A Different Type of Victory

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.”

With these words, Moshe Rabbeinu began what is known as Shiras Haazinu. Chazal point out that Moshe Rabbeinu used the word “haazinu” in reference to the heavens, and tishma, in regard to the earth. In contrast, Yeshayah Hanavi did the precise opposite: “Shim’i Shamayim v’haazini eretz — Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth.”

For Moshe Rabbeinu was closer to heaven, while Yeshayah was closer to earth, and “haazinu — give ear” connotes closeness, while tishma or shim’i refer to listening from a distance.

In Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah, we recite the blessing “Ki atah shomaya kol Shofar umaazin teruah — For You hear the sound of the shofar and listen to the teruah, and there is no one comparable to You…”

The Pri Megadim quotes a powerful and very relevant explanation from Harav Chaim Hakohen Rappaport, zt”l, the Rav of Lvov.

The shofar — an unbroken sound — symbolizes the tzaddik who has not sinned. The broken sounds of the teruah represent the broken heart of a baal teshuvah who has regretted his deeds and desires to return to Hashem.

In regard to the tzaddik, the word shomaya is used; Hashem listens, but — so to speak — from a distance. In regard to the baal teshuvah, the term maazin is used, denoting a special closeness that Hashem has with the baal teshuvah that even a tzaddik does not merit.

In these days immediately after Yom Kippur, we all are baalei teshuvah. All of us felt an awakening, feelings of remorse on the holiest of days, and we undertook to improve our ways and return to our roots. Some had in mind particular kabbalos, detailed resolutions to improve specific areas of deficiency. Others committed themselves in a more general sense of striving towards a more spiritual life.

Annually, we discover that this is easier said, and thought, than done. Being extra careful for 10 days was complicated enough, doing so for the long haul is a very challenging endeavor.

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In discussing the joy of the mitzvah of the arbaah minim, the Midrash tells us a parable of two people who faced a court battle. When they emerged, the way it was known who had been victorious was that the winner held a palm branch in his hand. So, too, Klal Yisrael was in a court battle over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and when Sukkos arrives we hold the lulav and the three other minim aloft as a sign that we were victorious in judgment.

At first glance, this seems puzzling, for if the trophy or sign was given to one of the sides by the king or the judge, or perhaps if it was seized from one warrior by the other, it would be a sign of triumph. But in this case, we take the lulav on our own, so how does it prove that we won?

The answer is that victory in a spiritual battle is very difficult than in a physical one. In the case of the latter, it’s all about conquest and defeating the enemy. However, when it comes to avodas Hashem, as long as we are still fighting our yetzer hara, we are winning. Like a soldier holding his weapons high in the air, we declare that we are in battle, and this alone is what proves that we are winning.

As in every battle, there are ups and downs. There are moments of greatness and times of weakness, but it all depends on how we rebound, how quickly we rise again after a fall and return with added vigor and determination to the battleground.

Shabbos is the source of all spiritual blessings. It is when we spiritually charge ourselves for the days to come. Therefore, the Shabbos before a Yom Tov contains special significance.

On this Shabbos, as we ready ourselves for nine glorious days of Yom Tov, it is a time to recognize the singular relationship that each of us has with the Ribbono shel Olam, and rededicate ourselves to our calling. We are all soldiers in His army, and like the armies of old, it is with song and good cheer that we head into battle. The morale of the soldiers is what makes all the difference. Sukkos is a time to fill our hearts with joy, and stock up on this most precious commodity for the year to come.

Let make the most of it.