Rosh Hashana — A Time to Party!

Rabbi Zvi Teichman

We stand poised once again to celebrate the anniversary of Man’s creation and to contemplate how well we are living up to the task of restoring his former stature.

We face the reality that we have certainly come up short on many accounts, despite many noteworthy accomplishments, and we still have quite a way to travel before we reach ‘the promised land’!

What are we hoping for? Are we simply focusing on being fortunate recipients of G-d’s benevolence, Who will provide us with our checklist of wants and desires? Are we so devoted to His will that all we want is to fulfill His directives, without any expressed concern for our personal needs?

What do we really want from life? What are we truly yearning for?

In the ‘Portion of Teshuvah’, it foretells of the ultimate ‘return’ to Hashem we will experience as a nation, that will take place in two stages.

And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d… He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers…

You shall return… Hashem will make you abundant in all your handiwork… for good, when Hashem will return to rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your forefathers…

In the first step of return we are promised to be more numerous than our forefathers. But in the second stage we are told that G-d will rejoice over us as he did over our forefathers.

Is that the ultimate reward, that G-d rejoices over us? 

The verse states that G-d rejoiced over our forefathers. 

When? Where? 

Although G-d engaged many times with them, there does not seem to be any recorded display of G-d having specifically rejoiced over them?

On the first day of Rosh Hashana, we read about the birth of Yitzchok, which was heralded on the previous Rosh Hashana, when G-d ‘remembered’ Sarah. 

After his birth the Torah reports how Avraham made a משתה גדול, a great feast. According to Midrash this feast was celebrating, possibly the milestone of his Bris, or his reaching the age of thirteen, or perhaps the day he was weaned from his mother’s milk. Whatever the occasion, this event attended by all the dignitaries of his time, was a celebration of, and testament to, the miraculous birth of Yitzchok and rejuvenation of his parents, attributed to the sole Creator, the G-d of Avraham.

The Midrash says that the world ‘גדול’ here refers to ‘גדול העולמים’, the great One of all worlds — the Creator — Hashem.

So here we have the ‘Great One’ participating in this moment of rejoicing with Avraham. This is the moment referenced in the verse ‘as He rejoiced over your forefathers…’

But where is the fulfillment of the prophetic first half of this verse — Hashem will return ‘to rejoice over you’ for good, as He rejoiced over your forefathers?

The Midrash points to another mention of a ‘great feast’, the משתה גדול, the party King Achashveirosh threw in honor of his new wife Esther. 

Is the Midrash claiming that here too, amid this sad turn of events for Esther, having to submit herself to the clutches of this ignoble king, the ‘גדול העולמים’ — the great One of all worlds, is celebrating along and rejoicing?

Evidently, Esther had the prescience to sense this was divinely directed and inspired towards bringing to fruition the miracle of Purim, and despite what might seem like an unfortunate circumstance for herself, she reveled in her mission knowing that Hashem was rejoicing over her at that moment.

Years ago, I quoted an anecdote I heard from the great Tzaddik, Reb Gamliel Rabinowitz, how the Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisroel, was once asked by a young enthusiastic chosid at the Kosel, what is the greatest praise one could possibly bestow on our loving and benevolent G-d? 

The Rebbe pithily responded, “Az der Eibishter lacht nisht!” — G-d never laughs at us.

The young man was confused at the response and went to his Rosh Yeshiva for an explanation.

He lovingly told him the depth of what the Rebbe had meant.

We come each year before the Almighty beseeching him to bestow us with blessing.

Have we changed? Have we taken any steps towards improving our behavior? Do we not stumble time and again on the same errors and delusions? Nevertheless, we ask for His kindness, for His forgiveness, for His unconditional love. Have you heard anything more comical in your life?

Yet, He does not laugh! Now tell me is there a greater Father than the One we have in Heaven? 

But, may I humbly add, there is something even greater. G-d actually ‘rejoices’, celebrating our good choices.

How many stories are told about survivors who persevered through the most unimaginable tortures because the image of the parents they envisioned elating over their courageous choices, holding out hope for them no matter what they may face, was branded into their hearts and minds. That encouragement gave them the inner peace and joy that enthused them to survive.

Reb Yosef Herzcel, a survivor of the Holocaust, who endured travail, loss, and much pain, recounts how after the war many of his compatriots felt forsaken by G-d and left observance. One individual who had relinquished his beliefs encountered the father he thought had perished in the crematoria of the concentration camps. When observing his father’s utter dismay of what became of him, he immediately exclaimed, “If only I would have known you survived, I would have never left the fold!”

Rav Yosef went on to say it was the image of his own father and his hopes and aspirations for him that kept him from ever straying.

Is there truly a greater joy than knowing that whatever difficulty we may face in life, G-d is pleased and delighted with us?

Perhaps, to the level we truly sense the משתה גדול — great feast, the privilege of being His chosen one, will we merit to sense the גדול — the great One in our lives.

May we each strive to sense, even in the seemingly dark moments, the joy Hashem has in our devotion to Him.

And Avraham made a משתה גדול — a great feast, ביום on the day(בראשית כא ח) 

The numerical equivalent of the words משתה גדול ביום, adding the number of letters and words as well, equal ראש השנה!

Let us sense and visualize how the Almighty rejoices over how we choose to deal with our struggles. With that encouragement we can conquer anything!

Rosh Hashana is indeed a time to party!

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