May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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For the years when I lived in Eretz Yisrael I would arrive an hour before Rosh Hashanah at my seat toward the front of the Mir Yeshiva beis midrash. From there I would gaze out the window at the Old City of Yerushalayim and marvel at the beautiful setting sun. By this time of the day on Erev Rosh Hashanah the hustle and bustle was over and quiet reigned. It was like the clouds, the trees and every creature sensed the imminence of Hashem’s presence.

I remember looking at my rosh yeshiva, Hagaon Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, as he also looked out the window. I could sense his thoughts at that moment, contemplating the coming year with big visions to increase the quantity and quality of Torah study among his many students. He accomplished so much as a rosh yeshiva while suffering from Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. The Mir increased from 800 to well over 4,000 students during that time period. The buildings multiplied, the kollels (intense study groups) increased—all from his vision and hard work.

Indeed, vision and planning are the essence of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year.” But wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “beginning of the year”? Why is it called the head of the year?

The commentary Pesach Eliyahu says that every Yom Tov correlates to the characteristics of a specific limb or organ of our body. Rosh Hashanah correlates to the head, which is markedly different from the rest of our organs. It is the control center for the entire body and forms our thoughts, plans and goals.

That is precisely why it’s called head of the year, according to Rabbi Shimshon Pincus. On that day we use our heads to formulate our vision and goals for the new year. Whatever we will accomplish will be based on the goals we establish at the beginning of the year. The judgment we receive on Rosh Hashanah is based in large part on how our vision for ourselves and for klal Yisrael aligns with the will of Hashem.

Reb Yisroel Salanter notes that while a person’s actual abilities are limited by his body, talents and resources, the mind’s inventiveness is not bound by any of these limitations. We can accomplish anything in our imagination! We should therefore aim for a plan with maximum accomplishment in the service of Hashem and pray for Hashem to provide us with the physical and spiritual resources to accomplish our plan. Life, health, children, marriage, harmony in the home, money—all these are determined in great part by what we want to do with the resources we are given. On Rosh Hashanah we make the plan and ask for Hashem’s help to implement it.

Let me be clear: on Rosh Hashanah we can think BIG!! Entirely new realities are created on Rosh Hashanah. We read how the matriarch Sarah, who had no womb, became pregnant on Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara Rosh Hashanah tells us that Yosef Hatzadik was freed from the king’s dungeon on Rosh Hashanah. It is a day to use our minds to soar above our constraints and ask for the resources we need to serve Hashem properly. There are no restraints.

Personally, I daven to Hashem for His help, and invite all to help, in raising the balance of the funds needed for a new building for our Yeshiva Ner Boruch—PTI, to increase daily Torah study for adults and youth.

There will be times, for all of us, when it’s difficult to articulate our plan in words. Here, Rabbi Chaim Freidlander explains that we have the aid of the shofar, a sound that is free and not constrained by words. The shofar is the sound of our inner desire to do the will of Hashem.

Let us use this awesome day to crystallize our true desires for the year into concrete, noble goals. May Hashem grant us our requests with tremendous blessing for a sweet new year as we use our newly granted resources to do His will.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara-learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis midrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. His email is [email protected].

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