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Rosh HaShana
Rosh HaShana & the Ingathering of the Exiles Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 September 2023

We learn about the Torah and Haftara readings for Rosh HaShana in the Talmud, Megilla 31a:

On the first day we read “And God remembered Sarah” and conclude with the Haftara of Chana. The next day we read “And God tested Avraham” and conclude with the Haftara which contains the verse “Is Efraim not a precious son to me (Yirmiyahu 31:19).”

Rashi explains that we read the Haftara from Yirmiyahu on Rosh HaShana since the last verse includes the words “remember” and “compassion”:

Is Efraim not a precious son to me, a delightful child? Whenever I speak of him I remember him all the more. Therefore I long for him inwardly. I will show him great compassion, declares the Lord.

The Ran, Rabbeinu Nissim comments that this section is chosen as it says “zachor ezkerenu”, “I will remember him all the more” and one of the obligations of Rosh HaShana is to mention zichronot, remembrances.

This verse is also read as part of the Zichronot section of the Musaf service.

The Talmud, Rosh HaShana 32a explains that the Zichronot section is based on the verse from Bamidbar 10:10:

And on your days of rejoicing, your festivals and New Moons, you shall sound the trumpets over your elevation offerings and over your peace offerings. They will be a reminder of you before your God. I am the Lord your God.

The sound of the shofar does not only remind us to repent, it also reminds us of what it says in Yishayahu 27:13 which we read in the Shofarot section of Musaf:

It will be, on that day: a great ram’s horn will sound, and they will come, all those lost in the land of Ashur and those who are exiled in the land of Egypt, and they shall prostrate themselves to the Lord on the holy mount in Jerusalem.

Radak comments that in the final redemption, the shofar will be blown and the exiles will return from all over the world. This includes the ten tribes (known as Efraim) that were exiled to the other side of the river (Assyria) by the king of Ashur. They were exiled, lost, and never came back. In contrast, the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin were exiled to Babylonia and returned after 70 years of exile. When they were exiled a second time, they were spread out all over the world.

Rav Yisachar Yakovson quotes Rav M. Hirsch who explains that the Haftara from Yirmiyahu about Efraim returning was chosen to remind us of the tribes who were exiled first and were subsequently lost. Most of the Jews today are from the tribe of Yehuda. We must not forget the other  tribes who have not yet returned.

The ultimate Ingathering of the Exiles will include the entire nation- Efraim and Yehuda. Yirmiyahu describes what will happen (Yirmiyahu 31:6-8):

For this is what the Lord said: Sing joyously for Yaakov and shout publicly for the nations. Give voice, give praise, and say, “Lord, deliver Your people, the remnant of Israel.” I am about to bring them from the northern land and gather them from the ends of the earth…A great assembly will return here. They will come weeping, and with compassion I will lead them. I will guide them along streams of water on a level path upon which they will not stumble, for I have become a father to Israel, and Efraim is my firstborn.

We are living in miraculous times where we see the Ingathering of the Exiles on a daily basis with Jews returning to Israel from all over the world. On Rosh HaShana, we should keep in mind all of the Jews who would like to make aliya but can’t do so at this time due to their own personal reasons and hope that whatever impediments are in their way can be resolved.

New Discoveries in the Ancient City of Shilo Print E-mail
Monday, 03 October 2022

The famous story of Chana, which is read in the Haftara of the first day of Rosh HaShana takes place in Shilo as we read in Shmuel I 1:3:

This man (Elkana) would ascend from his city (Ramatayim-Zofim in Mt. Ephraim) year by year to worship and to sacrifice to God, Master of Legions in Shilo.

In Shmuel I 1:9-10, we see that this is the spot where Chana prayed for a child:

Chana rose after they had eaten in Shilo and after they had drunk. Eli the Kohen was sitting on the chair, near the doorpost of the Sanctuary of the Lord. And she was feeling bitter, and she prayed to the Lord, weeping continuously…

The Mishkan (Tabernacle) stood in Shilo for almost 370 years, from the days of Yehoshua (around the year 1258 BCE), 14 years after B’nai Yisrael arrived in the Land of Israel. As we see in Yehoshua 18:1:

The entire assembly of the Children of Israel gathered at Shilo, and set up the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Moed) there. The Land was now under their control.

The first person in relatively modern times to recognize the city of ancient Shilo in 1838 was Edward Robinson, an American Bible critic.

For the past 100 years (1922, 1970s, 1981 and 2010 until the present), there have been archeological excavations in ancient Shilo.

Recently, archeologists found five jugs which were fully intact that date back 2000 years. In addition, they found coins, a key and wooden dice.

