Guest Contribution by Meira Greenland
The well known and haunting prayer Nesaneh Tokef is recited on both days of Rosh Hashanna and the day of Yom Kippur during the Musaf service. Tradition has it that this prayer was written about 1000 years ago by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany. He wrote it as he was about to die after suffering torture and mutilation at the hands of his ‘friend’ the Bishop of Mainz for refusing to convert to Christianity. This prayer captures the theme and the mood of these days of awe. God judges all of our actions from the preceding year and records our fate in His heavenly book... Who will live and who will die.... Who by water; who by fire…
This sobering prayer ends with hope by telling us what can spare us an unfavorable judgment: Teshuva, Teffilah, and Tzedka – Repentance, Prayer, and Charity will remove the evil decree!
It is with this in mind that I present a Dvar Torah written by my granddaughter, Meira, who has begun her post high school year of study in Israel. It follows:
In this weeks Parsha (Ha'azinu), we find some of the יג מידות (thirteen attributes) of HaShem in the Psukim. In 32:4 It writes about how even though HaShem is מאד חזק (very strong) , when He brings punishment upon us- He does it exactingly - according to דין (judgement). He controls his anger and does not "overreact". HaShem in His ultimate wisdom knows exactly the right דין in every situation. He has רחמים (mercy) and doesn't "overpour" the punishment on us.
Later in the Parsha Rashi points out how the דור הפלגה(generation of Noach) stole and had lots of jealousy. So Hashem was very angry. But, instead of destroying them, HaShem made borders between them and divided them. HaShem had the power to destroy and wipe them out. But He used His מידה של רחמים וארך אפים (attribute of mercy and being slow to anger) when He issued judgment.
The ultimate theme of Rosh Hashanah is מלכות. And the ultimate theme of מלכות is using both mercy and judgment. On Rosh Hashanah and throughout עשרת ימי תשובה HaShem judges us as our King. The King of Kings who is omnipotent.
HaShem has the capability to control His anger and to issue exacting judgment.
In these days we focus on doing Teshuvah while asking HaShem to use His מידות to judge us in the most favorable way and the most exacting way according to what we deserve. And to have רחמים on us.
It's no coincidence that this Parsha falls out right after Rosh Hashanah, and right at the beginning of עשרת ימי תשובה to remind us that HaShem judges us with mercy and with precision- all we have to do is access that through Teshuvah and Tefillah. We are thus reminded that HaShem judges us with mercy and with precision- all we have to do is access that through Teshuvah and Tefillah.
May we all be Zoche to a גמר כתימה טובה ושנה טובה ומתוקה!!