Erev Rosh Hashonoh 5738
"For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in
your heart to do it" (Devorim 30:14).
The Torah penetrates deep into the physical body and into the
material world — and sanctifies it. The Torah reveals
here that even body and world are actually not very removed
from the Creator, for they can be sanctified and uplifted.
From hereon in, it remains dependent: "If one [a man-and-
wife unit] is meritorious, the Shechinah abides. If
one is not meritorious — fire consumes them."
This is an essential rule in all mundane matters. Those very
things which fire consumes are latent within you. This refers
to the fire of desire and craving. But this selfsame fire can
also be used as a utensil for the dwelling of the
Shechinah in your midst.
What shall a person do if, alas, he has not merited this? He
was overpowered by his evil drives and he cannot wrench
himself away from their power. This comes from the supremacy
of the powers of evil, and wherever they rule they are so
potent that they cannot be moved, even by a hairsbreadth.
They are ironclad. What strategy can one use against evil?
"Hashem reigns, the earth rejoices; the many islands are
"Cloud and fog surround Him; righteousness and justice
establish His throne.
"Fire goes before Him and consumes His adversaries before
"His bolts of lightning illuminate the universe; the earth
saw and trembled.
"Mountains melted like wax before Hashem, before the Master
of the entire world" (Tehillim 97:1).
When the power of holiness reveals itself, it is so potent
that it takes no more than a single bolt of lightning from a
cloud or the fog surrounding Hashem to ignite and devour all
of Hashem's enemies.
To what extent does His power begin to reach? To melting
mountains like wax.
A mountain as high as the Matterhorn can be reduced in one
storm to a level plain. This is the power of kedushoh
when it is revealed.
Evil in this world is compared to a high mountain. "How were
we able to capture this great mountain?" [the
tzaddikim will ask in the future]. Dovid Hamelech
tells us that the vast power which evil possesses can just
melt away into nothingness before Hashem.
We hear this, but find it difficult to believe. All of the
battles against our evil inclination which it won, all the
many trials attempting to budge something, to chisel away at
it somewhat, only prove it to be impermeable — it is
iron! Can that very mountainous power actually disintegrate
That is our very plea: "And all the wickedness shall be
entirely consumed like smoke, when You remove the malevolent
domination from the world" (Tefilloh of Yomim
Noraim). Like ephemeral smoke, it will simply vanish into
thin air and no longer constitute a reality.
"The voice of my beloved, He is coming, skipping over the
mountains" (Shir Hashirim 2:8).
Hashem Who, by virtue of His pure spirituality, is so distant
and removed from our material world, longs to repose His
Shechinah precisely in this world, of all places. He
leaps, as it were, from the heights of His holiness to
descend to us, until He actually draws very close through the
Written and Oral Torah. Where there is Torah — there
you will find the Shechinah.
From here we learn that there is no limit to His wonders. He
can lower Himself to the bottommost chasm: His lightning
illuminates the whole universe. Mountains disintegrate like
wax before Him. A single bolt unleashed can mortally strike
down the power of evil, and all the forces of evil melt like
wax and become totally nullified.
We have yet to be privileged to experience this. This will be
at the coming of Moshiach, the Redemption, and we must surely
believe that evil will be cancelled out and be altogether
eliminated. It seems — to us, now — to be the
most powerful force in the world. But it will be abolished
and melt into nothingness from the heat of Hashem's holy
"Thus says Hashem: guard justice and practice righteousness,
For My salvation is nigh in coming and My righteousness to be
revealed" (Yeshayohu 56:1).
This can be compared to a man who came to a country and heard
that people sentenced to death would be cast into an
amphitheater, in a fight to the death. He approached one
person and asked him when this event was to take place. "Oh,
not for a long time to come," said the man. When he asked
another one, the latter said: "In the near future."
"But I already asked someone else who told me that it would
be a long time in coming."
It turned out that when a sentenced man was asked, he said it
would be a long time in coming, since he wished to postpone
his death as much as possible and to think of it as being in
the distant future. When he asked a disinterested person, the
latter said it would be soon.
When Israel asked the prophet Bilaam when the Redemption
would come, he said: "I see it, but it is not nigh; I
visualize it but it is not near" (Bamidbar 24:17).
Said Hashem to them: Is this what you think? Don't you know
that in the end, Bilaam, himself, will descend to
Gehennom? Therefore he does not wish the Redemption to
come. Be, rather, like your ancestor [Yaakov] who said: "I
hope for Your salvation, Hashem." Anticipate the
yeshu'oh; I hope and pray that it be nigh. Therefore
is it stated: "For My salvation is nigh in coming."
