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             ROSH HASHANAH  / PARSHAT HAAZINU
                               SHABBAT SHUVA

Wednesday evening Sept. 20, World Jewry will begin observing the High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah. On Thursday and Friday the Shofar is sounded.

The sounds of the Shofar awaken us to return to Hashem and to tell Him what is in our hearts, and this week, there is much weighing on our hearts.

There was once a small community that needed someone to sound the Shofar and they interviewed three qualified candidates for the job. Each was pious, humble and talented. The Rabbi had just one question for each of them. "What will you be thinking while you sound the Shofar?" When it comes to performing a Mitzvah, Kavanah (intent) is very important.

The first man answered: "I shall keep in mind every pertinent Halachic Law regarding the Shofar. I'll concentrate on every note and make sure that each is done to perfection."

The second candidate responded, "I will be visualizing the Holy Spheres of the seven heavens and thinking lofty mystical thoughts of the Angels." "Fine answers," said the Rabbi as he turned to the third fellow. 

The third candidate was a bit embarrassed. "I'm not sure that I'm at the spiritual level to have those thoughts," he said. "I'll be busy thinking of my wife and children and how my livelihood is so dependent upon Hashem. I'll be praying for good health for all of us and that Hashem accept our promise to become not merely better people, but different people this year. I'll be hoping that those who need healing are healed, those who need love find it and those who have made the wrong choices in life should choose blessings this coming year. Guess who got the job!

Let us resolve on this Rosh Hashanah to return to Hashem with complete sincerity. May he give our leaders the wisdom and understanding to do what must be done at these critical times.

Parshat Haazinu

"Haazinu Hashamyim..."listen, O heavens says Moshe, for as the Midrash explains - he was close enough spiritually to tell them to listen!

Each of us is given a spark of holiness that enables us to attain, to some degree the greatness of Moshe Rabeinu. It is up to us to appreciate that gift and always express our gratitude to Hashem. 

Hakorat Hatov - Gratitude - is, perhaps THE defining trait of our people. The Baal Hatanya teaches that appreciating the hidden good and rejoicing is the entire purpose of creation! 

Even the name "Yehudi" implies thankfulness. 

The first words we say upon awakening each morning, before washing our hands or having that first cup of coffee, are "Modeh Ani" thank you Hashem for giving me this day; thank you and I need you. Throughout the day we are constantly reciting blessings over our food, clothes, our health - there's even one for after leaving the bathroom! Obviously, Hashem doesn't need our THANK YOU before and after each meal. Perhaps, when we acknowledge the many gifts Hashem gives us each day, we show that we truly appreciate Him and want His gifts to continue. 

The consequences of the Kofer Tov - one who denies the good done for him, are serious. The Rasha at the Seder table, for example, asks "what is this work to you?" We were saved from Pharaoh with spectacular miracles and he wants to know why we are bothering with a seder! His lack of gratitude is what makes him a Rasha. Although we preserve his dignity by rebuking him in the third person, the message to the Rasha is clear. Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed. No gratitude...no redemption. 

Gratitude toward one's parents, for example, is not based upon how good they are to us, rather that we owe them our very existence. 

Similarly, when you derive any benefit from another individual, you owe them Hakorat Hatov. Hashem's kindness is our greatest gift. 

Indeed, when we think about it, there is no limit to the gratitude we owe Hashem. 

If we spent every waking moment saying thank you for our health, our families, our friends, our livelihood and for a second chance, it would hardly be sufficient. There is just not enough time in our day.

The High Holy Days provide yet another reason to be grateful, because after we make amends with our fellow man, Hashem, in his kindness wipes clean our slate and renews our lives for the coming year.

May it be one of Health, Peace and Appreciation of all our Blessings.

Kol Tov! Our best to you...it's all good. L'Shana Tova Tikatevu V'techatemu! Shabbat Shalom, CM

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On Rosh Hashanah, we proclaim Hashem our king, He judges us and writes us in the Book of Life for the coming year.

On Yom Kippur, we ask Hashem to forgive all our sins. Wouldn't it make sense for Yom Kippur to be observed first? 



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