When he was a boy before the war, Rav Neuwoner's daily
learning began at 5 a.m. and continued until 10 p.m. In the
latter part of his thirteenth year Rav Neuwoner, along with
his father and mother and six brothers, were taken to
Auschwitz. With miracles, he and his father survived. In
France, he learned in Novardok and eventually became the
mashgiach of the Novardok Yeshiva — Ohr Yosef. Rav
Neuwoner now lives in Yerushalayim and speaks extensively
throughout Eretz Yisroel.
Rav Yitzchok Blazer zt"l quotes his rebbe HaRav
Yisroel Salanter zt"l as asking: Since it is known
that HaKodosh Boruch Hu is ever-watchful to assist and
bring success to Klal Yisroel, why does Yom Kippur
come after Rosh Hashonoh? Yom Kippur is the day of
forgiveness and pardon from our aveiros. Rosh Hashonoh
is the Day of Judgment — Yom Hadin — when
the whole world must pass inspection and the Books of Life
and Death are open, awaiting the inscription of Hashem's
Logically, Rosh Hashonoh should come after we receive a
pardon from our aveiros on Yom Kippur. This would be
the surest way for us to receive a favorable verdict! This
would be the best way to benefit and insure Klal
The answer to this puzzle has been explained by way of the
A king, accompanied by his royal guard and regal entourage,
paraded through his city. Suddenly, in the middle of all the
pomp and ceremony a rock, obviously thrown by one of the
onlookers, struck the king's crown and toppled it to the
As could be expected, the royal guards instantly chased down
and seized the culprit who hurled the stone. Lo and behold,
it was a young child! Unanimously, the populace demanded the
child to be put to death for humiliating their king.
The king however, thought differently. The king called for
the child to appear before him. Not only this, but the king
sat the child down along with him in the royal carriage and
commanded his coachmen to continue their journey. When they
arrived at the royal palace, the king issued an order to his
servants to give the child tutors to teach him. As time went
by, the child grew into his teens and became wiser day by
Once the king saw that the child had matured and became
intelligent and wise, the king gave the lad an appointment to
meet him on a specific day. During the days that preceded the
royal audience, his tutors made special efforts to impress
upon him the greatness and excellence of the king. When the
day came, the young man trembled with fear and awe of the
During the course of their conversation, the king asked,
"What punishment is deserving of one who throws a rock at the
king and topples his crown in public?"
Without any hesitation, the boy answered, "He should surely
be put to death."
After hearing this reply, the king reminded the boy of the
incident that happened when he was a child.
Immediately, the boy began to cry and regret his deed —
how could he have been so defiant to do such a thing to the
king! He fainted from his tears!
This moshol relates to us in the following way: People
sin against Hashem Yisborach, the King of Kings, and
we all know He has the power of life and death. However,
Hashem allows us to do teshuvoh to be cleansed from
our aveiros. Therefore, Hashem gave us Rosh Hashonoh
first, to help us do a true and complete teshuvoh.
Rosh Hashonoh, Yom Hadin, should cause us to think and
realize that Hashem is King and to understand all the
implications of His Majesty and Sovereignty over the world
— over each of us. The gemora Rosh Hashonoh
(16a) obligates all of us to proclaim Hashem as our King and
Ruler. This gemora requires us to mention in the
Musaf prayers of Rosh Hashonoh our acknowledgement of
Hashem's reign and supremacy: "You shall say before Me
Malchuyos in order to crown Me as your King."
In our tefillos during the ten days from Rosh Hashonoh
through Yom Kippur we make a special point to mention,
"Melech HaKodosh" and "Melech HaMishpot." All
this is in order to stress, and thereby to instill within us,
the supremacy of Hashem Yisborach's rule over us.
Once we understand that Hashem is King. First we accept His
rule over us and thus have a clear realization of the
seriousness of transgressing the Will of Hashem
Yisborach the King of Kings. With this preparation, it is
possible to gain the most benefit from Yom Kippur. With this
preparation, we can achieve a full teshuvoh, with
honest regrets over the past, and a fresh steadfast
determination for the future.
We cannot approach Rosh Hashonoh with an immature, childish
attitude. The mischievous child of the moshol needed
education and training to understand the glory and honor of
his king and only then could he fully realize the seriousness
of his crime. We too need preparation to approach Hashem
Yisborach on Yom Kippur and ask Him for forgiveness.
The section of Malchuyos in our Musaf Prayers
of Rosh Hashonoh begins with a posuk said by Bilaam,
"He noticed no sin in Yaakov, nor did He see any
transgression in Yisroel — Hashem, his G-d is with him
and the affection of the King is with him" (Bamidbar
Bilaam was a rosho. The mishnah in the fifth
perek of Ovos contrasts the vast difference between
Bilaam's talmidim and the talmidim of Avrohom
Ovinu. The talmidim of Bilaam are jealous, arrogant
and greedy, whereas Avrohom Ovinu's talmidim are
content, humble and generous.
