Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday's Pre Rosh Hashana Tidbits

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on Rosh Hashana this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand quoted a mishna in Rosh Hashana which states that if a person is passing by a shul or if a person lives next to a shul and hears the sound of shofar and has in mind to fulfill his obligation in tekiyas shofar, he can get credit for hearing shofar. Rabbi Frand asked the question - why does the mishna give two different examples - someone who is walking by or someone who lives next to a shul? Isn't the second case superfluous?

Rabbi Frand added another question on this scenario. The gemara brings a proof from the mishna that mitzvos require intent (kavana) and therefore a person must have intent to fulfill the obligation of shofar. The gemara then qualifies the statement and merely states that the person must be aware a shofar is blowing, not that he needs intent to fulfill the obligation. The gemara asks - of course he is aware the shofar is blowing! The gemara answers, maybe he thinks its a donkey braying. Rabbi Frand then asked on this point - if a Jew is walking by a shul on Rosh Hashana and hears a shofar, is there truly a possibility that he thinks its a donkey?

Rabbi Frand answered his questions by first making reference to Yosef. We know that Yosef was released from prison and was brought to Pharaoh was Rosh Hashana. Why does the gemara need to teach this? R' Frand answered that the gemara tells us this fact because the gemara wants to teach something specific about Rosh Hashana.

Rabbi Frand digressed to talk about prisons. He said the prisons in biblical times were not like Camp Feds or even maximum security prisons. In biblical times, they dug a hole in the ground and threw people into it. There was no ventilation or even sanitation. Yosef was in prison with the dregs of society after being accused of being intimate with Potiphar's wife. Yosef is then taken out of the pit and is brought to Pharaoh and is asked to give advice, in the presence of all of the royal advisors. Did he not have shock? Wasn't there any post traumatic stress? No, there was no residual problem and Yosef was able to give proper advice, even though he was in harsh prison the day before.

The message of Yosef is that people can feel imprisoned by their troubles or their desires and walk around weighed down, but this can be left behind in an instant. This is also learned from Koheles which describes leaving prison and going to be the king. This is why we need to know that Yosef left prison on Rosh Hashana, because we can leave prison on Rosh Hashana as well.

Rabbi Frand next quoted the Tollner Rebbi who explains that a person who is walking by a shul is a regular guy, but as for the guy who lives next to the shul we need to ask - why is he not in shul? The answer is that the neighbor does not want to be in shul even though he lives next door. This raises the possibility to him that the sound of the shofar could be a donkey. However, if he hears the shofar and realizes that it is the shofar, he can be raised up and released from his own prison.

R' Frand noted that there are many many more Jews in some communities than seats in the reform, conservative or traditional shuls in the area. Many Jews will not go to shul on the Yomin Noraim because they don't know that it is Rosh Hashana and they do not recognize the sound of the shofar. But the message of Rosh Hashana is that everything can be turned around for these people if they pay attention and realize that it is the shofar calling them to teshuva.

R' Frand closed by saying that even for those who are Orthodox and do go to shul and learn Torah, there is still a message to be learned from Yosef. We may find ourselves locked in by our yezter hara or our desires. But we can be released on Rosh Hashana if we recognize the shofar and commit to teshuva.

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