by Rabbi Dovid Green
This week's parsha contains a declaration which deserves our attention.
After a Jew has given all of the tithes and various gifts which he is
obligated to give from his crops, he is directed to make a seemingly
haughty and demanding declaration. "I didn't transgress Your commandments,
and I didn’t forget. Look from your heavenly abode and bless Your people
Israel and the land which You gave to us." We direct our attention to the
choice of words which the Torah chooses for the text of the declaration.
(Hashkifa) "Look!" The great commentator Rashi, writes that the word
"hashkifa" (look) is only used in connection with G-d looking down with
intention to punish evildoers. The only exception is in our passage, where
we beseech G-d to "look" down and bless us. What is the reason for the
exception? Rashi quotes the Talmud which states that giving the obligatory
gifts from our income changes G-d's anger to mercy. Since we have completed
the tithing and distribution, we are capable of changing divine wrath to
Rav Schwab points out that the same purpose would have been accomplished if
we would just ask directly for G-d's kindness. Why must we use a word which
is usually used in connection with something negative? We should just ask
for something positive using a positive expression. Rav Schwab answers that
the answer lies in understanding the text. The declaration we make is
prescribed by the Torah, word for word. "I didn't transgress your
commandments, and I didn't forget." Such a broad statement raises a few
eyebrows. Not one transgression? I would like to meet such a person. Such a
statement needs to be proven. The declarer knows that he would not make
such a statement had it not been specified by the Torah. Hence he knows
that on further examination of his spiritual account book he just might
deserve the kind of "look" which is reserved for the negative. That is why
the Torah chooses that expression. It recognizes our own knowledge of our
Nevertheless, we see from here that we have the capability to change G-d's
"looks" from negative to positive. This is especially pertinent at this
time of year when the day approaches that G-d judges the world. Rosh
HaShana is the anniversary of G-d's creation of man. Each year He sets into
motion the events and circumstances which the world needs in order to bring
to fruition G-d's ultimate plan for the creation. Each year is a separate
and unique unit in the process which brings out the ultimate goal of the
creation. Every creature is a unique agent in carrying out that goal.
Mankind is the only creature with the choice to willingly join in bringing
about that goal, or ignoring his role in it. Despite a person's choice, he
is always an agent in bringing out the goal, albeit in an unfavorable
capacity. Take Pharaoh, for instance, who denied G-d's sovereignty, but
despite his stubbornness, he was still the agent through whom G-d revealed
Himself in such tremendous proportions.
On Rosh HaShana, G-d looks at us individually and collectively. In what way
did we as individuals work to bring the world closer to its goal? In what
way did we do so as a nation? In what way did every country contribute?
Based on the information which our past actions provide G-d with, we are
given the new tools and circumstances with which to attain the goals of the
new year. The new circumstances may manifest themselves in winning the
lottery, or the opposite. They may involve health, children, happiness,
sandness, pain, and pleasure.
The month of Elul preceding Rosh HaShana is traditionally a time of
introspection and honest self examination. It is a time to take inventory
of the good and bad in us, and think about who we would like to be next
year at this time. G-d takes our seriousness and commitment into account in
His decision-making process. G-d knows just as we do that we cannot change
all at once if we want our changes to be lasting ones. He, however,
examines our level of commitment to improve.
There are three things which cause G-d to "look" as us mercifully and even
change harsh decrees to kind ones. Firstly, regret of wrongdoing and a
commitment to improve. Secondly, sincere prayer. The third is charity.
These are the things which paint us in a different picture and make us
worthy of a blessed year to come. May we all take advantage of the great
opportunity which we have in the weeks ahead, and may we all merit to be
written and sealed for a good and sweet new year.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.