Bilaam's example, as indicated by his talmidim,
produced corrupt results. If so, why should the statement of
a rosho like Bilaam command such a central and
important place in our prayers on the great day of Rosh
Obviously, there is a deep and powerful lesson for us to
learn from this. Bilaam, by his own admission, acknowledged
that he was helpless to do anything that was contrary to the
Will of HaKodosh Boruch Hu.
When Bolok hired Bilaam to curse Klal Yisroel, Bilaam
said, "I cannot transgress the Word of Hashem, my G-d, to do
anything small or great" (Bamidbar 22:18). Bilaam
admitted that there is Hashgochoh protis. When Bolok's
messengers first approached Bilaam they spoke about Klal
Yisroel as being, "A nation has come out from
Mitzrayim" (Bamidbar 22:5). Later, in the midst
of Bilaam's brochos to Klal Yisroel, Bilaam
uses the expression, "Hashem, Who brought them forth out of
Mitzrayim . . ." (Bamidbar 23:22). Rashi explains that
Bilaam was saying to Bolok: You wrongly said, "A people have
come out from Mitzrayim." They did not come out by themselves
— it was Hashem who took them out!
Nothing — absolutely nothing — happens in this
world without Hashem wanting it to happen. HaKodosh Boruch
Hu directs everything, and it is vital for us to know
this for Rosh Hashonoh. The following is a lesson in
There once was a young talmid chochom. He got married
and he wanted to sit and learn. The father-in-law could only
afford to help with part of the money they needed. The young
talmid chochom received a few thousand dollars and was
told to go to the month-long bazaar in the next town. There
he could buy good merchandise at a low price and then return
to his hometown after a month. He could have a good
parnossoh for the rest of the year by selling the
merchandise he bought at a higher price.
He went to the fair and thought: How can I spend a whole
month at this bazaar? I'll go to the beis medrash and
learn. Afterwards, I will go to the bazaar on the last day to
buy my merchandise. He sat and learned the whole month. On
the last day of the bazaar, when he went to buy, he
discovered that everything was sold out in the bazaar —
except a large bolt of bright orange material!
In those days such bright material was used only to make
signs or to make decorations — nobody bought large
amounts. With no other choice, he bought the material and
returned home, hoping to make his parnossoh from it.
When he arrived home, everyone was shocked: You were there a
whole month, and this is what you bought! It will take years
to sell so much orange cloth!
He understood that this was what Hashem Yisborach
intended, and he was content with his lot. Shortly
afterwards, the local ruler issued a ridiculous decree:
everyone must wear suits and dresses of bright orange! Of
course, there was a great shortage of such material. In one
day, the talmid chochom sold his whole stock of orange
material at a great profit.
So, he said, "Do you think that because the governor went
crazy I sold all this orange material? No! Because I needed
to sell the material, the governor went crazy! It was
If we do not believe in Hashgochoh protis, then we
also do not believe in Hashgochoh clolis. They go
The Orchos Chaim LeHoRosh (26) instructs us, "To have
faith in Hashem with all your heart and to believe in His
Hashgochoh protis . . . for he that does not believe
[that Hashem] took [us] out of Mitzrayim also does not
believe [that] I am Hashem your G-d . . ."
Nothing — absolutely nothing — happens without
Hashem's wanting it to happen. The gemora Chulin (7b)
teaches us that a person does not injure even his small
finger without a Divine decision for it to happen.
The Orchos Chaim LeHoRosh says that this belief is the
unique virtue of Klal Yisroel, that it sets us apart
from all other nations and it is the basis for all Torah. We
must believe in Hashgochoh protis, and this
emunah begins from believing and understanding what
Hashem did for us when He took us out of Mitzrayim. This was
what Bilaam rebuked Bolok about.
The posuk of Bilaam's rebuke is written in the Torah
just before our opening posuk of Malchuyos, "He
noticed no sin in Yaakov, nor did He see any transgression in
Yisroel — Hashem, his G-d is with him and the affection
of the King is with him." If we do not believe it, we lose
everything, as the Ramban at the end of his commentary on
Parshas Bo writes, about the crucial importance of our
believing in all the miracles and wonders that took place in
Egypt. "A person has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu
until he believes that all things, and every occurrence
— all of them are miracles; that they do not operate by
any natural or automatic process, either for the masses or
for the individual."
Hashem Yisborach is with us, and we enjoy a special
relationship with Hashem our King. This close relationship
exists only through the zchus of Torah. The gemora
in Chulin (139b) asks for a source in the Torah
for Moshe Rabbenu. If learned superficially, this question is
difficult to understand, for there are hundreds upon hundreds
of references to Moshe Rabbenu in the Torah. Therefore, we
must say that real intent of the gemora's question is:
From where do we know that Moshe's greatness was attained
from the Torah?
As its answer, the gemora cites a word
"beshagom" from the end of parshas Bereishis
(6:3). The word consists of the letters beis,
shin, gimmel and mem and it has the same
gematria as Moshe: mem, shin and
heih. Beshagom means, "since he is also flesh."
