July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Should There Be an Atmosphere Of Joy on the High Holidays?

There is a mitzvah of joy on every Yom Tov (see Pesachim 109a and Rambam Hilchot Yom Tov 6:17-18), so why should Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur be any different?

The Rambam (Chanukah 3:6) writes: “There is no Hallel on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, because they are days of repentance and awe and fear, not days of additional joy.” There should be some element of joy on these days, but not “additional joy,” because of their solemn nature.

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 32b) explains that the reason we don’t say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah is because “the books of life and death are open before Him,” and it is, therefore, inappropriate to sing joyously on that day.

The Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 1:3) expresses a different feeling.It describes how other nations prepare for their court verdicts — dressing in black, and letting their hair and nails grow, because they don’t know which way the verdict will go.

“The Jewish people are not so. They wear white and wrap themselves in white, shave their beards and cut their nails, and eat, drink and are happy on Rosh Hashanah. Because they know the Almighty is performing miracles for them and will tip the scales in their favor …”

This is a joyous reality — an atmosphere of elation — in expectation of our sins being forgiven.

How can we reconcile the two emotions?

The Zohar (Bamidbar (part 3) page 118a) offers us a wonderful explanation. When the Jewish people are in the Diaspora, our divine service is that of awe and trepidation, but when the Jewish people are in the land of Israel, divine service is a service of joy.

What’s the difference between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora?

The Sfat Emet (Re’eh, 5681) explains that serving Hashem with joy comes from the soul. The service of awe is the body’s work. In Eretz Yisrael, there is a special sanctity that charges the soul. Outside Israel, the work is awe and trepidation (which leads to joy). In Eretz Yisrael, the work is joy, and through joy, we also merit awe, closeness to Hashem and fear of Heaven!

Rav Kook has a different idea. He says that when Am Yisrael are in exile — even if there are a lot of us — we are but a collection of individuals (see Orot 166:18). Each individual thinks of his or her own needs. However, in Eretz Yisrael, it is the service of the collective. Individuals become Klal Yisrael.

When one comes to Eretz Yisrael, the collective soul enters one’s being, and the stronger one’s desire to be included in the collective soul, the greater one’s internal holiness will illuminate one’s life.

Therefore, the difference is not just geographic. It’s individual soul and collective soul. A person who approaches Rosh Hashanah as an individual, approaches it with trembling and trepidation; but a person who approaches Rosh Hashanah with a more collective mindset, arrives in an ambience of joy.

Tremendous joy in crowning Hashem as King of the world.and elation regarding Am Yisrael’s role in crowning Hashem.

Of course, there is value in awe, trepidation — even tears — and an awareness of “who will live and who will die..” Yet, it appears to me that Eretz Yisrael absorbs these contrasts. Here, one can be joyous and one can cry. On the same day, we can sing Mareh Kohen and Unetaneh Tokef. On the same day, we can celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

That is our blessed mission: Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. Crowning Hashem as King of the world while — simultaneously — being solemnly aware of, and joyously excited by, the great responsibility in doing so.

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, rosh yeshiva of the Jerusalem College of Technology and is the founder and chairman of Sulamot. He is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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