15 Elul 5761
From the Desk of: Rav Hanoch Teller
Life vs. Sleep – A Message for Rosh Hashannah
Everyone says that they want to live. What could be more important than life? If you ask someone what do you enjoy most about life they’ll tell you sleep. “I want to live so that I can sleep.” If that’s the case, then they’ll really enjoy death!
As Reb Dovid Orlofsky points out, it is always around Rosh Hashanah that the clock changes. At that time of year everyone is in the very thrust of requesting life, entreating chaim and supplicating to be inscribed in the Book of Life. The changing of the clock is heralded with the cheer that “Now I can sleep an extra hour!” There is nothing closer to death than sleep.
If you really want to live than you must show it. This is why you get up early for slichos. If you can’t get up early than life can’t be that important.
On Rosh Hashanah when your life is being determined you do not nap during the day light hours for it is incongruous.
Consider: no one who vacations in Disney Land wakes up late for they do not want to miss out. Everyone is on time for the 4:30 A.M. departure for the ski trip.
Similarly, why is it when you marry off a child you go to sleep so late that night? All of the preparations are already finished; the party is over, and on any other night at that hour you would have long ago retired!
Napoleon barely slept explaining, “When I sleep I am not Napoleon.” The night of the wedding you are the baal hasimcha and the mechuttan once you go to sleep you lose this status.
We have an opportunity around y’mei hadin to show that life really counts to us, hence we get up early for slichos. Not only do we wish to demonstrate, as Rabbi Orlofsky points out, that life really has meaning for us, but also why we seek to live.
The word for “give” in Aramaic is hav. In lashon hakodesh the onomatopoeia for barking is hav. The Midrash says that we sound like a pack of dogs as we bark out the Avinu Malkeinus repeating over and over again hav hav!
“…Give us a life free from pestilence, sword and famine
“Give us a life free from willful sins
“Give us an inscription in the book of Good Life
“Give us an inscription in the book of Sustenance and Support
“Give us an opening to the gates of Heaven with our prayer…”
How can we have any dignity if we are akin to dogs? The answer is to focus on the operative word “l’maancha.”
Zachreinu l’chaim, melech chafetz b’chaim v’kasveinu b’sefer hachaim l’maancha Elokim chaim. I seek life and its blessings for Your sake, O L-rd. If we are encumbered by war I will be unable to focus on my worship and service the way that I should. I wish to teach Your Torah but if I am plagued with laryngitis I will be unable to convey Your teachings.
I can have dignity and legitimate cause to live if the purpose of my life is l’maancha, even if it means, — even though it does mean — getting up earlier.