Finding Inspiration in the Torah and Haftara Readings of Rosh HaShana


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.