Although Rosh Hashanah is a yom tov like Pesach, Shavuot and
Sukkot, it is not a "regel" / pilgrimage festival on which Jews
ascended to the Bet Hamikdash. Why?
The purpose of the Shalosh Regalim / Three Pilgrimage Festivals
is to appear before G-d (see Devarim 16:16). On Rosh Hashanah,
however, we need not go to G-d's "house" -- the Bet Hamikdash --
because G-d comes to us. This is alluded to in the verse
(Yishayah 55:6), "Seek Hashem when He can be found; call upon Him
when He is near," which the gemara interprets as a reference to
the Ten Days of Repentance.
The above idea is alluded to in the very name "Rosh Hashanah,"
whose gematria (861) equals that of "Bet Hamikdash." This idea
also explains the custom that the chazzan on Rosh Hashanah stands
at his own seat when he calls out the word "Ha'melech" / "The
King." Rather than immediately going to the lectern, the place
where the chazan usually "meets" Hashem, the chazzan calls Hashem
to come to his (the chazzan's) place.
This also is a reason why sleeping during the day on Rosh
Hashanah is discouraged (see O.C. 583:2). We read in Bereishit
(28:16), "Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely Hashem is
present in this place and I did not know'." Rashi explains: "If
I had known, I would not have slept here." Therefore, on Rosh
Hashanah, when Hashem is present in our places, we should not
sleep. (Heard from R' Shlomo Naiman shlita, 29 Elul 5754)
From the Torah reading . . .
"Please take your son, your only one, whom you love -
Yitzchak - and go to the land of Moriah; bring him up there
as an offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell
you." (Bereishit 22:2)
Targum Onkelos, the ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah,
renders "the land of Moriah" as "the place of the ketoret /
incense sacrifice." But why, asks R' Yehoshua Isaac Shapiro z"l
(R' Eizel Charif; 1801-1873), would Hashem specifically mention
the incense offering when instructing Avraham to bring Yitzchak
as an offering?
Also, the midrash Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer states that Hashem
pointed out the altar to Avraham with His "finger" and told him:
"This is the altar on which Adam sacrificed, on which Kayin and
Hevel sacrificed, and on which Noach and his sons sacrificed."
Why, asks R' Shapiro, did Hashem have to show Avraham the altar
and tell him its history?
R' Shapiro explains: Before the Bet Hamikdash was built, one
was permitted to build a bamat yachid / private altar, and bring
sacrifices on it. (R' Shapiro explains incidentally that this is
the meaning of the last verse in the Book of Shoftim, "In those
days . . . a man would do whatever seemed proper in his eyes.")
However, the only type of sacrifice that was permitted to be
brought on a private altar was a voluntary sacrifice. A
mandatory offering, i.e., an offering that one is obligated by
halachah to bring, was permitted to be brought only at the
centralized public altar.
Akeidat Yitzchak / the Binding of Yitzchak must be classified
as a mandatory offering. (Since the Torah prohibits human
sacrifice, Avraham could not have voluntarily brought Yitzchak as
an offering.) How then could Avraham sacrifice Yitzchak on an
altar which he would build? Therefore Hashem told him, "Take
Yitzchak to the place where the incense is destined to be
brought." The incense is the only type of sacrifice - as opposed
to animals, flour, wine, and wood - which may not be brought as a
voluntary offering, so the place where the incense is destined to
be brought must have the status of a public altar. How had that
place become a public altar? It was where Adam, Kayin and Hevel,
and Noach and his sons brought sacrifices.
Another midrash relates that Avraham asked Hashem, "Can a
sacrifice be brought without a kohen?" Hashem answered him, "You
are a kohen." In fact, on a private altar, a sacrifice may be
brought without a kohen, but once we recognize that a public
altar was required for Akeidat Yitzchak, we may understand
(Ebay Ha'nachal: Drush 4)
"Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man, since you have
not withheld your son, your only one, from Me. (Bereishit
R' Yehuda Loewe z"l ("Maharal"; 16th century) writes: Fear of G-
d comes from love of G-d, because when you love someone, you
intend to fulfill that person's desires, and you fear lest you
will fail in even the smallest way. This is the type of fear
that our verse describes.
(Netivot Olam: Netiv Yirat Hashem Ch. 1)
From the Prayers . . .
