Friday, September 18, 2009


For those unaware, the Jewish calendar is about to undergo a flurry of holidays. As the sun sets on Jerusalem tonight we will be welcoming Rosh HaShanah. For the last three weeks I've been learning different mishnas and gemaras on the different ideas, themes, connections, and halachas (Jewish laws) that make Rosh HaShanah one of the holiest days of the year.

Living in Jerusalem this last month, I've been privy to a unique electricity that charges through the stone streets. Shofar blasts emanate from unseen street corners. Jews everywhere commit themselves to Tshuva (~repentance), reconciling neglected debts and mending broken relationships. At sundown, the Jews coronate our G-d as Melech (King) over the world.

There's so many ideas to speak about for such an auspicious occasion, and Rosh HaShanah has literally a network of satellite ideas seemingly estranged from one another but actually deeply intertwined. Some meanings can be uncovered with a superficial analysis and others require deeper analysis.

I'll describe one here to give a taste. The only Mitzah (commandment) explicitly mentioned in the Torah for the day of Rosh HaShanah is to blow the Shofar. The most simple and obvious question to ask is “Why?”. Rosh HaShanah commemorates the day that G-d created man in his “six day” tour-de-force universe creation. The lashon (language) says that he made man from the earth (indeed the word Adam or אדם actually means dirt). The pasuk (verse) then goes on to say that he breathed life into man through his nostrils. The Mitzvah of blowing the shofar is the only mitzvah of the 613 in the Torah that involves breath. There is no commandment to breathe (my Rosh Yeshiva says that the unspoken commandment of the Torah is to not be stupid; so we don't need a mitzvah for derech eretz (common sense knowledge)). As I mentioned above, Rosh HaShanah is the holiday where we declare G-d, as ruler of every aspect of the universe. It's our sincerest desire that everyone in the world recognize the fundamental truth that G-d is responsible for everything, especially our existence. Our blowing of the shofar is a way for us to give back the breath G-d used to create us, and to transform it into a clarion call proclaiming his sovereignty. Pretty nifty.

There was also a wedding last week, which I was regretfully unable to attend due to my recently sprained ankle. Contributing to the simcha of a wedding is a big act of kindness in the orthodox Jewish world. It's our responsibility to help make it the greatest night of the bride and grooms lives'.

Lot's of people come up with small shtick to entertain the bride and groom. The chassan (groom) happened to be an ophthalmologist and my friend Danny wanted to do a juggling shtick. So he asked me to color some hard-boiled eggs as eyes.

Here's the result:

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