Rabbi Yaacov Haber – Rosh Hashanah: A Fresh New Start

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Close your eyes and imagine what the world must have looked like on the first day of creation. Pristine, fresh, untainted, healthy and unpolluted. Man is created. He is naive, pure and innocent. His face shines from the goodness of his unadulterated soul. His tongue is holy because he has never told a lie. His heart can only love because he has not learned how to hate. Don’t we all wish we were there? Don’t we all wish we could catch a whiff of the freshest air in history?

Welcome to Rosh Hashanah. HaYom Haras Olam! Today the world is created. It’s a new world. Today we can start afresh, our hearts and souls can be renewed, our relationships can begin again and even our environment can change. Today we can be rejuvenated with the same exuberance and enthusiasm that we have when we start an exciting new project. The world does not have to be at war. Jews don’t have to be fighting with each other. Today the world is created afresh. HaYom Haras Olam!

At the very beginning of creation G-d created a light that didn’t require the sun. It was the light of newness and creation. G-d cherished that light and didn’t want evil people to ruin it, so He put it away for Tzadikkim in the future. (Talmud) Today is the future!

For the past month we have been reciting “LeDovid” every day. The custom to recite this psalm during the period of repentance is based on the following Medrash.

“Hashem ori veyishi”. “Hashem is my light”, on Rosh Hashanah, “and my salvation”, on Yom Kippur. “He will hide me in His shelter”, is an allusion to Sukos. The light, ori, is the light G-d hid away at the beginning of creation. It is a fresh, untouched, pure, and uncomplicated light. It is the light of Rosh Hashanah. This Medrash is deeply Kabalistic, yet its message is very simple. On Rosh Hashanah we can start fresh. Yom Kippur is a time for repentance and restructuring of our lives. Rosh Hashana is a time to plug into the original light of creation.

Imagine for a moment you are moving to a place where nobody knows you. They have not seen any pictures of you nor will they ever meet any of your friends. You now have the opportunity to start anew. You can look in the mirror of your soul and ask yourself if there is anything that you’d like to change. You now have the chance to shed some parts of yourself that you may have felt you were stuck with. You can start doing things for yourself that you’ve always really wanted to do.

While being at home you may have wanted to change some things about the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you eat, your behavior in the Synagogue, your business practices and your whole priority system, but it was too difficult to even consider. At home you may have fallen into patterns of relationships with your spouse, your children or your friends that may not be for the best. You may have developed habits that are destructive. You may have become negative about certain people. But at home it’s too hard to change. What will my friends say if I start dressing different? Will people view me as an impostor if I suddenly refuse to gossip? What will my wife think if I give up my favorite TV show for Daf Yomi? It is very difficult to change the terms of your relationships, midstream. But now that you are moving to a brand new place there is no reason for inhibition. Just do it!

Rosh Hashanah is your new place! HaYom Haras Olam! The world is created today! It’s new! You can shed all the baggage, all the complications, and all the worries and as they say on TV, “Just do it!” If not now when? This is what Rosh Hashanah is all about. On Rosh Hashanah we make a fresh new start.

On a practical level I would like to suggest that we look at the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur as a testing ground. Use these ten days to experiment with some new behaviors. Most of us can get through a week without drinking alcohol or smoking. If we it would mean that we are addicted to destructive behavior. Can we get through the week without saying anything negative about anyone else? Can we get through the week without criticizing or insulting others? Can we get through the week without losing our temper? If we can’t – are we addicted? Are we stuck?

Today is the day to get unstuck, to start anew and to grow. May you all be blessed with a beautiful new page in the book of life.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber is Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Orchos Chaim in Jerusalem http://www.orchos.org.il and President of TorahLab http://www.torahlab.org. Comments and questions are very welcome: email yhaber@torahlab.org