Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stepping It Up On Rosh Hashana

One thing I've always found fascinating is how it seems like almost everyone steps it up a few notches on Rosh Hashana. Whether it's the chareidi who learns all day and hasn't seen a newspaper since he visited his grandmother, or whether it's the porn addict who's probably best off reading a newspaper, whether it's the baalebos who tries to learn every spare moment, or the baalebos who hasn't cracked open a gemara since Soncino was the most popular translation out there, it seems like almost everyone gets serious on Rosh Hashana. The Chazoras HaShatz, which is usually full of hushed conversations, becomes totally quiet. The two-minute shemoneh esrei grows a lot longer. Especially if you've got an interlinear machzor, or the "Pathway to Prayer."

Some people keep it turned it on even after davening has ended. They come home and try not to discuss sports, movies, or gossip at the yom tov meal. They try to open a mishnayos instead of the New York Times. And they have the carrots, the leeks, the round challey (any commenters know the origin of that name, btw?), and the other segulos with which they can hopefully merit a successful new year.

But then, the year starts, and usually, the status quo sticks around. How many people with parnosso issues step it up on Rosh Hashana, only to have another year of "more of the same"? How many people looking for a shidduch pour out their hearts on the Day Of Judgment, only to come to the next rosh hashana still single? How many people daven on rosh hashana, only to R"L be confronted with challenges and tragedies?

And every year, it seems like one rabbi gets up there and says, "this past year was a difficult one. And the tragedies and wars that occurred this past year were all decreed on the past Rosh Hashana, one year ago!" Yes, that same Rosh Hashana where we thought we gave it our all. Where we thought we tried hard enough.

Yet, year after year, we come to Rosh Hashana, and we try again. We pull out the machzor, go through shemoneh esrei with added fervor, and once again, give it our best shot. What keeps us all going? What stops so many of us from saying "I tried this last year, and look what happened. Why should I do this again?"

- I think there are two issues to think about here. One is the whole tzaddik v'ra lo issue. Definitely plays a big role here.

The other is, after we step it up, are those fervent desires for real? Or do they disappear far too soon? Maybe it isn't enough to just put on a show. After all, God knows what we're all about. And maybe the change has gotta last.

With that in mind, may we all merit to take whatever inspiration and spiritual progress we've made on Rosh Hashana and have it last, and have it change us, and have it be more than just a two-day show.


Anonymous little big bro said...

Perhaps the problem is that these people are unaware of R' Dessler's piece on bechira, where he discusses that it is unrealistic and impossible to go from being on a low level to a very high one very quickly. Yet, in today's generation, we all want instant gratification, so we'll daven like crazy in hopes that presto! Things will turn around immediately.
But it doesn't work that way. So when a guy is actually chilled out on rosh hashana, I tip my hat to him.

9:53 PM  
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3:16 AM  

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