Bilaam saw the Redemption in his prophecy but he predicted
that it would not be soon in coming. It was distant from
Bilaam in a different, essential way. It was removed from his
interest, his desire; he shunned it.
Yaakov said: I hope and pray for Your salvation, Hashem. To
him, it was something close, dear — something to aspire
to, even though it might be chronologically distant.
Indeed, the Redemption is very close, as Yeshaya said,
"Be'itoh — achishenoh — If they are
meritorious, it will be close and soon: if they are not
meritorious, it will come in due time, nonetheless." But
theoretically, and technically it is within our grasp, our
power, as is promised by Yeshayohu.
How can we define these parameters in time?
Two people experience a single prophecy. One says: "I see it,
but it is not near." And the other says, "For My salvation is
nigh in coming."
The difference is the vantage point. Bilaam — with his
evil eye, haughty ego and grasping spirit — stands
within the sphere of evil. The mighty power of evil does not
let go of him. "You shall not go with them, nor shall you
curse the nation, for it is blessed" (Bamidbar 22:12).
Very explicit words, and still, notwithstanding, they do not
nullify Bilaam's desire. From the depths of the power of
evil, he, "Sees it but it is not near."
Yaakov, however, stands by the side of Hakodosh Boruch
Hu. He merited the attribute of truth. His evil drive has
been conquered and abolished. And he declares: "I anticipate
and hope for Your salvation, Hashem." Yeshaya, the prophet of
truth, also stands on Hashem's side, as it were, very far
from evil and the evil inclination. And he declares in
Hashem's Name, "My salvation is nigh in coming."
We, who are sunken in the mire of sins and drives, find it
difficult to believe that evil has no reality. "Mortal king
decays and descends to the grave; weary and restless . . .
But this is the secret which we must believe: that evil will
be eventually abolished. "Like vanishing smoke, when You
shall transpose the dominion of evil from the world." If on
Rosh Hashonoh this truth becomes clear to us, that evil will
disintegrate into nothingness and that even now its existence
is mere illusion, then this faith will raise us up. For then
we will no longer look at evil as something necessarily so,
as something invincible.
Chazal said that Moshiach can only come in a generation which
is totally meritorious or totally blameworthy. We know the
former from a verse stating, "And Your people are all
righteous, they will forever inherit the land"
(Yeshayohu 60:21). As for the latter, we learn this
from the verse, "And he saw that there was no one, and he was
astonished . . . " (Yeshayohu 59:16) and it also says,
"For My sake will I do" (Yeshayohu 48:11 —
It is not difficult to accept the fact that Moshiach will
come in a generation that is wholly good. But where does
Moshiach fit in a generation that is evil? This must be in
order to reveal Hashem's Uniqueness in the world and to
nullify the evil, the desires, the sins of that generation in
which is so mired. All this wickedness will melt away like
wax from the powerful kedushoh that will touch it.
Our very eyes see this is in our generation, more so than
ever in the past. Even from the sector which we label as
`wholly evil,' people rouse themselves to repent and return.
This does not refer to isolated cases, but to many. And these
are not the common folk either, but the banner holders of
degeneracy and disbelief. These people come and seek refuge
under the wings of the Shechinah. They saw evil in its
ultimate form and discovered how empty and vain it was,
devoid of any content.
"Therefore, says Hashem, if you return, I will bring you back
and you will stand before Me. And if you will extract the
pure from the contaminated; you shall be as My mouth. Let
them return to you but do not return to them" (Yirmiyohu
Extracting the pure from the vile, say Chazal, is a
revelation of Hashem, and from here they expounded, "Whoever
teaches his neighbor's son Torah merits to sit in the
Yeshiva shel Maaloh, as it is written, `If you return,
I will bring you back and you will stand before Me.' Whoever
teaches the son of an ignoramus Torah, even if Hashem passes
an evil decree, He will annul it, as it is written, `If you
will extract the pure from the contaminated . . . ' Purifying
the dross is revealing Hashem in this world, which is equal
to nullifying evil and exposing good.
He merits measure for measure that he will `be as My mouth.'
Hashem will pass a decree but he will have the power to
nullify it. Hashem issues a harsh decree because there is
justification for it, but the one who has purified the
pollution has become empowered to abolish the power of evil
by virtue of having revealed the Shechinah in the
How great it is to extract good from bad, and how much more
expedient when the time is auspicious.
"Blessed are you in your coming." Said R' Y' bar Simon: this
text is referring to Moshe: In your coming — Moshe. In
his coming into the world, he had an impact on Batya,
daughter of Pharaoh. "And blessed are you in your going."
