may they rise, come, reach, be noted, be favored, be heard, be
considered, and remembered the remembrance and consideration of
ourselves.(the yaaleh v'yavo)." Why does this verse follow the one that
describes Hashem's reasons for choosing us to be His people through the
giving of the Torah?
The Yisod V'Shoresh HaAvodah asks if because of His love and desire for us
Hashem chose the Jewish people to be His Nation, elevated us above all the
other nations of the world and sanctified us through His Mitzvos then how
could we have failed to such a degree? After Hashem put the Jews on such a
lofty pedestal through the Sinai experience how could we have justified not
adhering to His Torah? Since we are culpable to this degree for our lack
of appreciation and insensitivity for the mitzvos, we beseech Hashem to
remember all the merits pertaining to Klal Yisroel as far back as the
merits of the Patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov).
Sforno explains that the Jewish people were meant to be the role model for
the nations of the world through our dedication to Hashem; however, we
failed in that capacity by initially worshipping the Golden Calf (Agle
HaZahav). We diminished our own ability to function in this way.
It is interesting to note that until the onset of Christianity the concept
of moral and ethical behavior did not exist in the non-Jewish world. The
non-Jew was a barbarian and predator with no understanding of chesed
(kindness) or compassion. It is only after Christianity culled from the
Torah the elements of humanism and disseminated it to the masses did they
have a semblance of moral and ethical beings. However, the role of the Jew
vis-à-vis the world at large goes beyond being the moral and ethical model.
The Jew's ethical and moral behavior and communal responsibilities are
Divinely Ordained just as all of the other precepts of the
Torah. Observing Shabbos and dietary laws, as well as giving charity to
the poor, are all dictates of the Torah and do not emanate from the Jew's
compassion or his own understanding of what is proper.
The Gemara in Tractate Berachos tells us that if a Jew realizes that he is
wearing shatnes (a combination of wool and linen that is forbidden by the
Torah) he must immediately remove the shatnes garment, even though he will
be naked in a public setting. One may ask how could this be, what about
the issue of human dignity? The only basis for human dignity comes from
following the instructions of the Torah. If the Torah Commands us to
remove our clothing because of the prohibition of wearing shatnes
(regardless of the setting), then this becomes proper behavior. Human
dignity means to live as Hashem wants the human being to live.
The failing of the Jew throughout the ages has been his lack of
appreciation for his heritage. If he would understand the value and the
purpose of his own existence relating to Hashem, he would behave
differently. The ten-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known
as the Ten Days of Penitence, is a time when our prayers are received
immediately (as explained by Rambam in the Laws of Teshuvah). We should
pray for ourselves and for all of Klal Yisroel to have clarity, appreciate
and understand our value to Hashem and re-dedicate ourselves to the Torah.
2. What is the Ultimate Rehabilitative Process of Teshuvah?
The Torah states in the beginning of Sefer Bereishis, "Bereishis bara
Elokeem es ha'shamaiyim v'es ha'aretz: v'ha'aretz hoysa tohu v'vohu
v'choshech al panei tahom v'ruach Elokeem merachefes al panei ha'maiyim In
the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth when the earth
was empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine
Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters." The Midrash explains
that each of the words in this opening verse of the Torah alludes to events
that will take place in the future. Meaning, when G-d created existence,
He preordained that certain events will happen.
The Midrash explains that "v'ha'aretz hoysa tohu - earth was empty," refers
to the Babylonian exile. "Choshech - darkness," refers to the Greek exile;
as the Talmud tells us, "they blackened our eyes with their decrees." "Al
panei tahom- surface of the deep" alludes to the Roman exile, which is
seemingly as endless as the "deep" source of water. (We are still
experiencing the Roman exile after more than 2,000 years.) "V'ruach
Elokeem merachefes al panei ha'maiyim - the Divine Presence hovered upon
the surface of the waters" is ascribed to the spirit of Moshiach who will
come only in the merit of teshuvah (repentance) which is compared to water
(maiyim). As it is stated in Eicha, "Your heart should gush forth water
when you stand before Hashem." Rambam states in Hilchos Teshuvah (The Laws
of Teshuvah) that the confession that one makes during teshuvah must be in
the presence of Hashem. What relevance does teshuvah have to water? Why is
the statement "hovered upon the surface of the waters" an allusion to teshuvah?