Five years ago, archeologists found jugs that still contained grape seeds. The jugs were covered with debris that fell from the ceiling. The archeologists date these jugs back to when the Mishkan was destroyed, around 3000 years ago.

The archeologists are still hoping to find remnants from the Mishkan itself, not just the approximate place where it stood. For now they have found a large stone that may have been part of the Mizbeach (altar), a lot of vessels which seemed to have been smashed due to their status of impurity as well as animal bones which could have been part of the many sacrifices that were brought there. Since the Mishkan itself was a temporary structure, parts of it may have decomposed making it harder to find the remains.

Even after 100 years of excavations, archeologists have only covered about 5% of the area so there is still plenty more work to do.

Shilo generally gets 150,000 visitors per year who want to connect with the Biblical city, the site of the Mishkan, the holiest site until the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was built, to see where Chana prayed and to be inspired.

One religion- four new years Print E-mail
Friday, 27 September 2019

Dedicated in memory of the pure neshama of Natan Hersh z”l,

by his loving sister Alvera Vayzer

In the Talmud, Rosh HaShana 8a, Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: The first of Tishrei is the New Year for judgment as it says in Dvarim 11:12 “The eyes of God are on it (the Land of Israel) from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” This means that from the beginning of the year judgment is issued regarding what will occur at its end.

The Gemara explains how we know that the “beginning of the year” mentioned here refers to Tishrei. The answer is in Tehilim 81:4 “Blow a shofar at the moon’s renewal, when the moon is covered on our festive day.” Rosh HaShana is the festival when the moon is covered, since it falls at the beginning of the lunar month when the moon is hidden from view. The following verse (Tehillim 81:5) adds “Because it is a statute for Israel, a judgment day unto the God of Yaakov.” Therefore we see that Rosh HaShana (the first of Tishrei) is the day of judgment.

Why are we even questioning when the beginning of the year is? Isn’t it obvious that the New Year begins in Tishrei?

Actually, the first mishna in Rosh HaShana teaches us that there are four New Years: The first of Nisan is the New Year for the kings and the festivals. The first of Elul is the New Year for ma’aser (tithing) of animals (Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say that the New Year for ma’aser for the animals is on the first of Tishrei). On the first of Tishrei is the New Year for reckoning the years and for Shmita (Sabbatical produce) and Yovel (Jubilee), for the sapling and for the vegetables. On the first of Shvat is the New Year for the tree, according to Beit Shammai. According to Beit Hillel it is on the fifteenth of Shvat.

We see from here that each New Year served a different purpose. Aside from the New Year in Tishrei being the day of judgment, it is also the date where we change the calendar year (5780- here we come!) as well as an important day for agriculture. In the Land of Israel, in a Shmita year, when one is forbidden to plant and work the land, that one day really makes a difference. The concept of Orla teaches us that we may not eat the fruits of the sapling for the first three years. If a sapling was planted in Elul, by Tishrei it would count as if the tree already existed for one year, even though it only technically existed for one month.

May we be judged favorably on Rosh HaShana in Tishrei, the day of judgment and may we merit to celebrate all four New Years in good health.

Rosh HaShana as an escape room Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Sponsored by Vicky Wu in loving memory of JJ Greenberg z”l on his 15th yahrzeit, a loving teacher, a loving and courageous human being

Escape rooms- they are the rage and can be found all over the world including Jerusalem. The way that it works is that a group of people are locked in a room for an hour and in order to get out, they need to solve different tasks within the room including finding keys and clues which help to open combination locks until they ultimately find the right key to unlock the door to the room. Some participants are successful and are able to get out before the hour is up. Others are not able to get out in time and the door has to be unlocked for them.

There is a story told in Or Yesharim about the Baal Shem Tov who was preparing to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShana. He asked Rav Zev Kitzes, who would be calling out the shofar notes, to study the secret spiritual meanings of the shofar blasts. Rav Zev studied and wrote everything down on a piece of paper so that he could refer to his notes when necessary. However, when it was time to blow the shofar, Rav Zev noticed that he lost the paper and couldn’t remember any of the hidden meanings. Crying and broken hearted, Rav Zev called out the shofar blasts without any special thoughts in mind. After the shofar blowing, the Baal Shem Tov said, “In a king’s palace there are hundreds of rooms and on the door of each room is a different lock that requires a special key to open it. But there is a master key, an axe, which can open all of the locks.”

“So it is with the shofar. There are many gates in Heaven and many rooms within each gate. The different sounds of the shofar and their secret meanings are the keys to open each one of those gates. But there is a master key that can open them all. That is a broken heart. When a person sincerely breaks their heart before God, their prayers can enter through all of the gates and into all of the rooms of the celestial palace of God.”

