Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hadin, Yom T'ruah
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Our Rabbis refer to the upcoming holiday as Rosh Hashanah, the new year, or more accurately, the head of the year. In our liturgy, we also refer to this holiday as Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom T’ruah, which is often translated as the day of blowing the Shofar. But what exactly is T’ruah? Why is this the way the Torah expresses the holiday? How are the three names of Rosh Hashanah (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hadin, and Yom T’ruah) connected to one another?
The Talmud explains that the word “T’ruah” is translated into Aramaic as Yevava (which means to cry), and we learn from this that we are obligated to blow the Shofar in what we call a T’ruah – a crying sound. There are different types of crying sounds and that is why we blow the Shvarim, the T’ruah, and the Shvarim T’ruah. We blow a T’kiah sound before and after these blasts. On Rosh Hashanah, the Torah is commanding us to blow crying notes. Why are we instructed to do this on Rosh Hashanah?
Rav Hershel Schachter explains that everyone agrees that there is a Torah command to pray in troublesome times, in times of stress and calamity. He explains further that because Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment, when we are judged by God and our entire futures are in the balance, Rosh Hashanah is an Eit Tzarah – a troublesome time. Therefore, there is a biblical obligation to pray to God on Rosh Hashanah.
Rav Shachter explains that Rav Soloveitchik would quote the following Gemarah: Rabbi Elazar says: “Since the day the Temple was destroyed the gates of prayer were locked, and prayer is not accepted as it once was, as is stated in the lament of the Temple’s destruction. ‘Though I plead and call out, He shuts out my prayer’ (Lamentations 3:8). Yet, despite the fact that the gates of prayer were locked with the destruction of the Temple, the gates of tears were not locked, and one who cries before God may rest assured that his prayers will be answered, as it is stated: ‘Hear my prayer, Lord, and give ear to my pleading, keep not silence at my tears’ (Psalms 39:13).” (Baba Metzia 59a)
We see from here that prayers with tears and crying are so powerful that King David says confidently that God will not remain silent when He hears prayers with tears. We have a special obligation to pray on Rosh Hashanah and have the Shofar’s cries to transform our prayers to the level of prayers with tears.
Friends, we must realize that on Rosh Hashanah we stand in judgment before the master of the universe. Our future for the year ahead is being determined on Rosh Hashanah. It is imperative for us to understand that our lives, the lives of our loved ones, the welfare of our nation, and the welfare of all humanity are in the balance. This sentiment is echoed in the Untaneh Tokef prayer “who will live and who will die, who will be sick and who will be well, who will be wealthy and who will be poor.” Our preparation for Rosh Hashanah is to intensify our prayers, to pray with more intention, more truthfully, and more sincerely. Our prayers on Rosh Hashanah will then be elevated before God through our prayers, tears, and the crying call of the Shofar. In that merit, may will all be signed and sealed for a good, healthy, successful, and blessed year.