Rambam states that if one attempts to do teshuvah but does not totally
sever himself from his sinful past, then his teshuvah process is equivalent
to immersing in a mikvah (ritual pool) for the sake of purification, while
still holding on to a rodent, which is the source of his spiritual
contamination. Rambam is comparing the teshuvah process to the mikvah
itself. However, the verse from Eicha, which is cited by the Midrash, is
indicating that the water itself is not the teshuvah but rather a
consequence of the teshuvah. As it says, "your heart will gush forth water."
If one is spiritually contaminated, he must immerse himself completely in a
mikvah in order to achieve spiritual purity. The Halacha (law) dictates
that if there is as much as one hair of his body that is not under water,
he is not purified. The desired result is only achieved when one totally
dunks himself. How do we understand the purification process of the mikvah?
The Maharal of Prague (in his work on Chanukah) explains that humanity
exists on dry land and not under water; therefore, the latter represents
non-existence. When a person immerses himself in a body of water, in
essence, he enters into a state of non-being. When he emerges, he enters a
state of existence and is considered a "bria chadasha a new being." As
such, whatever contamination he had prior to the immersion, no longer
applies to him.
Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim (Psalms), "A broken and shattered heart
Elokeem (G-d) will not disgrace." Rabbeinu Yona explains in his work
The Gates of Repentance that the teshuvah process only has meaning because
of the Attribute of Mercy (Midas HaRachamim). However, within the context
of Midas HaDin (The attribute of Justice) there is no place for teshuvah.
Dovid revealed to us that if the person is truly broken and shattered, as a
result of the teshuvah process, even Elokeem (the Attribute of Justice)
will not disgrace (reject) this person's teshuvah.
The Torah tells us that an earthenware vessel (after becoming contaminated)
cannot be purified in a mikvah. In order for it to become uncontaminated,
it must be broken or shattered so it loses its function as a vessel. If it
is reassembled, it is considered a new creation that does not have
relevance to the original vessel and therefore it is pure. The same holds
true for a person. If he is broken and remorseful because of his sins and
does teshuvah, he is forgiven because when he is broken he is the
equivalent of the non-existent person. Therefore, after the process of
teshuvah, the individual is a new person. Thus, because the sinner no
longer exists, even the Attribute of Justice cannot prosecute the penitent.
We say in the tefillah of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that we are likened
to a broken shard - "earthenware vessel." We identify with the
purification process of the earthenware vessel because - "A broken heart
Elokeem (G-d) will not disgrace."
We can now understand why the Midrash compares the process of teshuvah with
water. Just as when one immerses into the water, entering into a
non-existent state and he emerges pure, so too does one need to be broken
and remorseful to the point that one's heart gushes forth water (tears) to
indicate that he is totally broken. Thus, the "water" referred to in the
Torah "hovered upon the surface of the waters" is synonymous with the
broken state of man when he is in a process of teshuvah.
3. What is the Significance of the Seventy Root Nations of the World?
The Torah states, "When the Supreme One gave the nations their inheritance,
when He separated the children of man, He set the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the Children of Yisroel. For Hashem's portion
is His people; Yaakov is the measure of His inheritance." Meaning, when
Hashem established the nations of the world, He did so in accordance with
the number of members of Yaakov's family who came to Egypt. The Torah tells
us that the reason there are seventy nations of the world is that there
were seventy individuals of Yaakov's family who descended to Egypt. How do
we understand this?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that when Hashem created Adam (the first
Man), he was created as a spiritually pure being. Because of his purity,
all of his descendents would be spiritually pure. However, there existed a
representation of evil in the world the Tree of Knowledge of Good and
Evil. When Adam ate of the Tree of Knowledge, he lost his pure state
because it became intermingled with Evil. Thus, all of his decedents were
born with an intermingling of Good and Evil. It was not until Yaakov Avinu
(our Patriarch) that spiritual purity was reestablished because he was able
to purge himself completely of the impurity, which was inherited from
Adam. Consequently, Yaakov produced seventy offspring who were endowed
with pure souls. With this explanation, we can understand the Gemara in
Tractate Bava Metzia that tells us that the radiance of Yaakov had a
semblance to the radiance of Adam. Meaning, that Yaakov possessed a purity
that was similar to Adam's original state. On the contrary, the seventy
nations of the world remained spirituality impaired because of the
intermingling of Good and Evil. Because of their make-up, the nations of
the world are diametrically opposed to the existence of Yaakov and his
family who were seventy in number.