Thus the gemora comes to teach us a tremendous lesson:
We may mistakenly think that a man of such unique greatness
as Moshe Rabbenu was a born tzaddik. However since the
two words "Moshe" and "beshagom" have the same
gematria, we see that Moshe was also flesh and blood
— like all of us. Moshe reached greatness from the
Torah because he attached himself to Torah. There was no
barrier between Moshe and the Torah. Consequently, there was
no separation between Moshe and HaKodosh Boruch Hu.
Moshe Rabbenu said to Klal Yisroel, "You who cling to
Hashem, your G-d — you are all alive today"
(Devorim 4:4). It is written in the name of the
Kuzari that this statement came to disprove four
incorrect attitudes: (1) It is impossible for a human being,
flesh and blood, to cling to Hashem, since Hashem is, as the
posuk says, " . . . a consuming fire . . ."
(Devorim 4:24); (2) It is possible to cling to
Hashem, but not while alive. Only after a person dies, then,
in Olom Habbo it is possible to cling to Hashem; (3)
It is possible in this world, but not for everyone. Only
exceptional individuals can cling to Hashem in Olom
Hazeh; and (4) It is possible for everyone, but not in
the early youthful years. However, in the later years after
maturity and the yetzer hora is subdued, then everyone
can cling to Hashem.
The Kuzari explains that Moshe Rabbenu was answering
all four mistakes. The posuk says, "hadeveikim"
that it is possible to cling to Hashem Yisborach,
answering (1). "Chaim" shows that it is possible while
still alive. "Kulchem" shows that everyone can cling
to Hashem. "Hayom" shows that today, right now, even
when some of you are young.
Moshe Rabbenu testifies that deveikus is possible
— and expected — for all of us. We all have the
potential and the Torah makes it possible. The Sefas
Emes explains that the heih at the beginning of
the word "hadeveikim" is extra. The heih
therefore comes to teach us that the essence of Klal
Yisroel, every member of Klal Yisroel, is to be
doveik — joined to Hashem Yisborach. When
we learn, and learn well, we can realize our true
Torah is the only weapon against the yetzer hora. We
are helpless without Torah. So many times we go wrong because
we do not properly realize the great importance of Torah to
our relationship with Hashem Yisborach.
Moreover, without Torah we cannot fully understand the
greatness of our obligation to Hashem Yisborach, and
this is absolutely essential for a favorable judgment on Rosh
Hashonoh. We do not learn enough, and especially, we do not
learn enough mussar. Only mussar can bring us
to yiras Shomayim and anovoh.
Yiras Shomayim and anovoh are essential for
learning, remembering and fulfilling the Torah. We have to
learn mussar. The Chofetz Chaim zt"l once said
that he could not understand how it is possible to have
yiras Shomayim without learning mussar for at
least two hours a day! Gedolei Torah understand that
by not learning mussar they are lacking something
essential in their lives. Most of us do not feel any lack,
The Imrei Chaim zt"l once said, "Those who learn
mussar are `reshoim' and those who do not learn
mussar are `tzadikim.' " This means: someone
who does not learn mussar thinks he is a tzaddik.
Whereas those who do learn mussar, realize their
faults and know that they are not perfect tzadikim.
Bilaam understood Hashgochoh protis. Bilaam's prophecy
is given a central position in our prayers on Rosh Hashonoh,
the day we acknowledge and declare Hashem Yisborach as
King, the Giver of Life. Nonetheless, Bilaam himself was far
from mussar, and Chazal tell us the results: Bilaam's
talmidim learned from him and turned into jealous,
arrogant and greedy individuals.
The Mishnah in Ovos tells us that the
talmidim of Bilaam also "inherit Gehennom and
plunge into the pit of destruction." We can think very highly
of ourselves. We can possess many virtues, do many mitzvos,
do chesed and learn. But if we lack mussar, we
are in danger. We risk losing everything.
Each morning before davening, the Satmar Rov
zt"l would spend time learning a section of the
siddur Tefillos Yeshoroh Berditchov as his preparation
for tefilloh. The section he chose to learn pertained
to the posuk, "Boruch Hashem le'olom omen
ve'omen" that we say at the end of Pesukei
Dezimrah. That siddur explains that this
posuk is a remmez to yiras Hashem
because the previous posuk we say was, "Every
neshomoh [breath] shall praise Hashem."
Chazal teach us that this posuk obligates us to praise
Hashem for each and every breath we take, and our obligation
is constant — le'olom. And this is why we say
"Boruch Hashem le'olom," in order to declare our
commitment to praise Hashem constantly, for each and every
breath we take.
Furthermore, we also say "omen ve'omen." We say
omen twice to affirm that our declaration is "a true
and reliable vow — therefore [because] of the great
yir'oh we have for Hashem, His exaltedness and the
infinite praise [owed to him] — `I accept upon myself
to constantly declare Hashem's praises.'"
Great people take time to think about and realize the
greatness of Hashem — and the great obligation we have
to praise Him; to know He is our King and, as Bilaam said " .
. . the affection of the King" is with us.
Rosh Hashonoh is the time to realize this. Rosh Hashonoh is
the time when we meet the King, and if we are properly
prepared we can enjoy His company.