Death and life, how close they are. How to make life conquer. There are four roshee hashanim. The first is obvious, namely the one on 1 Niesan. Of that, the Torah says that this date is the first of the months of the year (Exodus 12:2). It is the date used to count and indicate the number of regnal years of a king. This date is also the first of the holy journeys that Jewish men have made to celebrate the great ascension feasts in Jerusalem at the Temple. The second is the beginning of the month of Elul, which has been associated with the tithing of animals. That was another administrative era. The third is today, judgment day for mankind, also the counting of shmita and your year, counting of orla: the newly planted trees in their 3rd year and tithes for grain and vegetables. And the fourth is 15 Shevat, the New Year’s Eve of the trees in general.
Today we consider the day of judgment. Rosh Hashanah is a day of hiding, read in Psalm 81:1-3, For the choirmaster. On the Gittit instrument. From Asaph. Praise G’d our strength, shout in praise of Jacob’s G’d. Start a song with instrumental accompaniment, play the top, the tambourine and the lovely kinnor, the lyre with the newel, the lute. 3 Blow the shofar, the trumpet on the new moon, on the
full moon for our feast. Not a full moon, but: kese = on the hidden day. And indeed on Rosh Hashanah it is always the new moon, the beginning of the month of Tishri. The explanation of this is that on this day Israel humbles and hides herself in great awe before the Day of Judgment. But this is also a day of mystery, because the Eternal hides the sins of His people and forgives them. It is also the day when we remember that Abraham hid his son and almost sacrificed him.
Abraham and Sarah cannot have children. They have been promised it by none other than Gd himself. No children means: no parental care, no offspring, no survival of the family and the promises of none other than G-d himself do not come true: Genesis 12:2-3, I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and magnify your name, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse, and with you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
And finally, at the age of 90, Sara gives birth to a son. Abraham is then 100 years old. And this son is to sacrifice Abraham, as instructed by Gd. How old is Yitzchak then? Just before Sarah dies, this near sacrifice is with Isaac. Sara dies when she is 127 years old. Yitzchak is then: 37 years old. But the fact that she has had a child is the great miracle that Israel is still celebrating after 4,000 years. Everything works with Gd. Even though He seems to take it away again. Even if you succumb to the pressure of the circumstances, like Sara. The miracle has happened.
And in the world to come (‘heaven’) Sarah can enjoy that miracle at her leisure and see how Israel became her people, her children. The event of Abraham and Sarah constantly hovers between life and death. That’s how you talk about life and then it’s about death again. Even in Sarah’s announcement, those two are mentioned side by side, in Genesis 23:1, And Sarah lived 127 years. And she died. It brings you back to the reality of life: death is right next to you. But with Gd you have eternal life. What did Abraham have to do for that, and Sarah too of course: they had to leave their family, village, country, everything so familiar to them. To renounce. Do you want to be stronger than death? Do you want to live forever? Do you want to leave all that is familiar? It is the hallmark of the Jewish Messianic movement! Also in the new year of 5784.
Leshanah tovah tikatevu,
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua