Weekly Inspiration

Clothed In White
September 21st, 2023
Clothed In White

My chavrusa is a talmid chacham. He told me last week that he was concerned about what will happen this year because Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos. Then I heard that Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita”h made a similar statement. 

When Rabbi Shternbuch speaks, we have to listen. 

Correction! We do not have to listen! 

But if we don’t listen, we are in danger! 

Why don’t we “have to” listen? Because Hashem created us with free will. The danger with free will is that we can make the wrong choice. We can do whatever we want, but there are consequences. No one can force me to make the correct choice. Even Hashem leaves that over to my own power of decision. This is the way He created us and this way we have merit for coming to the right conclusion. 

But this way also we have responsibility for the consequences. “Hakol b’ydai Shomayim … everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven.” (Berachos 33b) Hashem leaves this in our hands, but it is everything. The entire point of our lives is to develop this fear, as if we are standing in front of Hashem and trembling. 

Every time we make a bracha, we say “Baruch ata … You.” Who is “You?” 

“You” is Hashem. We are standing in front of Hashem and speaking to Him! 

I wish that I were on that madreiga, because it is the madreiga of Reality.

On Yom Kippur, we attempt to elevate ourselves to the level of angels who stand in front of the Kisai ha Kavod and know where they are standing. One day a year we try to attain this level of existence! One day! That is how difficult it is! And yet, that is our perpetual goal: to realize that we are standing in front of Hashem at all times.

“Oh Israel, if you would but listen to Me …. I am Hashem your G-d….” (Tehillim 81)

This is our challenge.

Rabbi Shternbuch recalled the earth-shaking words of the Aruch L’Ner: “in the years that Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, Klal Yisroel had either a very good year … or, chas v’Shalom, the opposite….” Earth-shaking events occurred in these years, some great, some catastrophic. 

Both the Churban Bais Rishon and the Churban Bais Shaini occurred in years on which Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos; similarly September 11, 2001 occurred during such a year. 

When Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, Am Yisroel loses the merit of shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The shofar recalls the merit of Akeidas Yitzchak and the merits of our Avos, who protect their children throughout history. The shofar sounds our heartfelt cries before the Throne of Glory. When we are unable to blow the shofar on the first day, then we must rely on the merit of Shabbos, and the entire weight of our fate is decided by whether Am Yisroel is properly keeping Shabbos.

Our Sages tell us, “If the Jewish People would only observe two Shabboses according to their laws they would be redeemed immediately!” (Shabbos 118b) The Gemara also says, “Whoever fulfills [the precepts of] … Shabbos is spared from … the travails of [the coming of] Moshiach, from the judgment of Gehennom and from the war of Gog and Magog.” (ibid 118a)  

Do you hear this? Shabbos has the power to save us from the entire chaos which is at this very moment boiling up around us. How? Because Shabbos propels us into the eternal protection of the World of Truth. We dwell in security with Hashem if we dwell in the protection of Shabbos.

Yom Kippur is a special gift to propel us upward. It is called the “Shabbos of Shabboses,” (Vayikra 16:31) the ultimate Shabbos, which can elevate us all the way.

My friends, especially in these dangerous times, we need to enwrap ourselves in the kedusha of Yom Kippur. We need to clothe our bodies and souls in white and try to act like malachim who know that they stand in the immediate presence of Hashem! 

If you want to get shaken up before Yom Kippur, I would advise reading Tefillah Zakkah (which you can find in the Artscroll Siddur before Kol Nidreh). The sensational honesty of the tzaddik who wrote this tefillah will help us unleash our souls from the constraints of this world. 

Momentous days are approaching. We ask Hashem to hold our hand. It is going to be a time like Yetzias Mitzraim and Har Sinai, a time when the Voice of Hashem will be heard throughout the world. 

Gmar chassima tova! May we all be sealed in the Book of Life!

Akeidas Yitzchok: The Binding of Isaac
Avos: The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Bais Rishon: The First Temple
Bais Shaini: The Second Temple
Chas v’Shalom: G-d forbid
Chavrusa: Torah study partner
Churban: Destruction
Kedusha: Sanctity
Kisai ha kavod: Throne of G-d
Madreiga: Spiritual level

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