Rabbi David Gotllieb: The Power & Passion of Shabbat

Sep 17th, 2009 by admin in Spiritual Growth
The unique feature of Rosh Hashanah this year is, of course, that we only

blow the shofaron the second day of Yom Tov. On Shabbos, however,

*Chazal *(Rosh

Hashanah 29b) ruled that we must refrain from this important mitzvah because

we are afraid “*shema ya’avirenu daled amos b’reshus ha-rabbim*” – lest

someone carry the shofar in the public domain and thereby violate the

Shabbos. This phenomenon occurs every few years and, in fact, just three

years ago the first day of Rosh Hashanah also fell out on Shabbos.

HaRav Yaakov Ettlinger (*Minchas Ani*,pp. 482 – 486), one of the giants of

19th century German Jewry, has a remarkable essay on this phenomenon where

he points out a striking historical pattern.

R. Ettlinger notes that, according to his calculation, some of the worst

tragedies in Jewish history occurred during years in which Rosh Hashanah

fell out on Shabbos. He maintains, for example, that the destruction of both

the first and second *Beis HaMikdash* took place in such years.

On the other hand, he also determines that some of the greatest events in

our history – such as being forgiven for the sin of the golden calf,

inaugurating the *Mishkan*,and entering the Land of Israel for the first

time – also transpired in years where Rosh Hashanah came out on Shabbos.

Why is it that events of such extreme – good or bad – tend to take place

during years when Rosh Hashanah and Shabbos converge? R. Ettlinger suggests

the following powerful explanation.

Shofar is more than just a mitzvah, it is also a lifeline. The sound of the

shofar connects us to the spiritual heroism of *Akedas Yitzchok * and, at

the same time, has the unique ability to “bring” our prayers “*lifnai

v’lifnim*,” to the holiest of heavenly abodes.

We arrive at Rosh Hashanah each year *fa’shmutzed *and sullied by the sins

of the past year and therefore, more than just an obligation, we *need* the

shofar; we desperately need the *zechus*, the great merit, of the shofarto

bring us a new year of blessing.

But what happens when we can’t blow the shofar? What will save us this year?

R. Ettlinger answers that Shabbos can be our *zechus*.

It all depends on how we observe Shabbos over the coming year.

If we carefully observe all of the *mitzvos *and are punctilious in avoiding

the prohibited activities, then Shabbos itself will be our *saneigor*, our

greatest advocate, and usher in a year of great *beracha*.

But if, on the other hand, we aren’t careful in our observance of Shabbos

then we look like fakers. After all, we didn’t blow the shofar because we

were so worried about perhaps, maybe – “*shema ya’avirenu*” – violating

Shabbos; if we fall short in keeping Shabbos over the coming year then it

appears as if our concern on Rosh Hashanah was actually nothing more than a

convenient excuse not to blow the shofar. Such behavior not only leaves us

bereft of the merits of both shofarand Shabbos, but is also a *kateigor*, an

indictment against us of such gravity that it could even lead to the worst

of catastrophes.

And this, maintains R. Ettlinger, is the explanation of the “all-or-nothing”

pattern of Jewish history during years in which Rosh Hashanah fell out on

Shabbos. When we lived up to the demands of Shabbos we merited great

blessing; when we didn’t we paid a difficult price.

It’s important to stress, as well, that technical compliance with all of the

*halachos *of Shabbos – by no means a simple feat – isn’t enough. Beyond

behavior, it’s also a question of attitude.

*Chazal * teach us that we were given Shabbos as a “*matanah tovah*,” a

special gift from God. Similarly, the Chafetz Chayim used to compare Shabbos

to a wedding ring given to symbolize *Hashem’s *special love for *Am Yisroel

*. When Shabbos coincides with a holiday – as it does this Rosh Hashanah –

we repeatedly add the word “*b’ahavah*,” with love, to our prayers, because

Shabbos represents the special love that *Hashem * has for the Jewish

people. And, *lehavdil*, like any other relationship, love expressed must be

reciprocated, and therefore we must observe Shabbos with similar love and


Unfortunately, I am afraid that too often we lose sight of this critical

dimension. We are increasingly careful about the dos and don’ts, but on this

Rosh Hashanah we must ask ourselves: Do we truly appreciate the beauty of

the Shabbos? Are we genuinely excited for Shabbos? Do we sincerely love


When observed with passion, Shabbos has the power to recharge our spiritual

batteries and the potential to generate unlimited blessing.

Without the full merit of shofar this year, R. Ettlinger teaches that it is

Shabbos which will determine our success. May we be worthy of this challenge

and may the new year be one of great blessing, filled with health and

happiness, for all of us, the Jewish people, and the entire world. Shanah