We must first understand what is wrong about Man being alone
Last week, we discussed the judgment of Rosh Hashanah in terms of the extent to which each of us has realized his or her individuality. Have we employed our daas to give definition to ourselves and our unique mission in life?
That understanding, brought down in the name of Rav Moshe Shapiro ztz”l, is closely tied to the fact that Adam Harishon was created yechidi, singular, and constituted an olam malei at the moment of his creation. He alone justified the creation of the world.
But elsewhere, Rav Moshe pointed out that this understanding of why Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment only works according to Rabi Eliezer, who says that the world was created in Tishrei, in which case the creation of Man was on Rosh Hashanah.
According to Rabi Yehoshua, however, who states that the world was created in Nissan (and whose opinion we follow, at least with respect to establishing the seasonal calendar), what is the intrinsic connection between Rosh Hashanah and judgment? Rabbeinu Nissim and the Ramban ask this question, and they answer that Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment because it is the beginning of the month in which Yom Kippur falls, and thus encapsulates the entire month. That answer, however, is on its face, difficult to understand.
Rav Moshe posed a second difficulty to the entire concept of each of us passing before Hashem alone on Rosh Hashanah: The only aspect of the Creation that the Torah describes as “lo tov — not good” is Adam Harishon’s creation as a solitary individual: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Bereishis 2:18). Why should the judgment on Rosh Hashanah emphasize that state of “not good?”
To Answer These Questions, we must first understand what is wrong about Man being alone. Rashi explains, “So that it should not be said that there are two deities — the Holy One Blessed be He in the Upper Spheres without a partner and this one in the lower spheres without a partner.” Left to himself, man will naturally proclaim, “There is none besides me.” That is the essence of all avodah zarah.
Yet the purpose of Creation is for Man to recognize his own lack of completion and his need for connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The joining of man and woman in marriage is, at some level, a metaphor for the proper relationship of Hashem and mankind. Just as the husband provides for his wife, who is the recipient, so too Hashem is our provider and we are His recipients.
Chazal say that had Bnei Yisrael not accepted the Torah, the world would have returned to its original tohu va’vohu. The acceptance of the Torah constitutes the ultimate recognition of our dependence on HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and that we exist only insofar as we connect to His Necessary Existence. Without that recognition, the world cannot continue.
On Yom Kippur, Moshe Rabbeinu’s pleas on behalf of the Jewish People were accepted, and he was given the Second Luchos. But until that moment, the Jewish people were under a decree of destruction, for the breaking of the First Luchos essentially constituted a failure to accept the Torah.
The receipt of the Torah on Yom Kippur is explicitly referred to in Shir Hashirim (3:11) as the “wedding day” of Hashem and the Jewish people. On that day, the Jewish people recognized their dependence on Hashem as their Provider and the Torah as the necessary means of connection to Him.
The giving of the Torah is associated with judgment and justice: “From the Heavens, You sounded justice; the earth was fearful and became tranquil” (Tehillim 76:9). Justice implies that things are as they must be. Our acceptance of Torah means that we recognize Torah not just as something positive, but as something absolutely necessary, without which neither we nor the world can exist.
The judgment on Rosh Hashanah precedes the giving of the Torah on Yom Kippur; it is a judgment on us as acceptors of the Torah, ones who recognize that Torah connects us to True Existence and is therefore necessary.
For that judgment to take place, we must first pass before Hashem k’vnei maron, as individuals. The question addressed to us applies specifically to us in our individual state: Do you recognize that being alone is “lo tov — not good?”
Our status as an “olam malei,” as an entire world unto ourselves, provides us with the capacity to uplift Hashem and to crown Him as King. Only one who has the power to rebel — a power inherent in our bechirah — possesses the power to truly proclaim Hashem as Melech.
The judgment upon us, which is heralded by the shofar, uplifts us more than any kindness showered on us could possibly do. For that judgment gives us the opportunity to recognize that our existence depends on attaching ourselves to a higher reality. Only then do we cease to be alone in a state of “not good” and worthy of praying, “And give honor, Hashem, to Your people, praise to those Who fear You, and verbal expression to those who await You.”
Ehud Olmert, Reconsidered
Part of the preparation for Yom Kippur is seeking forgiveness from others, forgiving others, and trying to place their actions in a more favorable light. Only when we show forgiveness to others are we in a position to beseech Hashem for forgiveness.
I will confess that I have always considered Ehud Olmert to have been Israel’s worst prime minister ever. First, there is the matter of his multiple convictions for taking bribes (many preceding his term as prime minister) to which a clear quid quo pro was attached.
But most damaging in my mind was his order to the IDF to take offensive action on the final day of the Second Lebanon War, at a time when a UN ceasefire resolution was already in place. The only purpose of that action was political — to silence critics who charged that Israel had been held to a stalemate by Hezbollah over a month of fighting. Over 20 Israeli soldiers lost their lives on that last day of fighting.
Now comes a new book on the destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor at Al Kibar on September 6 2007, called Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power, by Jerusalem Post editor Yaakov Katz, which places Olmert in a completely different light.
In April 2007, Israel dispatched Mossad Chief Meir Dagan to Washington, D.C. to inform the Americans that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help and would soon be placing fuel rods in the nuclear core, which would make a subsequent attack impossible.
In August, Bush called Olmert to urge Israeli restraint and to propose sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Israel to refer the matter to the International Atomic Energy Agency in a joint press conference with Olmert.
Olmert replied, “I understand your reasoning, but don’t forget that the ultimate responsibility for the security of the State of Israel rests on my shoulders. I’ll do what needs to be done — I will destroy the atomic reactor.” Rather that reacting angrily, Bush told Olmert, “We will not get in your way.”
On September 6, the Israel Air Force destroyed the reactor, but in such a manner that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad could save face and pretend that nothing had happened.
In facing down an American president — never something easy for an Israeli prime minister to do — Olmert ensured that Syria would not attain the ability to strike Israel with nuclear weapons. And those weapons might have subsequently fallen into the hands of ISIS during the Syrian civil war.
Olmert did so at a time when the devastating interim report of the Winograd Commission on the conduct of the Second Lebanon War had destroyed any public confidence in his ability to make fateful decisions, and political rivals were circling like sharks smelling blood.
For his steadfastness in the face of American pressure, we all owe Ehud Olmert a debt of gratitude.
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 780. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org