R' Yosef Albo z"l (14th century) writes: It appears to me that
the correct count of the fundamental principles of our faith is
three (not thirteen, as Rambam claimed). They are: (1) That G-d
exists; (2) That He watches us, and rewards and punishes us for
our deeds; and (3) That the Torah is of Divine origin. All of
the other beliefs which Rambam lists are included within these
three. For example, the belief that G-d has always existed and
will always exist is merely an aspect of our belief that He does
exist; the belief that the Torah is of Divine origin requires a
belief in prophecy, and so on.
An allusion to the fact that the three principles listed above
are the core of our faith is that our Sages composed three
special blessings to recite in musaf on Rosh Hashanah. The first
of those blessings, "Malchuyot" / "Kingship," parallels our
belief that G-d exists. The next blessing, "Zichronot" /
"Remembrances," speaks of the fact that G-d watches us, and
rewards and punishes us for our deeds. Finally, the third
blessing, "Shofarot," recalls the sound of the shofar which
accompanied the giving of the Torah. (Thus the third blessing
opens: "In the cloud of Your Glory did You appear on Your holy
mountain . . .")
(Sefer Ha'ikkarim Part I, Ch. 4)
"For when the remembrance of everything that was fashioned
comes before You: everyone's deed and mission, the
accomplishments of man's activity, man's thoughts and
schemes, and the motives behind man's deeds.
"Praiseworthy is the man who does not forget You, the human
being who takes strength in You, for those who seek You will
never stumble nor will those who take refuge in You ever be
"For the remembrance of all Your works come before You and
You analyze the deeds of them all."
(From the Rosh Hashanah Musaf)
R' Nosson Wachtfogel z"l (mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha in
Lakewood) asks: The first and third verses above speak of the
awesomeness of Hashem's Judgment, from which no being escapes.
How does the second verse fit in the middle of this thought?
He explains: No man can be acquitted before Hashem's exacting
standard of Justice, and we are surely obligated to tremble
before Him when He judges us. Nonetheless, our trust in His
kindness goes hand-in-hand with our awe of Him, and this explains
the placement of the verses.
On another occasion, R' Wachtfogel answered this question
slightly differently: When we are reminded of Hashem's Judgment,
we are at risk of becoming depressed. However, we immediately
remind ourselves that we merit to stand before the King, and we
find joy in that fact.
(Lekket Reshimot p. 91)
[Ed. Note: With this Rosh Hashanah, the shemittah year begins,
and, from time-to-time, we will be presenting articles dealing
with the laws and concepts of the shemittah. As with any
halachic issue addressed in Hamaayan, our goal is to increase
awareness of the subject, not to give practical halachic advice.
For such advice, consult a competent rabbi.]
1. It is a mitzvat asei / affirmative commandment to rest in
the seventh year from the work of the Land and the trees [of
Eretz Yisrael], as it is written (Vayikra 25:2), "The land shall
observe a Shabbat rest for Hashem," and it is written (Shmot
34:21), "You shall rest from plowing and harvesting." Anyone who
does work on the land or with trees during this year has
disregarded an affirmative commandment and has transgressed a
negative commandment, as it is written (Vayikra 25:4), "Your
field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune."
2. One does not incur the penalty of lashes according to the
Torah [for any prohibited agricultural work] except for zeriah /
sowing, zemirah / pruning, ketzirah / harvesting from the ground,
or betzirah / harvesting from vines and trees. There is no
difference [as far as these prohibitions are concerned] between
grapes and other trees.
3. Zemirah is included in zeriah [because pruning plants makes
them grow] and betzirah is included in ketzirah. Why then did
the verse list them? To tell you that only for these two toldot
/ sub-categories [i.e., zemirah and betzirah] does one incur the
penalty of lashes, but not for other toldot. For any other avot
/ major categories or toldot of agricultural labor, one does not
incur lashes according to Torah law, but he incurs makkat mardut
/ lashes according to Rabbinic law for being rebellious.
4. How so? One who plows, digs for the benefit of the ground,
removes stones, fertilizes, or similarly performs any other
agricultural labor, or one who grafts, plants shoots, plants
saplings, or similarly performs any other labor relating to trees
incurs makkat mardut / lashes pursuant to the Rabbinic decree.