Each year, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, Harav Yitzchak Eizek, the first Rebbe of Kamarna, zy”a, would relate which tzaddik in Olam Haba had agreed to intercede on behalf of Klal Yisrael.
One year, his Chassidim waited a very long time for the Rebbe to come to the customary tisch. When the Rebbe finally arrived, he exhibited great happiness and optimism.
The Rebbe related that this year a terrible decree was hovering over Klal Yisrael, R”l, and when he had turned to the various tzaddikim who had agreed to be melitzei yosher in the past, they had all turned him down. Finally, after a considerable amount of time had passed, he turned to a tzaddik he had never asked before, and implored him to intercede. The tzaddik requested that the Rebbe do something on his behalf.
The Rebbe wondered what he could possibly offer the neshamah of a tzaddik who was niftar so many years earlier, and suggested that he would name the first grandchild born that year after him. The tzaddik agreed, the Rebbe related, and baruch Hashem, his efforts were successful and the decree was averted.
“This tzaddik was Shem, the son of Noach,” the Rebbe revealed.
Six months later, a boy was born to the Rebbe’s grandson, Harav Avraham Mordechai Klingberg, and the child — who grew up to be the Rebbe of Zalashitz, Hy”d — was named Shem after Shem ben Noach.
Shabbos is the source of all blessings, and from Shabbos emanate the spiritual influences for the days that follow it.
This particular Shabbos, in a sense ushering in Rosh Hashanah, is also a day of rectification, a day when we can repair and make up for our conduct and actions during all the previous Shabbosos of the year.
Parashas Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah. One reason is that, as we are taught, its opening words — atem nitzavim hayom — refer to Rosh Hashanah, the Yom Hadin.
This parashah contains numerous profound teachings about Rosh Hashanah, including nearly identical teachings from the Chasam Sofer and the Daas Moshe, the Rebbe of Kozhnitz, zy”a.
Moshe Rabbeinu teaches us this week about the bris that Hashem established with Am Yisrael: “Not with you alone do I forge this covenant and this oath,” Bnei Yisrael of that time were told, “but with whomever is here, standing with us today before Hashem, our G-d, and whomever is not with us today.”
Rashi explains that the last words of this passuk refer to the unborn generations to come. But the Chasam Sofer and the Daas Moshe teach that since these pesukim also refer to Rosh Hashanah, the Torah is also teaching us that we are not alone when we pour out our hearts in tefillah; the souls of our righteous ancestors are with us in the beis midrash, davening together with us. Both those who are “with us” in a physical sense and “whoever is not with us today” in a physical sense unite on Rosh Hashanah in tefillah.
With this concept, the Chasam Sofer adds a unique explanation about the Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 32b) which discusses why Hallel isn’t recited on Rosh Hashanah.
It relates how the malachim asked the Ribbono shel Olam why [Am] Yisrael doesn’t recite Shirah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The Ribbono shel Olam replied that the King is sitting on the seat of judgment and the sefarim of the living and the sefarim of the dead are open. Is it possible for Yisrael to say Shirah?
Niftarim are able to daven, and their tefillos have a great effect in Shamayim. But only the living are able to say Shirah, as we recite in Hallel: “Neither the dead can praise G-d, nor any who descend into silence.” Only when techiyas hameisim will occur will our ancestors be able to once again recite Shirah.
Therefore, since the “sefarim of the dead are open” — i.e., the niftarim are with us in shul as we daven — Klal Yisrael is unable to say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In the Shemoneh Esrei of Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah we recite the passuk: “I will remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham will I remember…” (Vayikra 26:42).
Rashi asks why the word “remember” is stated in reference to the other two avos, but not Yitzchak Avinu, and he answers that “remembering” is not necessary in the case of Yitzchak Avinu “because the ashes of Yitzchak [are constantly] before Me…” Maharsha (Brachos 62b) explains that this refers to either the ashes of the ram that Avraham Avinu brought after he was told not to sacrifice Yitzchak, or else to the ashes which Avraham Avinu envisioned as the result of bringing Yitzchak Avinu as a korban.
In nearly two thousand years of a bitter exile, the “ashes” of Yitzchak have been joined by the ashes of the kedoshim of all generations. In the merit of Akeidas Yitzchak, in the merit of the kedoshim, and in the merit of the tefillos of all our ancestors, may all the tefillos in the coming days uttered by the living be accepted, b’rachamim u’v’ratzon.