We see that by Hashem's design, the Jewish people are meant to be the
counterbalance to the nations of the world. The role of the Jew is to have
a positive influence on the spirituality of the nations of the world and
not to be influenced by them. This is why Hashem created seventy nations to
correspond to the seventy descendents of Yaakov.
Sforno tells us at the beginning of Sefer Shemos (Book of Exodus) that when
the Torah refers to the seventy descendents of Yaakov, it only identifies
Yaakov's children by name and not his other descendents. Sforno explains
that by identifying them by name, the Torah is indicating that each son had
his own unique dimension of spirituality. Although all seventy members of
Yaakov's family were special, they were not on the same level as his twelve
The Maharal in his work Gevuras Hashem explains that the slavery and
bondage in Egypt did not commence to any degree until the passing of Yaakov
Avinu. Because of Yaakov Avinu's great dimension, the Evil influences in
Egypt could not erode the spiritual standing of Yaakov and his family.
However, the moment Yaakov passed away, the bondage in Egypt began to
evolve and was finally implemented when his entire generation passed
away. It was at that time that the impurity of Egypt was able to
spiritually entomb the Jewish people and cause them to lose contact with
their holiness. If Hashem had not taken the Jewish people out of Egypt when
He did, they would have been lost forever.
It is interesting to note that world events seem to revolve around the
Jewish people, despite the fact that we are so few in number. How is it
possible that billions of people take notice of an innocuous number of Jews
(7 billion humans vs. 13 million Jews)? Evidently, the world at large is
pitted against the essence of the Jew. There is a spiritual tug-of war
between the Jewish people and the nations of the world. This is the battle
between Esav and Yaakov.
On September 11 2003, the nation and the world commemorated and
memorialized the tragedy that took place two years ago. How have we, as
Jews, changed as a result of that tragic event? We need to recognize that
Hashem is reminding us that the Jews, who are the spiritual counterbalance
of the world, must fulfill their role in existence. If the Jew is
spiritually strong and steeped in Torah study and mitzvos, then the world
is strengthened. If on the other hand the Jew is not attached to Hashem
and has no interest in his spiritual development, then the world is
unprotected and subject to insecurity through many tragic events. As the
Torah states, Hashem created the nations of the world based on the number
of people in the family of Yaakov, indicating that the Jew is spiritually
the equivalent of all existence.
Hashem sent us a message two years ago that although we live under the
protection of the most powerful nation of the world we are not safe and
secure unless we are close to Him. We could have all the security measures
in the world and we will still not be safe because the only way to gain
security is by adhering to the Will of Hashem. As Dovid HaMelech (King
David) states in Tehillim (Psalms), "If Hashem is your security, then you
have security." Unfortunately, the fact is the world has not significantly
changed since the tragedy of September 11. We find that most people (even
most synagogue goers) believe that the most significant change in the world
since September 11 is that people are a bit more courteous to one another.
Is that the reason that more than 3,000 people died tragically so that
people should be able to say "good morning" with a broader smile to one
another? It is absurd to diminish the significance of this tragedy in this
manner. We as Jews must understand the message that our only safe-haven in this
existence is to become closer to Hashem.
4. G-d Throughout the Ages Has Demonstrated His Love for Us
It says in Selichos, "Do with us as You promised us: "And despite all that
(all of our failings), when they will be in the land of their enemies, I
will not have despised them nor abhorred them to destroy them, to annul My
covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-d." Despite all of the
shortcomings of the Jewish people and the many exiles and tragedies they
have experienced, how did Hashem demonstrate to them that He did not
"despise them nor abhor them"?
The Gemara in Tractate Megillah explains that the meaning of the verse "he
did not despise them" is referring to the Babylonian exile. During this
trying time He sent them Daniel, Chananya, Meshael, and Azarya. Chananya,
Meshael, and Azarya were thrown into the fiery kiln because they would not
bow to the image of Nebuchadnezer (the Babylonian Emperor who destroyed the
First Bais HaMikdash (The Temple)). In addition, Hashem sent them Daniel
who was thrown into the lion's den. Meaning, that Hashem demonstrated that
He did not "despise" the Jewish people because of their sins and he sent
them the gift of special Torah leaders such as Daniel, Chananiya, Meshael,
It continues that He did not "abhor" the Jewish people because He also sent
the Hashmanaim and Mattisyahu, (who were responsible for the miracle of
Chanukah), during the Greek exile. He sent Mordechai and Esther who saved
them from Haman the Wicked who had decreed that every Jewish man, woman and
child should be annihilated (the miracle of Purim). Had it not been for
these special individuals, the Jews would have become completely
assimilated or destroyed.
