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Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah

Tzedakah, the Instrument that Rebalances the Scale

Published on Sunday October 18th, 2020

The world was created on the 25th of Elul. Six days later man was created; this sixth day corresponded to the 1st of Tishri. That same day, man sinned, repented, and was judged. Hashem then said to him, "In the same way that you have been judged today and have been acquitted, so will your sons [your descendants] be judged on this day and will be acquitted" (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 29,1).

As you have guessed, this day is none other than Rosh Hashanah. As our Sages have taught, "Ma'aseh avot siman lebanim" (The actions of our forefathers are a sign for their children) (Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, Parshat Vayera 18,1). This means that the spiritual fathers of the Jewish nation teach their descendants the proper course of action. Since Adam Harishon repented on his sin the very day that he committed it, this day, the 1st of Tishri, is the day that we too must repent on our sins.

In the treatise Rosh Hashanah (chapter 1, mishna 2), it is reported that "on Rosh Hashanah, all the inhabitants of this world shall be judged before Him as members of one [same] flock''. We can understand this mishnah as meaning that every human being is judged individually by Hashem, like a shepherd who would counts, animal after animal, his entire flock.

The realization that each of us is individually judged by the Creator of the universe must lead us to challenge ourselves and to do teshuvah as our ancestor, Adam Harishon did. But it is well known that one of the ways to improve our behavior is to give tzedakah.

Where do we learn this from? The best-known source is in the piyut (liturgical chant) of Unetaneh Tokef, which portrays the martyrdom of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz and which is printed in the Ashkenazi prayer book of Rosh Hashanah. Thus the paytan (author of the liturgical poem) expresses himself: "Teshuvah, (repentance) tefila (prayer) and tzedakah (charity) abolishes the bad decrees".
Of course, the paytan would not be allowed to write such things without relying on a proven Talmudic source. In this case, it is the treatise of Ta'anit in the second chapter, page 65b in the Talmud Yerushalmi: "Rabbi Elazar said: ''Three things annul bad decrees, and they are: tefillah, tzedakah and teshuvah''. Likewise, there is a verse that says explicitly: "Tzedakah saves from death" (Michah 11: 4). Our masters report in the treatise of Shabbat on page 156b the very interesting story of Rabbi Akiva's daughter; Astrologers had told Rabbi Akiva that his daughter was destined to die on the day of her marriage ... And Rabbi Akiva, as we can imagine, was very concerned about this dark prediction.

In the evening, after the wedding festivities, Rabbi Akiva's daughter removed a clip from her hair and planted it in the wall. Without realizing it, she killed the poisonous snake that was destined to sting her mortally ... The next day, when she removed the clip from the wall to put it back in her hair, she inadvertently brought the dead snake back to her head.

She went to visit her father who noticed the presence of this snake on his daughter and realized that the sentence of death that weighed on her had been cancelled. He wanted to understand the reason and asked her what she had done recently to see if it would explain her miraculous rescue ...

She told him that on the evening of her wedding, when everyone was sitting at the party and the party was at its height, she heard the voice of a poor man who was calling at the entrance of the room; she heard and she came running, sensitive to his distress, and she invited him to take part in the meal ... Her father realized that the generosity and sensitivity of his daughter to the suffering of others, had saved her life. As a result, he taught the verse of Mishleh, "Tzedakah saves from death."

So, when we see the extraordinary power of tzedakah, that it can cancel the darkest decrees, we cannot remain indifferent ... This instrument of justice, (tzedakah comes from the term tzedek meaning justice) that Hashem offered us and which rebalances the social balance, at the same time makes it possible to rebalance the balance of our own judgment, by leaning it towards the side of merits.

It is also a proof of the infinite mercy of Hashem, which gives us the opportunity to have pity on the other and not to be indifferent in the face of his distress, to arouse His mercy and deserve a good and sweet year. Amen.

Rav Emmanuel BOUKOBZA - © Torah-Box

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