Tishrei 5771 – Scaling New Heights (pun intended)

Tishrei 5771
Erev Yom Kippor Special Thought
Scaling New Heights
(pun intended)

Rabbi Reuven Lauffer

Rabbi Reuven Lauffer teaches in Ohr Somayach and several seminaries around Yerushalayim. He also answers questions about anything and everything via email for both Ohr Somayach and Gateways in New York.

I would hope that all of you are feeling slightly terrified(!) just as I am at the thought of all the approaching Yamim Tovim. My feelings of trepidation are actually a lot less to do with the fear of judgment, Teshuvah can always be done at any time of the year, and a lot more to do with a much simpler question – where did the year go? It really does not feel as if it was so long ago that it was Rosh Hashana and now it is Rosh Hashana again.

As everyone is aware, I am sure, the Mazal for the month of Tishrei are a set of scales. The symbolism is so obvious that it really requires no explanation. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah are all looming up over the horizon and they are all centered around the concept of justice.

But I think that there is something much deeper as well. The Torah commands us not to own scales that are not accurate, see Parshas Kedoshim and Parshas Ki Tetze. The Torah teaches that it is not just forbidden to use inaccurate scales (which would not, presumably, require its own pasuk because to do so is stealing) but that it is forbidden to even have them in your home! They can’t even sit on a shelf gathering dust, rather, they have to be completely removed from one’s home.

What’s the big deal? Why are we being instructed by the Torah to go to such extremes? I think that the answer is quite simple – because in a person’s home there is no room for any dishonesty.

The Mazal of Tishrei is a set of scales. During the month of Tishrei that set of scales has to be found in every single person’s “home”, in their heart. But those scales have to be absolutely calibrated down to the very last millimeter otherwise they are not Kosher. Otherwise we are just kidding ourselves into imagining that we are just fine as we are.

What an incredible lesson! In the month Tishrei, the month of the Yamim Noraim, we are not allowed to try and fool ourselves as we have done over the rest of the year. We have to measure ourselves and weigh ourselves constantly – but according to Hashem’s standards not ours.

The verse in Partsha Eikev states, “M’reishis hashanah ad achris shanah”. The Alter Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbuam, points out that there is a grammatical inconsistency in the verse. The verse should either read, “M’reishis hashanah ad achris hashanah” or “M’reishis shanah ad achris shanah” but it should not read as it does. The Satmar Rebbe explains that in Hebrew grammar the letter “heh” at the beginning of a word is the “heh hayediyah” – the definitive article. When the year begins we are convinced that this year is going to be the year. It will be the year that I live up to all my resolutions. It will be the year that I remain attached to Hashem throughout the year (not just when I am in trouble and need Him). It will be the year that I am better, kinder, gentler and more thoughtful person. And yet, when the end of the year rolls around it transpires that the year was just another year like all the other years that came before it. It wasn’t the year at all.

That needs to be our battle cry for the new year that is almost upon us! That, regardless of where we are, this year really will be the year. That we measure ourselves with scales that are absolutely and consistently accurate every single day of the year!

Hakadosh Baruch Hu should bless each and every one of us that we should be zoche that this time next year we are able to make a very small but extremely significant change to the Torah. That we are able to add a small “heh” to the beginning of the word “Shanah” so that the verse reads –

“M’reishis hashanah ad achris hashanah”.