According to Onkelos, if you listen carefully, the shofar’s Truah note sounds like a cry and this teaches us that it is good to express our feelings and cry the way that the shofar does, exposing our broken hearts and showing that we are sincere in our prayers.

This year, may we be blessed to approach our relationship with God as an escape room, whose keys will help us mend our broken hearts. 

How to tear up the unfavorable decree Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 September 2015

In the Talmud, Rosh HaShana 16b Rabbi Yitzchak said: Four things cause the unfavorable decree against a person to be torn up: Tzedaka (charity), Tzeaka (crying out), Shinui Hashem (change of name) and Shinui Maaseh (change of action).


Where do we learn this from?

In Mishlei (Proverbs) 11:4 concerning Tzedaka it says “And charity will rescue from death.”


In Tehilim (Psalms) 107:28 on the topic of Tzeaka we read: “They cried out to God in their distress and He would take them out from their straits.”


Breisheet 17:15 speaks about Shinui Hashem: “Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name.” After her name was changed, Sarah was blessed with a son.


In Jonah 3:10 we see Shinui Maaseh: “God saw their deeds that they repented from their evil way. God relented concerning the evil He had said He would bring upon them and He did not do it.”


We too can attempt to overturn an unfavorable decree by increasing our charitable contributions, crying out to God in prayer and changing our ways.


Changing your name should not be taken lightly but in some cases is necessary. For example, people who were not born Jewish or those becoming more observant who were never given a Jewish name should take on a Hebrew name when they commit to Judaism the way that Avraham and Sarah did. Others may not be happy with their given name and may decide to choose a new name and formally have their name changed in the synagogue with a Mishaberach prayer during Torah reading. According to the Rambam some need to change their names in order to break from the past and make a fresh start.


 There is also a concept of adding a new first name to the name of a person who is very sick to help bring about a speedy recovery. Names that are often used are Chayim, Chaya (life) or Refael (healing).


As we prepare for Rosh HaShana we can’t just sit back and wait for the new year. We must do everything that is in our power to overturn any unfavorable decrees. As it says in the Unetane Tokef prayer: U’Tshuva, U’Tefila U’Tzedaka Maavirin et Roah Hagzeirah, Repentance, Prayer and Charity annul the evil decree.

Rosh HaShana- The Time to Start Thinking About Aliya Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sponsored by Vicky Wu In Memory of Jonathan Josef (JJ) Greenberg, z"l, For his love and strength left for his people and the Land of Israel

Every day we say the T’ka B’Shofar prayer in the Shmoneh Esrei about the Ingatheing of the Exiles:

Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you God who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel.

During the Musaf service of Rosh HaShana, we read a section called “Shofarot” which includes prayers and scriptural readings associated with the shofar.

One of the quotes from the prophets comes from Yishayahu 27:13: “And it will be on that day, that a great shofar will be sounded, and they will come- those who were lost in the land of Ashur, and those who were outcasts in the land of Mitzrayim, and they will prostrate themselves to God, on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Eliezer Eliner (1904-1980, Latvia-Jerusalem) explains that this pasuk teaches that God has to gather the Jewish people from two types of exiles:

One type of exile is called “Mitzrayim”, where the Jews are troubled (same root as the word tzarot) and outcasts.

The other type of exile is called “Ashur”, where the Jews are happy (same root as osher) yet they are called lost since they are slowly losing their Judaism .

Rabbi Eliner understood the impact of these two exiles as he himself made aliya in 1927 from after studying at the University of Riga and at the Beit Midrash for Rabbis in Berlin. He later worked at the Jewish Agency and among his many accomplishments worked on putting together the Rinat Yisrael Siddur and Daat Mikra’s Shmuel.

Today, as well we see Jews returning to the State of Israel from both types of exile. This past week we saw Jews making Aliya from the Ukraine, a country where the Jews are in danger as well as from The United States, a country where Jews are for the most part very happy.

As we listen to the shofar this Rosh HaShana let’s think of how we can help the Jews who have just arrived in Israel, both those who are fleeing as well as those who are making aliya by choice.

As we enter Rosh HaShana and the year 5775, a Shmita (Sabbatical) year, we must keep in mind that the laws of Shmita remain Rabbinic as long as less than half of the Jewish population is living in Israel. As we recite the words about the ingathering of the exiles let us reflect on how we can increase the amount of Jews who are making aliya and turn the Shmita year back into a Biblical commandment.

Shana Tova and Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim!


