By HaRav Yaakov Meir Schecter, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770
Rosh Hashana is the chosen day when the people of Israel crown Hashem, as is clearly evident from the prayers we say during that day. The Talmud (Tract Rosh Hashana, p. 34) says: Hashem said: “Mention Kingships, Remembrances, and Shofars before me so that you crown me upon you”. All three issues are said mainly during the Musaf prayer. The rest of the prayers of Rosh Hashana concentrate almost entirely on coronation.
What’s more, our sages say that one of the reasons for blowing the shofar is because trumpets are customarily blown during the coronation ceremony of human kings.
From all this we learn that the main thrust of the day is crowning Hashem as king of the world. So much so, that even though this is the day of judgment for the entire creation, for us it is still mainly the day when we crown Hashem on us. This is very significant, as the Vilna Gaon explains, because there is a major difference between a ruler and king. A ruler, he explains, alludes to the act of “ruling” – exerting authority by force – whereas a king is someone who is willingly crowned by his subjects.
The main goal of creation is crowning Hashem
The beginning of the world was on the 25th day of the month of Elul (Pirkey d’Rabbi Elazar, chapter 8 ) and our Rosh Hashana is six days later. It is the day Adam was created and crowned Hashem over the world. This is why we say ”זה היום תחילת מעשיך” “This the day when your deeds have begun” even though creation actually started six days earlier. This is because the world has gained its significance when Adam crowned Hashem. We say “Whoever teaches another man’s child Torah is akin to having created him.” This is so because even though he is the natural child of someone else, his significance as a human being lies in him possessing a true da’at, comprehension. Without Torah he is merely a “human animal”. Teaching him Torah gives him the stature of a “human manifestation of G-dly” – the goal of man’s existence. So, too, the entire world, as magnificent and awesome as it was, was meaningless until Hashem was crowned over it, giving it meaning. This is why the day the coronation took place is considered “This is the day your deeds have begun”. Since the world was created for conscious man, the day man was created is considered the real beginning.
The sefer Eitz Chaim (Gate 8, chapter 6) describes the incredible rectifications Adam affected on the first day. This is why we are ordered to “feast on fats and drink sweets etc’…for this day is sacred to our Master…don’t be upset for the merriment of Hashem is our strength.” We must be incredibly happy for having merited being among the army of Hashem, those who crown Him and unify Him on this day.
This is also why we do not confess our sins on Rosh Hashana because the amelioration of the heavenly verdicts and prosecutions depend only on the crowning of Hashem and celebrating it on this day.
To Illuminate His Kingdom in the Darkest Places
It is therefore a wonder why Rosh Hashana is the only holiday on which the moon is always unseen.
We should ponder this because the moon, as we know, signifies kingship. It would stand to reason that on this day, when the kingdom of Hashem is renewed, that it should take place on the day when the moon can be seen in all its glory. In fact, all other holidays take place in the middle of the month when the moon can be fully seen and appreciated – except Rosh Hashana. We need to understand why this is so.
But this can be easily understood when we understand the nature of the obligation of crowning Hashem. We need to see to it that the coronation is complete. We need to make Hashem’s kingdom evident everywhere, especially in the lower, covered places. The crux of Hashem being the recognized monarch is when this recognition comes from places where He cannot be seen. This is the secret behind Rosh Hashana being on the day the moon is covered and unseen. We are calling out declaring that Hashem is our king even when we have no visible evidence of it. This makes Hashem’s kingdom more complete. The main joy we bring to Hashem is when we recognize his authority when we are “blinded” by this world, yet still we call “Hashem is King, Hashem was King, Hashem will be King for ever and ever!”
The Secret of the Month of Elul
In point of fact, this is the secret behind the essence of Elul, the month we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana. This is the month when we need to learn the art of staying with Hashem at all times (Likutei Mohar”an, 6). We need to be able to recognize correctly times of expanded and constricted consciousness and adjust our crowning efforts accordingly. And this is what it says in this lesson:
“The simple explanation is that whoever wants to walk in the ways of Teshuva must be resolved to forever strengthen himself in the ways of Hashem at all times, whether being “up” or “down”. This means that if one finds himself attaining a great stature, still, he should not be satisfied with it, but endeavor to search higher and higher still…and the opposite is true as well. If one falls to the deepest of depths, even into Hell itself, one should not become despaired, but should keep on looking for Hashem and hold himself up in any way he can. One should know that it is possible to adhere oneself onto Hashem even from the depths of Hell itself.” The goal on Rosh Hashana is to crown Hashem completely. We can do this if we prepare ourselves to do so even when times are hard.
Elul – the Time for Searching
“Elul” can be understood to mean “searching”. When the Torah says “And they searched the land of Cna’an” (Numbers, 11), Unkelus translated “Ye’Elul-lun”. This comes to tell you that the essence of Elul is to search within oneself and be ready to crown Hashem at any place, physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is why one must search his soul, especially in the darkest and deepest places, if one is to crown Hashem properly.