The Gemara concludes that the meaning of "not to annul His Covenant" is
referring to the Persian exile when Hashem presented the Jewish people with
Reb Yehudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince) who was the redactor of the Oral
Law. The Oral interpretation of the Torah would have been forgotten had it
not been for Judah the Prince compiling it into the Mishnah. We refer to
Judah as, Rabbeinu Ha'Kadosh (Our Holy Rabbi). He is the only person, other
than Moshe, who we call our Rabbi- "Rabbeinu" to indicate his greatness.
Although the Jewish people had many spiritual shortcomings and experienced
many exiles and tragedies, Hashem nevertheless demonstrated His love for us
by providing us with special Torah leadership who gave their respective
generations the necessary understanding of their heritage. If it were not
for these leaders, we would have been assimilated G-d Forbid. Thus
demonstrating - ".I will not have despised them nor abhorred them to
The Gemara states a principle that if one prays for a fellow Jew to have
his need fulfilled, which is identical to his own, Hashem will give
priority to the need of the one who is praying on behalf of his
fellow. Unfortunately, there are more Jews unaffiliated with Judaism than
those who are; and those who are connected can always use an upgrade in
their level of commitment. What do we do for our unaffiliated brethren and
what do we do for ourselves to be able to advance our own Judaism? If a
Jew truly understood who he is and what his heritage is, he would
definitely become involved in Torah study and mitzvah observance. It is
only because of a lack of Jewish education and understanding that Jews
drift away. We must pray that our fellow Jew be given the understanding and
appreciation for our heritage.
The Mishnah in Tractate Sanhedrin tells us that whoever saves the life of a
single Jew it is as if he had saved the entire world. Therefore, if one
saves a Jew spiritually, the value is the equivalent to saving the entire
world and it will impact upon his progeny until the end of time.
5. G-d's Love for the Jewish People
The Torah states that at the end of time the Jewish people will eventually
do teshuvah and return to Hashem. As a result of this, Hashem will bring
forth great blessing to the Jews and He will, ".return to rejoice (l'sus)
over you (the Klal Yisroel) for good, as He rejoiced (sos) over your
forefathers, when you listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d." The Torah
uses the term "sos" to refer to the joy that Hashem will feel at this time.
Why does the Torah use the term "sos" rather than "simcha" or many other
expressions of rejoicing?
Dovid HaMelech (King David) states in Tehillim (Psalms), "I rejoice (sos)
over your words (the Torah) as if I found a large amount of spoils." Dovid
HaMelech could have expressed his joy over the Torah and mitzvos with other
terms, however, he specifically chose this term. The Vilna Gaon z'tl
explains that the word "simcha" indicates joy that is complete, while the
term "sos" denotes a happiness that is incomplete. He explains this
throughthe following parable:
In order for the king to reward his loyal subject for his service, he
allows him to enter into his royal treasury and take whatever his heart
desires but only for a period of five minutes. The subject is joyful and
thankful that he will be allowed to take whatever he wants from the royal
treasury. However, he is also anguished by the time constraint he is given
because he understands the opportunity at hand. Similarly, Dovid HaMelech
rejoiced over the Torah that he was given because he understood its
infinite value. However, at the same time he was distressed by the fact
that he was restricted to seventy years and would not be able to partake of
this treasure beyond that point.
With this explanation we can understand why the Torah uses the term "sos"
to express Hashem's joy and not the term "simcha." Hashem loves the Jewish
people to such a degree that even though so much blessing is bestowed upon
us, He is pained that He could not give us more. Since Hashem is infinite
with no restrictions, He wants to provide us with boundless blessing as
well but because of our own limitations, He is unable to do so.
If Hashem loves the Jews to such a degree that it gives him pain not to be
able to do more for us, then we should understand that when He denies us
His Goodness, it is clearly in our best interest. Now we can somewhat
appreciate the idea that because of Hashem's unending love for us that even
when we experience a set back in life we can understand that it emanates
from His Goodness and not from vindictiveness. If He could give us more, He
would. Therefore, the Mishnah states, "Just as one blesses Hashem for good
fortune, he must bless Him for misfortune." Because of his unlimited love
for the Jewish people, He does only what is good and necessary for us.
