This week's parsha
G‑d Is Carrying Us
This week we read the seventh haftorah of consoling. It is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. It is read with the portion of Nitzavim (and sometimes, Nitzavim-Vayelech)
What is the connection between this haftorah and Rosh Hashanah? What message is there to be found here for the new year?
The parshah begins, “You are all standing here today before G‑d your G‑d.” The day we all stand before G‑d in judgment is Rosh Hashanah.
Just as there is a hint to Rosh Hashanah in the first verse of the parshah, so is there a hint to Rosh Hashanah in the first verse of the haftorah.
The haftorah begins, “I will rejoice in G‑d, my soul will exult in my G‑d.” “I will rejoice,” is an open joy, referring to Sukkot (“The Time of Our Joy”), where the central theme is joy. “My soul will exult” is an inner joy, hidden in the soul, refers to Rosh Hashanah. There is joy on Rosh Hashanah because it is a holiday, because of the special mitzvah to blow the shofar, and because of what Rosh Hashanah represents and accomplishes. It is the crowning of G‑d as our King for another year, a new G‑dly energy coming into the world, and G‑d inscribing us, in the book of life, for a happy and sweet year.
But this joy is hidden in the awe and solemnity of the Day of Judgment. As it says, “they will exult trembling.”
Why is the order reversed, first the open joy of Sukkot, and then the hidden joy of Rosh Hashanah? Doesn’t Rosh Hashanah come first?
Perhaps there is an open joy that precedes Rosh Hashanah. Whenever a mitzvah is done, it is accompanied with joy, the joy of a mitzvah. Even more, there is also joy preceding the mitzvah, in anticipation of doing the mitzvah. With Rosh Hashanah on its way and the anticipation of all the things that causes the hidden joy, there is an open joy before Rosh Hashanah. Especially, as brought by the Tur, since the Jewish people are certain that they will be meritorious in judgment on the Day of Judgment, they dress in white, take haircuts, etc., before Rosh Hashanah -- such preparation expresses the joy that comes before the holiday.
Just as the first verse of the haftorah tells us about hidden joy, the last verse also tells us about something hidden. Looking at the exile, Isaiah says: “In all their troubles, He was troubled.” G‑d is with us through all our difficulties and suffering, albeit in a hidden way.
The haftorah ends, “and He bore them and He carried them all the days of yore.” During the exile, G‑d is not only with us, but He is also carrying us through it all.
For His reasons, G‑d puts us through so many difficulties; we all suffer in this exile. I choose to think that our suffering somehow accomplishes great things. When we look back at the hardships, we realize that G‑d was with us all the time, carrying us through it all.
Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year. Like the head controls the whole body, so does Rosh Hashanah affect the whole year. If we come into Rosh Hashanah with the knowledge that G‑d is always with us, it will not only help us throughout the year, but when faced with challenges, we will allow G‑d to take care of things. We will realize that G‑d is there to carry us through it, and we could rely on Him.
Working on this essay, I was having a hard time with the idea of G‑d being with us through difficulties because I feel that it is my nature to think that everything is fine. I just felt that I wasn’t relating to people and the concept of suffering. Needless to say, I was stuck.
Then G‑d sent me the explanation. A wonderful woman sent me and my wife an email, expressing what she was going through, and everything became crystal-clear.
With her permission, here is what she wrote:
The view from down here
I gaze up at the open endless sky.
More like search for the end of the darkness.
From way down here.
At the bottom.
The very deepest depth.
I have been here many times before.
It’s almost comfortable.
Each time, feeling less alien to me.
Not because I’m in a good place.
But this space leaves me no choice.
I must take in my surroundings,
Freezing in fear, no longer an option.
I have been here so many times before that I almost don’t know how to cope with both feet planted firmly on the ground.
Planted firmly, yet still not set.
But this time is different.
I’m less in a panic.
Less in fear.
Less consciously aware of how difficult MY life is.
G‑d has helped me.
The only way I can explain it.
Asked “how can you survive like this?”
My answer? “G‑d helps me.”
This is truly the only explanation.
This Rosh Hashanah when I cry to G‑d for a year living above ground, I will be thanking G‑d for holding my hand and holding my head up for me. After all, if it weren’t for G‑d’s attention to me and His silent guidance, I’d be laying on the cold floor of that dark abyss drowning in my own salt-filled heavy tears.
May G‑d bless you all with a happy and sweet year, and may G‑d send Moshiach and do away with suffering. May he come soon.