Rosh Hashana and Sukkos

Why is Rosh Hashana referred to only as ‘a day of memorial blowing’ – and not a day of judgement – which would seem to be the crux of the day to us.

A: The Kli Yakar says we can understand this from a pedagogical perspective: if we knew that one day was set aside for judgement, then we would act our best the rest of the year, and we would save up our tshuvah (repentance and self-improvement) for that day. Therefore Hashem concealed from us that Rosh Hashana is a Day of Judgement, thereby placing us in a situation much like the mishna in Pirkei Avos :Do tshuvah sometime before you die – and since you do not know when that day will be, you had better not delay.
b) We also don’t see Shavuos being mentioned as the festival of the giving of the Torah – why not? Can you think of a common answer for the two?

In a similar vein, the Kli Yakar says that if we were told a specific time was designated for receiving Torah, then we might release ourselves from the task of learning and appreciating Torah the rest of the year. Therefore since the Torah and it’s honour is so important, and the world and the Jewish people would not exist if not for it, the fact that it happened to be given on a specific day was hidden in the Torah, so as not to deemphasize the rest of the year. The Mishna at the end of Pirkei Avos expresses this idea that Toarah is to be viewed as a necessary and ongoing supply and demand: “Everyday a heavenly voice calls out from Mount Horev (Sinai) crying ‘woe to the creations (us) for the shame of the Torah (not being learned and practiced)…”

Rabbeinu Bachaya (student of the Ramban) gives a more ethereal reason to explain them both together. He gives a parable, that a star may be the most dim because of its smallness or because it is more distant from us regardless of its size and intensity. The idea is that an emanation from above which relates to Torah or Divine Judgement is higher and closer to the Source than the rest of the holy days in our calendar, and thus we do not perceive a clear view of their essence, except through our oral traditions and the wisdom of our sages who were able to discern the truth of everything.

What sort of fruit does the Torah instruct us to shake on Sukkos?

A: A beautiful (hadar) one. Or one from a beautiful tree – Only through exegesis and oral tradition do we know that this refers only to an Esrog, and to make a blessing on any other pretty fruits would be in vain and in violation of the ten commandments.

There are no shortage of examples of mitzvos where some of the most central information is left out of the written law (Tefillin, mezuzah, tsitsis, shechita, kashrus, shabbos, etc.) leaving us to rely on our oral traditions to be able to make any safe moves in the world of a Jew.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Yom Tov- Holiday

-Beth Shifra Crew