This also refers to Moshe, for when he left the world, he had
a positive impact on Reuven (Devorim Rabbah 7:5). If
his beginning was in kiruv, so was his passing. As my
master and teacher said, "If the beginning of a sugya
is about one subject, and the end of it also deals with the
same subject, this is a sign that all of it is involved with
it, too. The same can be said of Moshe Rabbenu — his
whole life consisted of drawing people near to Hashem.
According to him, this is the revelation of Hashem's
Uniqueness. And this truly was the theme of Moshe's entire
Kiruv rechokim shows that the Salvation is close. It
penetrates the evil and melts it away. This is one of the
wonders of the A-mighty, that the Redemption can come even to
a generation that is wholly evil, and transform itself into
Part of the effort on Rosh Hashonoh is to baffle the Soton,
that is, to undermine his strength and show that he is not
invincible. There is one conclusion which we must arrive at
from our prayers for the Redemption and the revelation of
Hashem's kingdom on earth: not to believe anymore in the
power of evil as if it were ironclad; to know and believe
that when it will, in the future, be nullified, it will
simply disappear in smoke, showing that it was nothing more
than that all the while, but only an illusion, an
obfuscation. And if all that we extract from Rosh Hashonoh is
the belief that it is possible to abolish the yetzer
hora, including our own evil inclination, then even
though we do not succeed in doing so tomorrow or the day
after, and even if it tarry, still, we continue to await the
nullification of evil every day, every month, every year. But
through the power of the Torah, we will certainly succeed in
eradicating it. If this is what we gain through Rosh
Hashonoh, it will be a great achievement.
However, even on Rosh Hashonoh we might feel the sense of
rebellion seething inside us, and we might find it difficult
to pray and concentrate on Rosh Hashonoh better than
on a regular weekday. Why is this so, if this day is the
revelation of Hashem's kingdom over the world?
Chazal commented on the verse, "`And they stood at the foot
of the mountain' — we learn from here that Hashem
overturned the mountain above them like a basin. In other
words, Hashem coerced the Jews at Sinai to accept the Torah
by threatening them with burial under it. If so, they did not
accept it altogether electively but under threat. When did
they finally accept it willingly? In the times of Mordechai
and Esther. The Jews were so moved by the miracle of their
salvation that they embraced the Torah this time from their
own free volition.
We learn from here that acceptance under pressure is not
considered a full acceptance. Perhaps this is the reason why
Israel sinned with the eigel. Why all this took place
in this manner is not ours to question here and if it was so,
surely it had to be so. However, later during the time of
Mordechai, they did accept it wholeheartedly and out of love.
"And the Jews had light" — which is Torah. "And
gladness" — this is yom tov. "And rejoicing"
— this is bris milah. "And honor" — this
We see here that even acceptance under threat and force is
also considered acceptance, but it leaves room for rebellion.
When it stems from gladness, no rebellion is stirred up in
the heart. In applying this to the matter at hand, we see
that if one approaches prayer as an obligation of Rosh
Hashonoh, under coercion, there exists a certain sense of
negative reaction in our hearts, a resentment of sorts, which
is absent when we approach the prayers out of a feeling of
joy in being so privileged to accept the yoke of Hashem's
Should we not rejoice to begin with in our "not being like
the nations of the world", in the fact that our "portion is
not with theirs and our fate like their masses?" Should we
not be happy that Hashem imposes "His fear upon . . . as we
know, Hashem, our G-d, that dominion is before You?"
We are aware of that even now, only the nations do not
acknowledge it. But is this not reason for rejoicing?
"Fortunate is the nation which knows of the teruah
blowing; Hashem, in the light of Your countenance will they
walk." "For in Your rejoicing will they exult all the day and
in Your righteousness will they exalt."
"Hashem reigned; the earth shall rejoice; the many islands
shall be glad." And further, "The heavens tell His
righteousness; and all the nations, His honor. All the idol
worshipers who glory in their false gods shall be ashamed;
all gods shall worship Him. Zion heard and rejoiced; the
daughters of Yehuda were glad because of Your judgments,
When Hashem is revealed, the nations will also see Him and
will be embarrassed of their graven images, but Jewry will be
glad and proud. And even though the revelation will be joined
with justice and the attribute of din, Hashem's rule
of justice, nonetheless, Israel will be filled with joy that
"Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in
heart. Rejoice in Hashem, you righteous, and give thanks to
His holy Name."
This chapter begins with the earth rejoicing, continues with
the rejoicing of the daughters of Yehuda, and ends with the
rejoicing of the righteous.
Let us approach the avodoh of this sacred day of Rosh
Hashonoh with true, deep joy, and thus will we succeed.