Rabbi Oury Cherki
The Universal Lesson of Rosh Hashana
To all our brothers and sisters, Bnei Noach from all over the world:
Here we are, at the beginning of the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashana – which is the first day of the seventh month, Tishrei.
All the holidays in the Jewish calendar mark events that happened to the nation of Israel, but these events also have universal significance. With respect to Rosh Hashana, the Talmud gives greater emphasis to the universal aspect of the holiday than the national aspects, as can be seen from the opinions of several sages, who say that the date marks the day the world was created. In addition, it is generally agreed that this is the day when our Matriarch Sarah was promised that she would give birth to a son.
The fact that Sarah was remembered – her return to fertility after a long period of being sterile – was important news for the whole world. Our sages taught us that "many barren women became fertile together with her." That is, the nation of Israel cannot succeed unless the events are accompanied by a universal phenomenon of redemption. And indeed we see that the return of the nation of Israel to establish an independent country in 1948 came about at the same time that many other nations were released from colonial oppression. This is symbolically similar to Sarah's experience, when so many other women became fertile together with her.
According to our tradition, this is also the day that Pharaoh released Joseph from prison. From among all of the children of Israel, Joseph was the one who specialized most in the subject of "tikun olam" – improvement of the entire world. Joseph's first goal was to mend the faults of Egypt, the greatest civilization in the ancient world. And this process began with his release on Rosh Hashana.
With respect to the events especially relevant to Israel, our sages taught us that on Rosh Hashana the Israelites were released from their labors in Egypt. Even though the Exodus took place only six months later, on Pesach, the harsh slavery ended on Rosh Hashana. Thus, this day symbolizes the release from economic enslavement and from the control of one man by another – and this is the necessary condition for man to be able to accept the yoke of heaven, an action which we repeat every year on Rosh Hashana.
The main commandment that we observe on Rosh Hashana is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn. During the era of the Bible, the shofar was blown on two main occasions – when a new king was crowned and when slaves were set free. We can thus conclude that full acceptance of the yoke of heaven can only take place when man is truly free from any enslavement, whether it is to his own internal spiritual inclinations or to other men.
This is the message of Rosh Hashana for the entire world.
Rabbi Oury Cherki
Director of the Noahide World Center, Jerusalem