These are the Yamim Noraim; the Days of Awe.
Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur.
These are the High Holy Days of the Children of Israel.
During the entire previous month, Elul, we have prayed that Hashem give us the strength to Repent; to Return to the Ways of G-d.
And now we are Judged. And now we are Signed and Sealed.
“Let us now relate the power of this day's holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it Your Kingship will be exalted; Your throne will be firmed with kindness and You will sit upon it in truth. It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness; Who writes and seats, (counts and calculates); Who remembers all that was forgotten. You will open the Book of Chronicles - it will read itself, and everyone's signature is in it. The great shofar will be sounded and a still, thin sound will be heard. Angels will hasten, a trembling and terror will seize them - and they will say, 'Behold, it is the Day of Judgment, to muster the heavenly host for judgment!'- for they cannot be vindicated in Your eyes in judgment.”
“On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.”
“But REPENTANCE, PRAYER and CHARITY Remove the Evil of the Decree!”
- from the Machzorim (Prayer Books) for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
"Three books are opened on Rosh HaShana: one for completely wicked people, one for completely righteous people, and one for those in the middle. The completely righteous people are immediately inscribed and sealed for life; the completely wicked people are immediately inscribed and sealed for death. Those in the middle have their judgment suspended until Yom Kippur. If they merit it, they are written for life; if not, they are written for death."
- Talmud; Tractate Rosh Hoshana; 16b
Towards the end of her book, “Life is a Test,” Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis examines the idea that G-d sends us “wake up calls” through the events that happen in our lives.
One such event was September 11, 2001.
She noted that, on the Internet, the idea was being circulated that the number Eleven was significant –
9/11 – Nine plus one plus one equals eleven; the Twin Towers resembled the number eleven; September 11th was the two hundred and fifty fourth day of the year – two plus five plus four equals eleven; the flight number of the first plane to hit the towers was eleven; ninety two passengers were aboard – nine plus two equals eleven; after September 11th there were 111 days left to the end of the year; 911 is the call for help; and there were many, many more “elevens” that were significantly tied into September 11th.
The Rebbetzin wrote that originally she did not take much stock in the idea that the number 11 had anything to do with Judaism or “Jewish answers” to 9/11.
However, she then went on to look at the significance of the number 11 in Judaism and the Torah.
She found that September 11th occurred on the 23rd day of the month of Elul. Elul is the sixth month on the Jewish calendar and – two plus three plus six equals eleven.
The portion of the Torah that we read that week is called Nitzavim. There is a section that has eleven “cantillation dots” over the words: “The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d, but the revealed things are for us and our children.” (Deuteronomy 29:28)
There is a system of numerology in Judaism called gematria. Every letter and word has a numerical value. The numerical value of teshuva in Hebrew is 713. Seven plus three plus one equals eleven. Teshuva is commonly translated as repentance. It means Return to G-d. It is what we are called to do when G-d sends us a wakeup call that our lives are not on the right track.
Rebbetzin Jungreis brings many other “Elevens” from the Torah and their significance to the idea of teshuva – repentance.
There is one particular example that the Rebbetzin bring from the Torah that is most closely related to Rosh Hashanah; the New Year of the Jewish calendar when G-d Judges the World and calls His People to Repent; to do Teshuva, and Return to Him. It is from the Halftorah portion that we read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
The Rebbetzin writes:
“The numerical value of the Hebrew for Rachel Imenu – “Mother Rachel” is three hundred and thirty five. Three plus three plus five equals eleven!
Regarding Mother Rachel it is written [in the Halftorah we read on Rosh Hashanah], ‘A voice is raised on high – wailing and bitter weeping, Rachel is crying for her children. She refuses to be consoled for her children are gone. Thus said the L-rd, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears – there is reward for your labor… Your children shall return to their borders.’ (Jeremiah 31:14-17). Mother Rachel, to whom G-d gave this unconditional promise, died on the eleventh day of the Hebrew month of Chesvan.”
The significance of this whole idea of the number 11 being associated with teshuva – repentance, is that it is possible to pause and view events that happen in this world as more than just “coincidence.”
This Jewish Year 5772, that began on this Rosh Hashanah, is the beginning of the 11th year after the events of September 11th, 2001; Elul 23, 5761.
In the Talmud; Tractate Rosh Hashanah, it states:
“On Rosh Hashanah, all of the world’s inhabitants pass in judgment before Hashem, like sheep passing single file in review before the shepherd. As the verse states (Psalm 33:15): ‘He fashions their hearts together and discerns all of their deeds.’”
There is a discussion in the Rabbis of the Talmud that, actually, a person is judged every day; that a person is judged every minute… So, what is the particular significance of the awesomeness and uniqueness of Rosh Hashanah if we are judged every day; every moment?
We are told that on Rosh Hashanah, the Angels that represent the Nations of the World converge to accuse Israel and the Jewish People and list all of their misdeeds before the Throne of G-d.
Because of their many sins, these Angels demand of G-d that the Jewish Nation be either destroyed or assimilated. They demand that Hashem terminate the existence of Israel as G-d’s Chosen People.
It is at this time that Jews are required to come to their own defense by giving their only Advocate – G-d – their sincere Repentance; their sincere Prayers; and their sincere example of Righteous Behavior. One of the symbols used to communicate this Sincerity is the Sounding of the Shofar. The Shofar represents the Wakeup Call that Jews take upon themselves as they recognize G-d’s Wakeup Calls that He gives both the Jewish People and all Mankind.
Sincerely and loudly proclaiming G-d as the Only King is the only defense of Israel as the Angels of the Nations gather together to wipe out our existence and to deny that we are suitable to be G-d’s Holy People.
As we learn in the attacks of 9/11, the significance of the number 11 is Teshuva; Return to G-d, so we should learn from all of the other “wakeup calls” that Hashem has given us.
According to our Rabbis, the “natural disasters,” that have occurred with astonishingly massive results in the last ten years are a wakeup call that the Jewish Nation needs to Return to G-d; Repent; and recognize G-d as the One and Only King.
The Children of Israel are a People of Wonder - at times the Nations of the World become astonished at their own cruelty and horror that they afflict on the Jewish People. And, at times the Nations of the World become astonished at the Miracles that G-d has performed for the Jewish People.
But whether the Jews have been cursed, or the Jews are Blessed, every significant event that happens to the Nation of Israel is a communication from G-d to turn towards Him in Prayer; in Repentance; and in Righteousness. Hashem keeps calling His Children to Him.
This Rosh Hashanah, 5772, we can see the Hand of G-d reflected from the Heavenly World to This World; the World below.
As the Accusing Angels of the Nations of the World petition before the Kisei HaKavod; The Throne of Glory, that Israel should be destroyed, so do the Nations of the World petition before the Seat of Power in This World; Olam Hazeh – the United Nations, that Israel should be destroyed.
It is no coincidence that it is only last month, during the Month of Teshuva; Repentance, Elul, that the Nation of Turkey, an ally of Israel since 1949, should repudiate its friendship with Israel;
That Egypt, ostensibly at peace with Israel since 1979, should attack the Israeli embassy;
That Iran, another former ally of Israel, should call for the annihilation of Israel;
And that the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority should demand that Israel be dismembered and her Holy Places given over to Yishmael.
As above, so below.
What happens in This World is a reflection of what happens in the Heavenly Spheres.
Our only defense in This World and in the World of Truth is Teshuvah; Tefillah; and Tzedakah.
As we enter the Year of Repentance in This World, may the True Judge be our Advocate and may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a Year of Blessing; Prosperity; Peace; and – Teshuvah.