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Rabbi Yosef Benarroch

Rabbi Yosef Benarroch: Rosh Hashanah: The Day of Responsibility

Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, August 11, 2014


Without a doubt, the most powerful moment on Rosh Hashanah (maybe even the entire year) is the sounding of the Shofar. After the blasting of the Shofar we recite the “Hayom Harat Olam” prayer. This prayer speaks about how on Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the creation of the world. To be more precise, our Rabbis explain that Rosh Hashanah is not the day G-d began creation, but the day when Adam and Eve were created. “Hayom Harat Olam” is a testimony that Rosh Hashanah is the sixth day of creation. Why would we choose in the “Hayom Harat Olam” prayer to remind G-d about the day when everything went wrong? After all, the sixth day of creation was a complete disaster. The day Adam and Eve were created was a day of betrayal; Adam and Eve were given one command and on that day they blew it.


Rabbi Moshe Hayim Luzzatto (1707 Italy, Israel) explains in his work "Da'at Tevunot" that G-d didn’t want to create a perfect world, but one that needed fixing. Adam and Eve created a situation by eating from the tree that requires human beings work in order to bring the world back to its original state of perfection. Luzzatto explains that the sin of Adam and Eve was purposefully built into the Creation story so that the day when Adam and Eve were created would become not only a day of sin, but of responsibility. On Rosh Hashanah we recognize that we can err, but more importantly, that we can fix. We begin the New Year by realizing that not everything is perfect, and that it is our responsibility to fix the imperfections. That is why we recite the “Hayom Harat Olam” prayer, and may be the reason we recite it immediately after the blasting of the Shofar.


As we look to a new year, I am reminded of the words of our Rabbis: “Rabbi Tarfon said the work is great and the time to do it is short…it is not in your hands to complete it but you are also not free of responsibility.” (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:15-16). Our Rabbis teach that all Jews are responsible one for another. We are interconnected and that means we are responsible for each other as well.


On Rosh Hashanah, first and foremost, we must take responsibility for our actions. Rav Kook wrote: "The foundation of repentance is the acceptance of responsibility of the individual over their actions in that a person confesses that there is no other factor to blame for their sins except themselves." (Orot Hateshuva). Dear friends, on Rosh Hashanah we have to stop blaming everything and everyone else for our shortcomings. On Rosh Hashanah we have to take the bull by the horns and accept responsibility for who we are and what we have done. Individual responsibility is the key to change.   


But we must also take responsibility for our community. This summer has been both a difficult for us living in Israel, but it has also been amazing. When three of our boys were kidnapped, the entire nation united in prayer. For almost three weeks, we searched for our three missing boys and ended up finding ourselves. When the heartbreaking news of their deaths came we remained united. I attended the funerals of our three martyrs. Over 100,000 were there, singing, praying, and grieving. In the aftermath, our country has been engaged in a war against a cruel enemy. But the aftermath has seen a tremendous outpouring of concrete action and goodness. Thousands have mobilized to help out soldiers, and shelter our brothers and sisters living in rocket range. Kindness has found a way to surround us. As the New Year begins, each one of us must ask what they can do for their community, for Israel, and for the Jewish people. May Hashem grant us all strength. May He bring peace to our communities and all of Israel. 


Wishing you all a Shanah Tova

A Year of health and Happiness

Rabbi Yosef Benarroch

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