Rosh HaShanah : Renewing Our Passports

My wife was on the bus the other day and had an “only in Israel” experience.  The driver was an Arab and was speaking to a soldier up front.  My wife wasn’t paying attention to the discussion, until she heard the Arab say:


“Are you Ashkanazi?”

“G-d forbid!  Of course not!”

“Well, you can’t be Sfardi, you’re way too white!”

“Well, I’m Moroccan.”

“Moroccan?  Ach!  You guys don’t know how to make good couscous!”

“Of course we do!  I make great couscous!”

“No you don’t!  You’re so white because you don’t eat enough spicy food!  You need more coosbara (cilantro) in your food!”


Of course, more people got drawn into the conversation, which turned into a “fight." Then the driver said, “You’re so white, you’re going to be eating gefilte fish soon!”


Can you imagine such a conversation happening in America?  The driver would be out of a job and the rider would be in counseling!


It’s so good to be here!


On Rosh Hashanah, we declare Hashem “King” not only over the world, but over us as well. 

What exactly is “malchus," kingship?  Rav Pincus explains, “There are various nations in the world, such as the Greek kingdom or the Persian kingdom.  This is because the difference between the Persians and the Greeks is not to be found in a particular custom that they might have.  It is rather a difference in the total way of life: different clothing, different foods, different culture and different behavior patterns.  Malchus is an all-encompassing matter.  It affects every fiber of a person’s being.  When we say that Hashem is our King, it means that just as the body’s blood circulation comes from the heart, so the whole shape of a Jew’s life is formed only around Hashem.


“This is illustrated by the metaphor of tourists visiting a foreign country.  Everything about them gives them away: what they eat, how they talk, the clothes they wear, etc.  It is obvious that they come from a different ‘Malchus.’”


As we know, the main point of this time of year is teshuva.  Many people mistakenly think that this means "repentance," and that we need to simply stop doing all the negative things.  But that’s not entirely correct.  The word teshuva is based on the word “to return."  It’s not so much, “stop doing bad things,” which is PART of it, but rather, it is “return to Hashem with all your being."


On Rosh Hashanah, we declare Hashem King, which means that we are saying that we are part of His kingdom.  If we are truly part of His kingdom, that means we need to act accordingly, think accordingly, eat accordingly, dress accordingly, etc.


When a Ben Torah walks down the street, you can see that he is part of the Kingdom of Hashem.  He might not live up to the standards 100 percent of the time, after all he is human, but he is showing Hashem and the world, that his number one desire is to be a “Citizen of Hashem’s Kingdom," and to be the best representative of this kingdom as he can.


This Rosh Hashanah, we have the opportunity to make an honest attempt of “renewing our passports," so to speak.  We ask Hashem for life so we can be better citizens, and to live our lives according to the customs and laws of this malchus.  When we invest our entire being into this, or do our best to do so, or at least make a plan that will lead to such a thing, then we are giving Hashem a good reason to grant us, our families, and the entire nation, a good year ahead.


Have a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Rosh Hashanah!

Michael Winner