In shuls and homes throughout Rosh Hashanah, fervent tefillos will be uttered, accompanied by copious tears.
Quite literally, we all will be begging for our lives.
Most of our tefillos will focus on the spiritual, as we implore that the entire world should recognize and proclaim the Kingdom of Hashem, and that the forces of evil should be eradicated from the earth.
We will be beseeching the Ribbono shel Olam, “Remember us for life…” a life of spiritual fulfillment, a “life for Your sake,” a life dedicated to Torah and mitzvos.
We will also be pleading for good health, for parnassah with which to support our families, shidduchim for our children, and for a host of other personal matters.
Some of us will also have a niggling thought in the back of our minds: Painfully cognizant of our own spiritual weaknesses, we wonder how much our tefillos could possibly be worth, and doubt what they can possibly accomplish.
In reality, these thoughts are solely the work of the evil inclination that seeks to disrupt our davening.
In his sefer Sharei Tefillah, the Be’er Mayim Chaim relates a parable of a prince who was about to undergo a very serious surgery. The queen realized that this operation was needed to save her beloved son’s life. However, aware that the procedure would only be after the child was put into a medically induced deep sleep, she was petrified that they would later be unable to awaken the child, and raised a hue and cry of protest.
The king, however, managed to calm her down by showing her a medicine made for this purpose that was so powerful it could almost awaken the dead.
When it became clear that Am Yisrael would be sent into exile, and experience the equivalent of a deep spiritual slumber, there was an immense fear that they would never awaken from it. When Rochel Imeinu and Yeshayah Hanavi separately expressed their great concern, Hashem reassured them that He had already prepared a special refuah. For when our ancestors were enslaved in Egypt, they, too, experienced a similar crisis; bereft of Torah and mitzvos, they were near spiritual death, and it was in the merit of tefillah that they were redeemed.
In our contemporary exile, even when we will be unable to generate sufficient merits through Torah and mitzvos, it will be in the merit of tefillah alone that we will be worthy of salvation.
All year, the Ribbono shel Olam listens to the tefillah of every Yid, regardless of his spiritual status, and this is especially true during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.
How much can tefillah achieve?
Chazal (Kesubos 104a) tell us that on the last day in the life of Rabbeinu Hakadosh, the Rabbanim declared a public fast, and were mispallel for his recovery. They also proclaimed that whoever would reveal that Rabbeinu Hakadosh was niftar would be pierced with a sword.
While he who relates distressing news is termed a fool, and one should avoid directly telling news of tragedy (See Mishlei 10:18 and Pesachim 3b), the proclamation that the bearer of the terrible news would be pierced by a sword would at first seem to be perplexing.
The Shitah Mikubetzes gives a very powerful explanation: As long as they davened for him, even if he had been niftar, their tefillos could have brought Rabbeinu Hakadosh back to life! Once, however, it was public knowledge that he had indeed been niftar, it would not be appropriate to daven to resuscitate someone who was no longer alive.
This teaching contains a very relevant and inspiring lesson of the enormous power of tefillah all year, and how much more so during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Sefarim teach us that during the Yamim Nora’im, ordinary Jews are able to achieve with tefillah what only the great tzaddikim can accomplish all year.
As we pour our hearts out in tefillah, we should be filled not only with fear and trepidation but with exuberance over the coronation of Hashem as our King, and optimism and hope for the coming year.
According to the Shulchan Aruch, based on a Chazal, one should eat on Rosh Hashanah various foods as simanim for a good year, including an apple dipped in honey.
Harav Shlomo Kluger, zt”l, teaches that these simanim are intended to express our emunah and bitachon that our tefillos will be accepted.
Harav Yisrael Mordechai Twersky, the Rachmastrivka Rebbe of Yerushalayim, zy”a, wouldexhibit great emotion during the tefillos, yet displayed great joy throughout the seudah on Rosh Hashanah night, explaining that “simchah is also a siman!”
May the Ribbono shel Olam grant each of us a kesivah vachasimah tovah, a year of health and prosperity in both the physical and the spiritual senses. May it be His Will that this year be the year in which we shall finally hear the great shofar of Moshiach and be zocheh to the Geulah Sheleimah.