The Sound of the Shofar Helps Elevate Our Prayers Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Sponsored by Vicky Wu in Memory of JJ Greenberg z”l on his 11th Yahrzeit. 

Eleven years passed, JJ’s memories continue to be a source of strength and inspiration to our daily Jewish life in Israel and wherever we are.


Every Thursday morning throughout the year we say the following words from Tehilim 81:4-5 “Tiku Bachodesh Shofar, Bakeseh Layom Chagenu Ki Chok L’Yisrael Hu Mishpat L’Elokei Yaakov”, “Blow the Shofar at the moon’s renewal, at the time of the hiding of the moon for our festive day because it is a decree for Israel, a judgment day for the God of Jacob.”

On Rosh HaShana, these verses are recited in the evening before Maariv as well as during the Shofarot section of the Musaf service. We also recite these words at Kiddush each day of Rosh HaShana.

These words teach us that we are required to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShana which is observed at the time of the renewal of the moon, unlike most other holidays which are observed in the middle of the month.

We learn in the Gemara in Rosh HaShana 26a that since blowing the Shofar on Rosh HaShana is for the purpose of effecting a favorable remembrance of Israel before God, it is equivalent to a service performed inside the Kodesh HaKodashim of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy of Holies in the Temple).

According to Ritva, Even though the shofar is not brought into the Kodesh HaKodashim, it is the vehicle through which Israel’s prayers are transported before God.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explains that this Gemara teaches us that the shofar transports our ordinary surroundings into the holiest of environments where one can perceive God’s revelation.

Although we don’t have the Beit HaMikdash today, the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShana gives us the unique opportunity to become closer to God and helps take our prayers to a higher level.

We pray that just as the shofar proclaimed God’s arrival at Mount Sinai so too will it proclaim God’s presence when the Mashiach arrives and then we will celebrate the holidays together in the Third Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim.





Teshuva (Returning)-Tefilah (Prayer)-Tzedaka (Charity):A Juggling Act Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Sponsored by Vicky Wu on the Yahrzeit of JJ Greenberg

"May the memory of JJ continue to stay with us, as strong as the influence of his love for life and for the Jewish People."



In the Musaf (Additional) Service for Rosh HaShana we say the words:

“Uteshuva, utefila, utzedaka maavirin et roa hagzera”, “Repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil decree!”


In the Gemara in Rosh HaShana 16b we learn that teshuva, tefillah and tzedaka can influence God to cast aside the harshness of the decree.


In most Machzors (High  Holiday Prayerbooks) on top of these three words there are smaller words:


צום           קול     ממון

ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה


Tzom (fasting), Kol (voice) and Mamon (money).


These subscripts teach us the recipe for sincere repentance: fasting, praying out loud and making donations to charity.


Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf comments that we have three interwoven spheres of relationships in our lives: I and myself, I and God and I and other human beings. Teshuva is a return to one’s true path, to a sense of harmony. Prayer is returning to God. Charity is actively expressing our concern for others.


Rabbi Apisdorf explains that life is often a juggling act.


W must take care of ourselves, we must build a relationship with God and we must take care of other human beings.


As the new year approaches, let’s see how we can take better care of ourselves weather it be through eating healthier or quitting smoking (still a big problem in Israel), how we can build our relationship with God through observing more mitzvoth or finding a shul (synagogue) that we find to be more conducive to serious prayer and by giving charity to worthy organizations or volunteering our time to work with the elderly or those with special needs.


The challenge of Teshuva is the juggling act: how we will follow through over the course of the year.






Can You Name Ten Reasons Why the Shofar is Blown on Rosh HaShana? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 September 2010



According to Rabbi Saadya Gaon, the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashana for the following reasons:


Since Rosh Hashana was the day of creation, we coronate God as King by the blowing of the Shofar.


Rosh Hashana is the first day of the Aseret Ymei Tshuva, Ten Days of Repentance that culminate with Yom Kippur. The sound of the Shofar is the final warning that we must do Tshuva (repent).


The sound of the Shofar reminds us of Maamad Har Sinai, The Revelation at Sinai where there were blasts of the Shofar.


The sound of the Shofar can be compared to the sharp words of the prophets reminding the Jewish people to repent.


The sound of the Shofar reminds us of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, The Temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed while the enemies played their trumpets.


The Shofar reminds us of Akedat Yitzchak, The Binding of Isaac and the ram that saved the day.


When we hear the Shofar, we tremble and humble ourselves


The Shofar reminds us of the ultimate Day of Judgment.


The Shofar inspires us with hope for Kibbutz Galuyot, the ultimate ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.


The Shofar reminds us of the ultimate resurrection of the dead which will be brought in with the sounding of the Shofar.