Reb Chaim of Volozhin z'tl asks, if punishment and suffering are necessary
as part of the rehabilitative spiritual process (which is only in our best
interest), then why should one pray to Hashem to heal him when he becomes
ill? Does one ask the doctor to withhold a life-saving procedure when the
only road to recovery is through that procedure? If so, then how do we understand the blessing of
the Amidah "Heal us Hashem and allow us to recover"?
Reb Chaim answers that although Hashem brings illness upon a person as part
of the rehabilitation of his spirituality (which is a positive thing),
Hashem is nevertheless affected by the fact that the Jew is in a state of
suffering. It is similar to a parent who needs to assist the doctor when he
performs a painful procedure to his child. The parent is joyful that the
child will recover through this procedure; however, the parent feels the
hurt of his child. Therefore, Reb Chaim explains that if one prays for
healing because he feels Hashem's pain (as a father to a child and even to
a greater degree) then that feeling itself becomes the rehabilitative
process that causes the person to be deserving of recovery. One can only
relate to Hashem's pain (when a Jew is in a state of suffering) if one
understands to what degree Hashem loves the Jewish people.
6. The Capability of Man
The Torah states, "I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against
you: I have placed life and death before you." The Midrash explains that
Moshe is saying to the Klal Yisroel "Heaven and earth were created to
accommodate mankind and that they have never deviated from their function.
Did one ever plant a wheat kernel and have it grow barley? Heaven and earth
are not subject to reward and punishment and yet they do not deviate from
the purpose for which they were created. Therefore Klal Yisroel who is
rewarded for doing good and punished for doing evil, definitely should not
deviate (from the purpose for which they were created)."
Chazal explain that the laws of nature operate in a specific manner because
Hashem chose their functions to help mankind to maximize its purpose, which
is to choose between good and evil. Just as Hashem created heaven and earth
with all the ingredients necessary to help mankind fulfill its purpose, so
too did He create the human being with all the capability to fulfill his
purpose. What is the purpose of man? To serve Hashem - to sublimate and
subordinate the physical to the spiritual, despite one's inclination for
the material. Therefore, man was given the capability to bring about that
The Torah tells us that Hashem provides man with all that is necessary to
fulfill his purpose; and the mechanism that is needed to succeed and
advance spiritually is the Torah itself. Just as the heavy rains pierce
the ground to sustain the tree (though its roots) and just as the dew
continuously covers the vegetation of the earth to bring about blessing and
sustain existence, so too did Hashem give us the Torah which is the
equivalent of both rain and dew to sustain our spirituality.
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the Written Law (Torah Sh'Bichsav)
is equivalent to rain because it is tangible as the rain is visible.
However, the Oral Law (Torah Sh'Bal Peh), which is communicated verbally,
is as unnoticed as the dew when it is falling. Just as Hashem gave rain and
the dew to sustain existence so too did He gave us the Written and Oral Law
to sustain our spiritual existence. Therefore a person cannot say that it
is too difficult to do the Will of Hashem, because He provided us with
whatever is necessary to bring that about.
Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) states, "Im ein Kemach, ein Torah (If
there is no flour, there is no Torah)." Meaning that one cannot study Torah
if he does not have material sustenance; Therefore, Hashem provides
it. Otherwise, one can say that he cannot study Torah because of his
personal circumstance. However the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains this
statement in Pirkei Avos differently "If there is no flour, it is an
indication that there is no Torah." If one toils and does not succeed then
it is an indication that he is not pursuing Torah - because if he were,
then Hashem would provide for him adequately.
We must be cognizant of events that we experience in our lives. These are
indications which give us direction and understanding on whether we are on
the proper path or have gone astray. We need to understand why there are
difficulties and tragedies on a personal and communal level. If Klal
Yisroel is not succeeding spiritually then there is no material
success. However if Klal Yisroel, as a whole, is functioning as a
spiritual entity, then Hashem will provide whatever material success is
needed to accommodate our purpose in existence.
7. Does the Jew Have the Ability to Empower Hashem?
The Torah states, "You have weakened the Rock (referring to Hashem) which
gave birth to you, and forgot G-d who brought you forth." There are a
number of commentators who explain this verse in many ways. The Sforno
explains that the Torah is saying that if the Jew's focus in life is
materialism, then his understanding of Hashem, (The Rock), will become
weakened because he is distracted from his spirituality.
