Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Nitzavim

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi addresses the question – what is more important: Rosh Hashanah or Shabbat?

Lo Adu Rosh – what do these words mean? They remind us of the days of the week on which Rosh Hashanah cannot commence.

Adu stands for Aleph which is the first day, Sunday. Deled is Wednesday and Vav is Friday. These are the three days of the week on which Rosh Hashanah never commences and why not?

Well you see, if first day Rosh Hashanah would be on a Sunday, then Hoshanah Rabah would be on a Shabbat and we would have a challenging time on that Shabbat because on Hoshanah Rabah we would have to break Shabbat in order to beat the willows and so on.

Rosh Hashanah cannot start on a Wednesday because then Yom Kippur would be on a Friday and as a result, on that Friday, Erev Shabbat, we wouldn’t be able to prepare adequately for the Shabbat which would immediately follow.

If Rosh Hashanah would start on a Friday, then Yom Kippur would be on a Sunday. And on Erev Yom Kippur which is Shabbat, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Shabbat as we usually do.

‘These days set a tone for the rest of the year, yet when it comes to the timing of Rosh Hashanah, our considerations do not relate to the Day of Judgement but rather to Shabbat’

Now I find this to be absolutely fascinating. We’re speaking here about the timing of Rosh Hashanah. It takes place only once a year and on these two days we have Yamei Hadin, Days of Judgement, in which God judges us as individuals, as a people and he judges the entire world.

These days set a tone for the rest of the year, yet when it comes to the timing of Rosh Hashanah, our considerations do not relate to the Day of Judgement but rather to Shabbat. For all of these three days, the considerations are Shabbat related in order to guarantee that Shabbat should be kept appropriately and should be a sacred day of deep enjoyment.

‘In Jewish tradition it is regular which is preeminent over irregular’

That is remarkable, because Shabbat comes about every single week. Therefore, here, we have yet another reminder of how in Jewish tradition it is regular which is preeminent over irregular. What happens week after week is of crucial importance to us, far more so than that which happens on a seasonal basis. Consequently, as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and look forward to the customs and the Mitzvot of this most important day, let us remember not just to have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah, not just to greet each other with a Happy New Year, but to commit ourselves to guaranteeing that every Shabbat which will follow Rosh Hashanah will be just as important in our eyes.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova.

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