Friday, September 15, 2006

How to know if you are ready for Rosh Hashanah

I’ve spent the last few days asking people: “Are you ready for Rosh Hashanah?” The answers have been varied and interesting.

One woman told me that she still had to attend to plenty of catering. Another person said that preparing for Yom Tov was his wife’s department. One or two people exclaimed “Oops, I forgot to tell you to book me a seat!” A particularly honest person admitted that, if it would be Pesach next week, he would be just as ill-prepared as he is for Rosh Hashanah.

Inviting guests, ordering food, organising shul seats and sending Shana Tovah cards are all integral parts of the preparation for this special time.

Even more important, is the internal preparation that we should do to ensure that we will maximise the opportunity Hashem offers us on the days that formulate the coming year.

So, how do you tell if you are spiritually ready for Rosh Hashanah?

Obviously, some extra davening, another shiur and some unplanned mitzvahs all help. But, how do you know if you’ve done enough? How can you tell if Hashem will look at you in a good light when He allocates the blessings for the New Year?

Our sages sum it up succinctly in “Pirkei Avos”: “One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G-d. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to G-d.”

It’s that simple. If people like you, Hashem likes you. All the meditation, prayer and study that you do really becomes meaningful when it translates into treating people well.

As the Baal Shem Tov used to say: “Love of a fellow is the first gate leading into the palace of G-d.”


Jon Hoffman said...
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Jon Hoffman said...

The question that automatically springs to mind is "what takes preference, making your fellow man happy or being a good Jew".

Although the two coincide more often than not, there are the circumstances where making people happy would be in direct violation to the central tenets of Judaism.

For instance, one of the Ten Commandments prohibits the killing of another man. However, utilitarianism would dictate if killing another man increase the utility (happiness) of the people, it should be permitted.

While this is an extreme example, it highlights the possible conflict between the two.

Rabbi S said...

Hi Jon

Thanks for your comment!

There's no question that one cannot be a good Jew and do things that harm others. At the same time, you have tto be careful not to equate doing good for people with making people happy.

What makes someone happy could be highly subjective- and therefore dangerous.

Fortunately, Torah has clear guidelines on dealing with the sort of apparent conflicts that you mention in your question.