High Holy Day Message


Moshe Edelman, High Holy Day Rabbi, Congregation Etz Chayim, Winnipeg 5778

I hope each of you will get up early each morning of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur so that we will have a substantial kehillah to start services. However, that is not what I want to share with you in this initial communication to the congregation.

The Torah reading on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah is highlighted by the command to Avraham to journey to Mt. Moriah and there to sacrifice his son Yitzhak. “Take your son, your only one, whom you love, Yitzhak…bind him to an altar…” Avraham not only obeys but “VaYashkem Avraham ba’boker”, he rose early in the morning (Genesis 22). The French Torah commentator Rashi explains that Avraham was zealous to do the Will of HaShem with enthusiasm.

The Sages of the Talmud, always desirous to identify similar texts turned to the Book of Numbers, BaMidbar chapter 22:13 and 22: 21 where we read “Va’Yakom Bilaam ba’boker”. Bilaam too rose early in the day. His intent was to curse the people of Israel. Even though Bilaam was told by God not to accept the “job” offered by King Balak of Moab, he decided to go.

Bilaam acted precisely as Avraham did, but the Midrash comments, “God said, Bilaam you are a villain, Avraham has preceded you, what you did will not work.”

What exactly will not work?

Did Bilaam actually believe that God would be impressed with the fact that he got up early in the morning? Is God impressed with someone passionately devoted about committing a sin? Is the fact that Avraham preceded him in “rising early” the reason that Bilaam did not succeed? The Rabbis compared Avraham to Bilaam. Amazing!?  How can we compare the zeal to do a mitzvah with the zeal to sin? Zeal is zeal! We create our world with our attitude and our state of mind.

Albert Einstein wrote that our personal environment is in an organic state of readiness which is prepared to respond to the stimulus that we create. If we are success oriented and have faith and belief then God will grant us success. If we are negative, our environment will respond to the despondency.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “Tracht gut-un es vet zein gut” Think good and it will be good. If we are enthusiastic, even for a bad outcome, God will make it happen. That’s the way our world is wired.

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react.

Bilaam knew that secret of the world. With regard to Bilaam, whatever path a person takes, God will accompany states the Talmud. His negative enthusiasm could have destroyed the world. (Ain’t that the truth?).

But Avraham came first. Avraham was enthusiastic for the survival of the monotheistic concept of One God, God’s Blessings and the Eternal Nature of this Idea.

Four thousand years later, we are the Jewish People. We are here to tell Our Story. We are here to celebrate the Presence of God. We are here to celebrate the State of Israel. We are here as the children of Sarah and Avraham to declare our belief in Judaism’s moral and ethical values.

This Rosh Hashanah we shall hear the shofar’s call to get up early in the morning to do Tikkun Olam, to repair the world’s tears and tears (read both ways). As 5778 dawns, let us affirm that we shall “get up early in the day” to do good, to do more good, to improve our selves and to guide the world to a better day.

Come early. Come often. Come over and say shalom. As you welcome me to Etz Chayim, I shall welcome you home for the holidays. May this be a good year and a sweet year.

Shana Tova U’Metukah

Reb Moshe