Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger
A Special Perspective on Life
Is it not strange that Hashem should give Moshe Rabbeinu the blessing of physical agelessness even as He brings him to publicly declare, in our parsha, "I can no longer take the lead in Torah matters, the traditions and the wellsprings of wisdom have been closed to me...Is there any value to my life?" (see Sotah 13b, Rashi and Sifsei Chahomim, 31:2). What possible purpose is served in imposing and recording that enormously painful one day chapter of his life? The inability to access one's own legacy and the loss of one's life-sustaining creativity all at once would crush someone of lesser measure, much the same as it drove Moshe, all the while busy with establishing his successor, to question the plan ahead.
A different perspective is offered by HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, leader of Jerusalem's Edia Chareidis. The "wellsprings", he argues, are the apt description of deeply religious life, that ceaselessly aspires for greater spiritual awareness and enjoys refreshing energies with no end. The lock-downed wellsprings signaled to Moshe that he had indeed mastered all the trials and tests that were intended for him, and his soul was ready to move on to the next world. Thus this brief description guides us with a life lesson: a life continuously seeking new spiritual growth, that incessantly finds the ever-present divine stroke in every encounter, is a life abundantly charged with presence and meaningfulness.
As we make our final preparations for our Yom Hadin that will usher in 5781 with all its blessings, allow me to share some of the "wellsprings" of these upcoming days. Hopefully they will help us focus and articulate so much more of what is already inside our hearts.
Our Shofaros are silent on the first day. This kind of a Rosh Hashana attracted the attention of Harav Yaakov Ettlinger, one of the leading rabbonim of nineteenth century Germany and author of the oft quoted Aruch La'ner. He suggested that on this kind of a yom tov when our concern to protect Shabbos silences our shofar, our judgement heavily depends on our observance of Shabbos. In fact, he traces many a decisive year for our people to have been years that began with Shabbos and not with the shofar. He submits that those years that brought blessing beyond belief were years where Shabbos was well and meaningfully practiced.
Our Malchuyos will once again, as in every year past, ask Hashem to "reveal yourself in majestic grandeur...let all that has been made know that you are its maker". We are certainly closer this year to that humility than in many a recent year. Yet, how much would we give to have absorbed that humility from Hashem's majesty rather than His hiddenness and our precariousness.
Our Zichronos ask every year that "your mercy suppress your anger from upon us" but this year the phrase captures our deepest prayers. And here is how our zochreinu lechayim sounds: "Ribbono Shel Olam, we mask with great discomfort, we sit apart from our friends, we may not have hugged our grandchildren in over half a year, we did not dance at so many smachos, we quarantined, we send our children to school in pods, capsules and masks...all because we want the health and the life to do Your bidding and bring goodness to Your world...zochreinu lechayim tovim..."
May our prayers be accepted upon High and may our days and years be long and healthy, so that we can fill them growth and goodness.