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NOTHING BELONGS TO US

Roy Neuberger - Sep. 15, 2017


“Rav Tachlifa, the brother of Ravnai Choza’ah, taught the following Baraisa: All of a person’s income is fixed from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur ….” (Beitzah 15b)

 

“Rabbi Yehuda the son of Rabbi Shalom expounded: Just as a person’s sustenance (for the coming year) is apportioned for him from Rosh Hashanah, so a person’s losses (for the coming year) are apportioned for him from Rosh Hashanah….” (Bava Basra 10a)

 

Nothing in this world belongs to us.

 

I had additional thoughts concerning the robbery we experienced recently in Yerushalayim. When something is taken from us, we were not meant to have it. This is something that we know theoretically, but it is very difficult to comprehend. We have been taught in this society to accumulate material possessions and we assume that these possessions belong to us. Furthermore, the surrounding culture equates possessions with happiness, the more the better.


But that is incorrect. “Hillel said … the more possessions, the more worry….” (Pirkei Avos Ch. 2) One of the reasons there is “more worry” is that we are under the false impression that possession of these objects is integral to us. If we lose or damage them, we feel incomplete.


My friends, we own nothing! We do not own our own body and not even our soul! We do not own any object or even our place in this world. When we say “Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad,” one thing we are saying is that Hashem is the One Who Exists. Everyone and everything other than He is His creation, including our very existence and all our possessions. When a person experiences the trauma of a robbery, it is a reminder that we really do not possess anything. It is a reminder of the true state of the world, that Hashem rules and creates all, and that we exist only as a part of Hashem.


As we prepare to crown Hashem King of the universe, it is appropriate to think about this. Do we really understand the majesty of a king? Do we really understand the awesomeness of a king? Great honor is given to a king of flesh and blood, but an earthly king is only a shadow of the King of Kings. Do we have any understanding of the King of the Universe?


King David was able to say, “I am a worm and not a man …” (Psalm 22:7) How could he say that? He was the chosen of Hashem and the eternal king of Israel. He was the one who could say, “With You, I smash a troop and with my G-d I leap a wall.” (Psalm 18:30)

 

King David was so real! He had the courage to state that he was a nothing in himself. He knew and stated that only “with My G-d” am I anything at all. In this is his majesty.


As we approach the Ten Days of Teshuva, the period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, it is well to remember that we are intrinsically nothing and our possessions are not our possessions. When we crown Hashem King it is well for us to remember what a King is and what we are. “Avinu, Malkeinu … Our Father, Our King, be gracious to us and answer us, though we have no worthy deeds ….”

 

If you want a shock, look over Tefillas Zakkah, which we say Erev Yom Kippur. I do not understand the spiritual level of someone who could write these words. The author had the courage and honesty to describe honestly the mental state of a creature of flesh and blood. I understand that mankind has such thoughts, but who has the courage to express them? And yet, if we don’t admit and express them, how can we hope to do teshuva?


I often wonder how I can ever clean out my neshoma, my soul. If we contemplate our own weakness and inadequacy then we will realize that we have no choice but to cry out to our Father and King to save us, because we are confronted by the enormity of our need.


This week’s Haftara offers consolation to those who are willing to contemplate their need for salvation. The Prophet says, “Hashem has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness … like a bridegroom who dons Priestly glory, like a bride who bedecks herself in her jewelry.” (Isaiah 61:10)

 

Are we afraid? Are we vulnerable? Are we exposed? “Upon your walls, O Yerushalayim, I have assigned guardians, all the day and all the night, continuously…. Hashem swore … I will not give your grain any longer as food for your enemies, and alien sons shall not drink your wine ….” (Isaiah 62:6) This is indeed security, for all our goodness and protection, indeed our very existence is totally a function of Hashem’s willing us to exist and to be protected.


Our society is based on the false assumption that the physical universe has an independent existence. But Hillel says, “Marbe nechasim, marbe daiga … the more possessions, the more worry,” not only because physical possessions demand our time and attention, but because this view of life represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the universe.


If we want to live, then on Rosh Hashana we have to say these words with emotion: “Instill Your awe upon all Your works, and Your dread upon all that You have created. Let all Your works revere You and all creatures prostrate themselves before You. Let them all become a single society to do Your will with a whole heart, for … dominion is Yours….”


If we understand how utterly empty we are and we cry out to our Father and King, then perhaps we will merit the salvation which can come only from Heaven and the Redemption we so desperately need. May our heartfelt prayers be accepted in Heaven for a good and blessed year and may we all be sealed in the Book of Life. 


 

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