When the Shofar is blown, we must have Kavana, concentrate on the reason that we can most identify with.


May the sounds of the Shofar, our Kavana and our prayers reach the heavens and may our prayers be answered.

Rosh HaShana and Akedat Yitzchak- The binding of Isaac Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 September 2009


 On the second day of Roah HaShana, we read about Akedat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. The passages that describe Avraham’s almost sacrifice of his son Yitchak are difficult to understand and many wonder what connection they have to Rosh HaShana aside from the ram who is stuck in the bushes who saves the day and whose horn we use as a shofar.

Haim Gouri, an Israeli poet, novelist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker born in Tel Aviv and currently living in Jerusalem wrote the following poem called Yerusha, Heritage based on the themes from Akedat Yitzchak:

The ram came last of all

And Avraham didn’t know that it came

to answer the boy’s question                  

Here are the fire and the wood but where is the young beast for the sacrifice)

First of his strength when his day was on the wane

The old man raised his head Seeing that it was no dream

and that the angel stood there                                    

The knife slipped from his hand  The boy, released from his bonds

saw his father’s back

Yitzchak, as the story goes, was not sacrificed,

He lived for many years

Saw what pleasure had to offer until his eyesight dimmed  

But he bequeathed that hour to his offspring

They are born with a knife in their hearts 


Haim Gouri is trying to teach us that we are all scarred from what almost happened at Akedat Yitzchak.

In each generation, the Jewish people are faced with challenges that we must overcome. If we keep in mind that Avraham was able to overcome ten extremely difficult tests (nisyonot)- the last one being the near sacrifice of his beloved son- then we can gain the strength to realize that we can stand up to and overcome any of the challenges that we may encounter. 

As Rosh HaShana approaches, let’s hope and pray that we can rise above any challenges that may come our way in the coming year.

The Birthday of the World Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 September 2006


Immediately after blowing the shofar on Rosh HaShana, we recite the words "Hayom harat olam", "today is the birthday of the world".

If the world was created in seven days, then which of those seven days is actually observed as Rosh HaShana?

Maharsha comments on the Gemara in Rosh HaShana 10b that Rosh HaShana was established to be celebrated on the first of Tishrei since that was the day that people were created. According to this view, Rosh HaShana commemorates the sixth day of creation. Immediately after Adam and Chava were created, they sinned by eating the fruit that God specifically told them not to eat. Adam and Chava were judged by God in reference to their sin, they went through the tshuvah process (repented) and were forgiven.

Since the first people were given a second chance to start anew, it makes sense for us to commemorate the day of their creation as both a day of renewal as well as a day of judgment (hence "Yom HaDin", judgment day is another name for Rosh HaShana).

As Rosh HaShana spproaches, let's remember that this is a time for repentance as well as renewal and that this is our opportunity to start again with a clean slate.

Shana Tova!

Finding Inspiration in the Torah and Haftara Readings of Rosh HaShana Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005


When comparing the Torah and Haftorah readings of the first day of Rosh HaShana, a common theme jumps out at us. The theme is women desperately wanting a child and eventually being granted that child. The Torah reading deals with the story of Sarah and the eventual birth of Yitzchak. The Haftarah deals with the story of Channa and the eventual birth of Shmuel.

What do these readings have to do with Rosh HaShana? The Gemara in Brachot 29a states: On Rosh HaShana Sarah, Rachel and Channa were remembered (nifkedu). Each of these women became pregnant on Rosh HaShana.

This follows the theme of the Zichronot in the Rosh Hashana service. Just as God remembered Sarah, Rachel and Channa, we hope that due to their merits, God will remember us and grant us our requests.

Another reason why Channa's account is read on Rosh HaShana is because it shows the power of prayer. In Shmuel I 1:12 it says "Now Channa spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." In the Gemara in Brachot 31a Rav Hamnuna states that we can learn many laws of prayer from Channa. The fact that Channa had intense kavana (focus) during prayer teaches us that we too must have kavana. The fact that only her lips moved shows that we must pronounce each and every word with our lips. The fact that her voice was not heard shows that we can pray quietly and must not scream out. Channa actually set the precedent of how we pray today.

Yalkut Shimoni adds that the structure of the Shemoneh Esrei as we know it today is based on Channa's thanksgiving prayer. This teaches us the power of prayer and specifically the power of women's prayers on Roah HaShana as well as on a daily basis.

We learn from Channah that prayer can make an impact on our lives.

We have the opportunity to try to emulate Channa's kavana during the High Holidays as well as throughout the year.

Let us hope and pray that our requests for the New Year will be granted.