The Yearly Great Change
Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic
Ratzon—the G-dly Will
On the first day of Rosh Hashana we read the haftorah relating the prayer of Chana asking G-d to bless her with a male child, whom she would consecrate to the service of G-d. Her prayer was answered with the birth of Shmuel Hanavi, who indeed was consecrated from birth as a nazir, and who would become one of our greatest prophets. The reason why this haftorah was chosen will become clear if we bear in mind that the process of Tefila/prayer involves beseeching G-d to make changes in various situations. Someone is sick—please change his health for the better. Someone is needy—please help me get more parnassa etc.… All these requests open up with the words “Yehi ratzon” let it be your will, oh G-d, that this or that change for the better. This word “ratzon” comes up often in various parts of the davening. It is a fundamental article of Jewish faith that G-d willed the universe in a new state of existence, prior to which nothing but G-d existed. We firmly believe in “Creation”, which is a process of novelty unparalleled in our human experience-- which consist merely of cause and effect vs. creative processes ex nihilo.
Divine Providence and Prayer
This basic principle ties in with the principle of Hashgacha Pratis/Divine Providence: the One who created and brought about this stupendous novelty of Creation has no problem in applying detailed providence and control at every step! In addition, the One who generated the novelty and change (from non-existence to existence) has likewise no difficulty to generate all kinds of changes within the course of nature. This includes the free choice all citizens have in voting for certain candidates. The changes resulting from elections are still governed by the overall Divine Providence and control, though we mere mortals often cannot comprehend how G-d allows evil governments to form. We have full confidence in the power of Tefila/prayer through which G-d accedes to our heartfelt wishes for certain changes to occur. In the case of Chana, something beyond that occurred. She was one amongst millions of women who, in the course of history, davened to be blessed with progeny. But she went a step further. She davened that he be a tzadik/righteous! Usually, a child is given free choice in this matter. The Gemara (Nidda 16b) states that, though it is predetermined in heaven, prior to his birth, whether or not the child will be smart, rich, in good health etc…, however it is not determined whether he will be righteous or not, as this is entirely up to him. But in Chana’s case, even that was overridden and predetermined. G-d acceded even to that yehi ratzon that he be a tzadik and even that he be a nazirite upon being born, though he had the right not to accept her “vow” made before his birth. This truly was a great novelty!
Will in Kingship
The connection of this Haftora to Rosh Hashana lies in that there is a Divine Will for Divine Kingship to rule and sustain this world. As the initial Creator, G-d continues to sustain creation: in the same way that an earthly king has full sovereignty over his kingdom from a distance—for he remains in his palace—so, too, G-d’s omnipresent power and sovereignty is in full force constantly but is not felt and revealed, as though He is at a great “distance”. This Divine sovereignty is continuous by virtue of G-d’s Will to sustain creation. In addition, according to Midrash Tehilim on the verse “ Your Word Oh G-d forever stands in heaven” (119-89), creation is continuously sustained as a continuous re-creation and is a concept that was stressed by the Baal Shem Tov (Tanya II: 1). The Baal Shem Tov used to give the example of a leaf in a far-off forest falling off its tree precisely at a certain time point and in a certain fashion, all governed by divine providence. Underlying all this is the premise that all these processes are governed by Divine Will, first generating creation and then governing it through Kingship. There is thus Divine Will in wanting to have a king-subject relationship with the world .That Will, moreover, has to be reactivated anew every Rosh Hashana, as G-d in His ultimate transcendence stands way beyond the king-subject relationship. The many allusions about G-d as King during the davening of Rosh Hashana constitute an entreaty to G-d to please continue anew for another year His Will to have this kingship relationship with the world. Thus, in the same way that initial Creation activated a great change, from non-existence to existence, so too must we yearly elicit an additional great change, i.e. a new Kingship-Will for this coming year . The blowing of the Shofar, comparable to the blowing of trumpets at the time of a coronation indicates our reacceptance of His Kingship, and thereby strengthens our belief in G-d’s Divine power to bring about great changes in the world, including the speedy coming of Moshiach- at which time G-d’s sovereignty will finally be fully revealed.
Based on Likutei Sichos Vol.29, pp.182-188
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