On the first
day of Rosh Hashanah, our nine year old son told us that he had read the
reason why the Torah reading for the day was chosen: The reading deals with
Yishmael's near-death, and his miraculous salvation. The angels protested
(as we discussed last week). Yishmael was not punished for future events.
Nor was he punished for the crimes he had committed, because he had performed
surprised. This is not in accordance with the Asarah Ma'amoros which we quoted
last week, which held that Yishmael was not punished for his own crimes because
he was considered a juvenile. On the second day, we checked our son's Machzor.
It indeed gave this explanation, saying it in the name of Rashi.
Rashi himself does not say this, but we did find a similar idea in one of
the supercommentaries to Rashi, the Sifsei Chachomim.
The Explanation of Sifsei Chachomim
commentary explains that Yishmael would not be punished for future events
of his children, and that Yishmael could not be punished for his own
transgressions, because he was younger than twenty. Then, it asked another
question: Wouldn't it be logical to put both the past and future together?
Let Yishmael be punished for his own crimes, in view of the fact that his
descendants would also be murderers! To this, the Sifsei Chachomim answered
that Hashem would not agree to this as well, because Yishmael would do teshuvah,
at a later date. Again, the amazing point that future events may influence
In all fairness
to my son's Machzor, although it does not seem accurate to say that Yishmael
had repented at age seventeen, perhaps a different intention was meant. The
Sifsei Chachomim does quote Rashi that by the end of his lifetime, Yishmael
had repented, and died a righteous man. Perhaps the Machzor meant to say
that Yishmael would never be punished for the serious crimes he had committed
before twenty, because he would eventually repent. This could therefore be
seen as a reason for the story of Yishmael's near death to be read on Rosh
The Power of Holiness
found in the commentary Peirush Marvah another answer to Rav Schwartz's question.
(See last week on the relationship of Rosh Hashanah to the future judgment
day.) We are familiar with the "Unasana Tokeif" prayer recited on Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur. "You have given the strength of the holiness of the day.."
Peirush Marvah states: The subject in the previous paragraph was the judgment
of the time to come. "You have given the strength of the holiness of the
day.." refers to the time to come as well, meaning: "You have given the strength
of the judgment of the time to come -- the 'Rosh Hashanah of the Future'
-- to this day of Rosh Hashanah..." Rosh Hashanah is thus of the essence
of the judgment day of the future.
kindness, He gives us a small taste of the fierce future judgment. Every
year, in electrifying awe, we remind ourselves of the severity of the final
examination. Rosh Hashanah allows the soul to begin the year with a clean
slate, after a general inventory and house-cleaning.
Growth after Death
explains a clear connection between the Days of Awe and the Final Judgment.
According to Tosafos, the three books opened on Rosh Hashanah refer to life
in the world to come. Yet, Tosafos maintains that there will still be a final
decision regarding eternal life after one's death.
this world, decisions are made tentatively on Rosh Hashanah, but finalized
only on Yom Kippur. Regarding the next world, all decisions, even those of
Yom Kippur, are somewhat tentative; the final decision will only be on that
Great Day of Judgment. (Pachad Yitzchak based on Asarah Ma'amoros.)
Improvement through Diligence and Effort
a world of growth and change. Not only can we grow and change now, here;
until the Final Day of Judgment we can continue to improve our ways. The
Pachad Yitzchak quotes Rav Chaim of Brisk, that even after death, one's status
can still change -- until the final reckoning in the Future World.
be noted that the Jewish People have two beginnings: 1. Avraham, the first
Jew, is called Rishon LeGeirim (the first convert). At an advanced age, he
went under the knife -- to dedicate himself and his offspring to a life of
service. 2. At Mount Sinai, the entire nation, along with a mixed multitude
of various nations, went through a conversion process (the laws of conversion
are deduced from here).
off to a shaky start; it was only on Yom Kippur after the Golden Calf episode
that Hashem accepted our apologies and our commitment to Torah.
Jewish People are born from change, reappraisal and hope for the future.