The Zohar tells us that when Hashem informed the angels that He was going
to create man, their response was that man is deficient and not even worth
mentioning because he is prone to fail. Hashem nevertheless created man
and punished the angels who opposed this. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains
that the verse "You have weakened the Rock." is referring to Hashem's
position that man's existence is worthwhile. However, if man fails, then
he weakens Hashem's position in his defense.
Rashi on the other hand explains this verse differently. It is referring
to the fact that Hashem bestows existence with His blessing; however, if
man should fail in the spiritual realm, then Hashem will withhold His
blessing because the Jewish people are not deserving. Therefore, the Torah
is saying, "You have weakened the Rock."
When the meraglim (the spies) returned from scouting out the Land of
Canaan, they reported that they had seen the decedents of the giants and
other untenable situations. They had said that the nations of Canaan "are
stronger than Him." Rashi cites Chazal, who explain that the spies were
actually saying that the tribes of Canaan were even stronger than
Hashem. They believed that Hashem was able to defeat and destroy the
Egyptians, but the Canaanites had thirty-one kingdoms and Hashem did not
have the power to destroy them. How do we understand this? The spies
themselves participated in the Sinai event and prophesized while in an
awake state. After understanding the awesomeness and capability of Hashem,
how is it possible for them to say that He is not able to defeat thirty-one
Based on Rashi's interpretation of the verse "You have weakened the Rock."
we are able to understand what the spies were saying. Hashem's level of
interaction with this existence is based on the Jew's merit. If the Jew
adheres to the Torah and does the Will of Hashem then he is deserving of
His blessing; however, if the Jew fails and is undeserving, then Hashem
withholds His blessing and does not allow the Jew to succeed. Meaning, that
Hashem binds Himself to the principle of "reward and punishment." The spies
believed that the Jews had sufficient merit to be redeemed from the
enslavement of Egypt; however, they believed that they did not have
sufficient merit to allow Hashem to bring about the conquest of thirty-one
kingdoms of Canaan.
Their understanding was that the infrastructure of "reward and
punishment" the principle of being deserving - was put in place by Hashem
to govern existence and was established in a way that even G-d Himself was
not able to override the system. However, this was/is not the
case. Despite one's unworthiness, if Hashem should choose to interact with
existence in a positive manner, then He overrides the system.
The Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash was placed outside of the Holy of Holies,
on the other side of the paroches (curtains) which was the separation
between the Covered Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. The Torah states,
"the Menorah must be placed outside of the paroches." The Midrash explains
that Hashem is actually saying, "You must put the Menorah outside the Holy
of Holies (which is the location of the Divine Presence) so that you should
not mistakenly think that I need your light." The Midrash continues and
says that Moshe asked Hashem, "Why do you want us to kindle the lights of
the Menorah since You are the light of the world?" Hashem responded by
saying," The reason I want you to kindle the light is to elevate you in the
eyes of the nations of the world - that they should see that I do need your
light." It seems that the two statements of Hashem are contradictory. On
one hand Hashem says the Menorah must be placed outside of "My location"
(the Holy of Holies) to indicate that He does not need our light. On the
other hand, His response to Moshe is that in fact He does need our light.
Under normal circumstances the world functions within the context of reward
and punishment. If we succeed spiritually then Hashem bestows blessing on the
world. In other words, our "light" is needed because it determines the
level on which the world functions. However, if we should fail
spiritually, then Hashem's blessing is withdrawn and the world is
diminished. Seemingly, from this one could believe that the Klal Yisroel
empowers Hashem. However, this is not the case because if Hashem chooses to
override the system, He is not limited or bound by any criteria. This is
indicated by the location of where the Menorah is placed: "it must be
outside of the paroches to indicate that I do not need your light. - I am
able to bestow blessing, regardless of your unworthiness."
The Torah tells us that there will be peace in the Land when the Klal
Yisroel will follow the Statutes of Hashem. Is there no peace today
because of the reality of anti-Semitism "Esav sonei l'Yaakov Esav despises
the existence of Yaakov" or is it because the Jewish people are not
adhering to the Dictates of the Torah? If the Jewish people were to follow
the ways of the Torah, then they would strengthen "the Rock"; however, if
we as Jews falter, then He becomes "the Rock that we have weakened".
