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BO' 5782

01/07/2022 02:35:21 PM


Last week, we wrote about the propriety of wishing a “happy New Year.” Here is an elaboration:

There is a story that I saw about 20 years ago in the lovely Hebrew book by Simcha Raz, 70 faces of Torah, volume IV. He based his account on the story told by the late scholar Samuel Dresner.  Here is my abridgement and translation:

One late evening, December 31, 18th century, in the Bet midrash of Rabi Levi Yitschak of Berditchev, the Chasidim were studying. The rabbi entered, wished everyone a Shanah Tovah, and then retreated to the privacy of his study room. The Chasidim were astonished:  “what got into our Rebbe? This isn’t our new year?!!” They asked one of the senior chasidim to approach the rebbe, and to discover the source of this weird behaviour!

And this is what that elderly Chasid related, as told to him by the Rebbe: the previous year, when HaShem saw how on Rosh HaShanah how the Jews were praying and fasting and repenting, He was about to decree for all Jews a good year. Just at that moment, the prosecuting angel appeared, and said:  “ha ha.  the Jews are so religious on the High Holidays.  But the rest of the year, they are filled with sin.” And so, HaShem decided not to decree for them a good year.

Then came Sukkot.  The angel for the defence pointed out how the Jews are so busy building their sukkot, according to all the halakhic stringencies. "Inscribe them for a good year!"   But then the prosecuting angel came and said: “their sukkot are so flimsy!  For the rest of the year, they build for themselves strong, permanent residences. So, again, HaShem put off inscribing them for a good year.

But then came the eve of Jan 1.  HaShem looked down upon the world, and saw the nations of the world in drunken revelry. [In modern terminology, saw all of the injuries caused by drunken driving.]  And HaShem remembered how the Children of Israel usher in our New Year, with prayer, introspection, and holiness.

And thus, concluded Rabbi Levi Yitschak, the prosecuting angel had nothing to say. And HaShem signed a good New Year for His people. And so, concluded Rabbi Levi Yitschak, he, the rebbe, also wishes a gemar hatimah tovah to all Am Yisrael.


I might add: since this year there were no wild celebrations in Quebec on New Year’s Eve, may we merit to see a healing from this pandemic.

Shabbat shalom

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782