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Rosh Hashana 5782 Torah Essay

Adina Wolff Ciner

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Rosh Hashana Times Two

In Parshat Vaiykra the pasuk states (23:24): And in the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall observe a cessation of work – a day of remembrance, of the sounding of the shofar.

This pasuk, which is the source for the Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana, seems to indicate that our New Year Holiday is really only one day long.  

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Eruvin 3:9) is one of the sources for establishing a two-day yom tov. Rosh Hashana was ruled to be two days long, even in the land of Israel where holidays are usually kept for one day. This is because, in contrast to other holidays which typically fall out in the middle of the month, Rosh Hashana occurs on the first of the month. Typically, on Rosh Chodesh the beit din would wait to sanctify the month based on when witnesses came to testify about the new moon. For Rosh Hashana though, since it is a chag that needs to be observed, beit din sanctified the month already after the 29th of Elul on condition that witnesses would come. If they ended up coming for the first day, then that day would be Rosh Chodesh/Rosh Hashana and the next day, the 2nd of Tishrei, would be a regular weekday. If they didn’t end up coming early, they would sanctify the next day as Rosh Chodesh/Rosh Hashana and retroactively the day before would be a regular weekday. Because of this latter scenario, where there was a chance the first day would be a regular weekday, the prophets did not want Am Yisrael to take the day lightly based on this possibility. They wanted everyone to take each day that Rosh Hashana had a chance to fall on with seriousness and reverence and so they instituted that both days would automatically be Rosh Hashana. 

According to this line of reasoning, the idea that Rosh Hashana is a two-day holiday seems to be technical, almost b’dieved. The leaders in a previous generation simply didn’t want to take chances when it came to Rosh Hashana and so they enacted two days of Yom Tov.  

However, there may be an additional way to understand this two-day Yom Tov. 

בראשית רבה quotes “תורה קדמה לעולם”, the Torah that we keep was created and instituted long before the world was ever created. Although certain mitzvot and areas of Jewish practice result from specific needs and instances, we believe that Hashem thought of and created everything that would exist before the world itself was actually created. Hashem then kept all of these creations in the עולמות עליונים until the proper time for each thing arrived to be revealed and brought down into this world. 

Rav Dessler explains further that even the things that we do that are based on תקנת חז”ל because of technical reasons (in other words, be’dieved situations), have internal meaning that stem from deep unknown parts of the Torah, עומק סתרי התורה. This means that even if it seems that decisions were made by certain people in history, we assume הקב”ה has His own reason for it as well. Hashem rules this world on a spiritual uplifted plane that manifests itself despite natural occurrences and free will of people’s actions. Therefore, perhaps we can find deeper meanings in the occurrences and phenomena that seem on the surface to be technical. 

For example, when Adam Harishon sinned, he changed the whole way Hashem ruled the world and brought the world Hashem created down from a very high level. He effected a whole new reality. How can we say that an action done by man caused something that Hashem didn’t plan? Of course, the answer is along similar lines to what we said previously. The Divine plan was chosen ahead of time, but only occurred in this world by the sin of Adam Harishon. Hashem who is צופה כל הדורות ‘took into account’ even before the world was created, the sin of Adam Harishon, a sin that took place out of full choice after the world was created. 

So too in our example of Rosh Hashana, we see now that Rosh Hashana is a 2 day holiday both for the technical reason stated above as well as for the fundamental reason that Hashem had it in store to be this way לכתחילה. 

Many commentators give explanations for this spiritual, inherent significance of Rosh Hashana being a 2-day holiday. The Netivot Shalom explains that בראשית stands for ב’ ראשית . The new year starts with the two most fundamental characteristics- ahava (love) and yirah (fear). The קבלת עול מלכות שמים on Rosh Hashana is done with these two midot; the first day with ahava and the second day with yirah. The עיקר of the avodah of Rosh Hashana is דביקות בה’ and the עיקר of דביקות בה’ is with these two midot. The midah of ahava connects the one who loves and the one who is loved. The middah of yirah, although on the surface appears as though it would cause distance, in reality leads to דביקות  and התבטלות . 

May this Rosh Hashana be filled with the emunah to know that Hashem is the Melech over the entire world and has a hand in everything that happens in history all with proper אהבת  and יראת שמים towards everything Hakodosh Baruch Hu does.

Adina Wolff Ciner

Adina Wolff Ciner

is a student in Matan Bellow's Eshkolot Educators Institute. In addition, she is studying for her B.Sc in Psychobiology at the Hebrew University. She made aliyah at age 9 from Boston to Beit Shemesh. She is now serving with her husband, Adi, as the Av and Em Bayit of Yeshivat Torah V'Avoda with their son David.