8. Why is the Jew Held to Such a High Standard - Especially on Rosh Hashanah?
The Mishna in Tractate Rosh Hashanah tells us that a Shofar cannot be made
from the horn of a cow. The Gemara explains this by giving two
reasons. The first reason is that the horn of a cow is referred to as
"keren" and not "Shofar." Secondly, there is a principle "Ein kateigor
naaseh sanheigor - that a prosecutor cannot be an advocate." The horn of
the cow represents the Golden Calf (Chet Ha'Agle) with which the Jews
sinned at Sinai. Anything, which has relevance to the Golden Calf must be
avoided at a time when we are in need of an advocate. The cow or gold
arouses the most serious level of prosecution against the Klal Yisroel.
On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) officiated with two sets
of vestments. He would wear the golden ones when he performed the service
that was not specific to Yom Kippur. When he performed the service that
was particular to Yom Kippur, he wore white vestments. He was not
permitted to wear the golden vestments for the Yom Kippur service because
he had to enter the Holy of Holies (the location of the Shechina the
Divine Presence) to atone for the Klal Yisroel, and if he wore gold, then
he could not function in the capacity of an advocate.
The Gemara asks, since the principle of "a prosecutor cannot be an
advocate" has no relevance outside of the location of the Shechina, then
why can't we utilize the horn of a cow to fulfill our obligation of Shofar
since this mitzvah is also performed outside of the Holy of Holies?
The Gemara answers that when one blows the Shofar it is considered as if he
is standing inside the Holy of Holies. How do we understand this? Rosh
Hashanah is the Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin). The Midas HaDin (the
Attribute of Justice) of G-d is so exacting on this Day that even the
angels in heaven tremble from its awesomeness. Midas HaDin subjects all of
existence to an exact level of scrutiny.
The Second Bais HaMikdash (the Second Temple), which stood for 420 years,
had more than 300 Kohanim Gadolim (High Priests) officiating over this
period. However, the First Bais HaMikdash, which stood for a period of 410
years, had only eleven. The Gemara tells us that if the Kohen Gadol was
not fully spiritually qualified, he would expire immediately when he
entered into the Holy of Holies. This occurred because being so close to
the Shechina (the Divine Presence), if he was not in a perfect state, he
would be subject to Midas HaDin. It is evident from this that when Midas
HaDin is functioning in its most potent form it is an indication of our
close proximity to the Shechina. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah, which is the Yom
HaDin (Day of Judgment), is an indication of how close we are to Hashem.
On one hand, the Judgment of Hashem is awesome and fearful, causing the
angels in heaven to tremble. However, on the other hand, His closeness to
us reveals the degree to which we are valued. Being in such proximity to the Divine
Presence on Rosh Hashanah is the equivalent to standing in the Holy of
Holies. Therefore, we do not fulfill the mitzvah of Shofar with a cow's
horn because the principle of "a prosecutor cannot be an advocate" is in
force, just as it was for the Kohen Gadol; This is unlike Yom Kippur, when
he was the only one permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies.
It is stated that the Shofar should be taken from a ram because it
symbolizes the ultimate submission and sacrifice for Hashem. When Avraham
Avinu (Avraham our Patriarch) was told by Hashem to bring his only son
(Yitzchak) - who he loved - as a sacrifice, he did not hesitate and
immediately embarked on that mission. However, after the binding of
Yitzchak, an angel called from heaven and told him not to slaughter his
son. At that moment Avraham noticed a ram caught in the thicket and
prepared it to be brought as a sacrifice in the place of his son Yitzchak.
As a result, Hashem valued the sacrifice of the ram as if Avraham had
sacrificed his own son. Therefore, the ram's horn symbolizes the most
advanced level of dedication and sacrifice to Hashem.
When Satan, the prosecutor of the Jewish people, begins his prosecution, he
is silenced by the sound of the ram's horn because it is the ultimate
advocate of the Klal Yisroel.
Understanding the gravity of the Day of Judgment, we must also recognize
Hashem's exceptional love for us, which is the basis for the Attribute of
Justice. Despite the awesomeness of the day, the Jew must feel fortunate
that we are in this situation because of His closeness to us.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Kalatsky is the founder of the Yad Avraham Institute, a New York-based learning center whose mission is to disseminate Torah to Jews of all backgrounds and walks of life.