Rosh Ha Shanah

First day
Genesis 21, Maftir: Numbers 29: 1- 6
Haftorah: 1Samuel 1:1-2:10

Rosh Ha Shanah:
Opening the Gates of Change! ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk


This study of mysticism in Hebrew Gematria is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Arnold Student Litman, may he rest in peace.

On Rosh Ha Shanah will we attend services at our local Congregation, Shul or Temple? Will we be bored? Will we pray the same long, long prayers? Will we pray for hours? Will we visit with friends that we haven't seen since the last High Holy Days? WHAT WILL WE DO?

After years of participating in Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur services there is one thing extremely clear! Very little changes! What is the point of all of the praying? What is the point of fasting, of afflicting one's body? What is the point??

The point of Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur is REPENTANCE!
- Repentance is acknowledging ownership of one's sins. Over the past months I have written extensively on acknowledging one's sin. Acknowledgement of sin is the first step in repentance. Without acknowledgement / ownership of sin, the entire process is circumvented! We are side stepping our guilt! We're playing games with ourselves! Forgiveness is based on a genuine acknowledgment of sin!
- Repentance is a plan, a map of how not to repeat the same sin. Alcoholics Anonymous has a plan, "Don't take the first drink."
- Repentance is satisfying one's debt! One can acknowledge sin and one can design a plan not to repeat sin but THAT is not enough! How sincere is an acknowledgement of sin without a willingness to pay restitution? That confession is a sham! It lacks sincerity! It is only a mask and nothing more!!

So we come back to Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur -- same day, same time, another year... another year and another year ... we go through the motions and nothing changes. We keep coming back because it's our Jewish tradition. Yet there is more to Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur than tradition! If we are not improving as individuals because of Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur... if our character remains the same after Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur... if our improper habits do not change as a result our prayers and our confessions and our repentance on Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur then we should be asking ourselves, "What is beneath our foundation?"

This is like being in the red zone without scoring. This is like driving in reverse. This is like a rocket that cannot break free of Earth's gravity. This is like going to school without learning. THIS IS ATTENDING ROSH HA SHANAH and YOM KIPPUR SERVICES WITHOUT CHANGE!!

Holy reader, let's focus on repentance, on conduct change, on breaking free from improper habits and on self improvement. Last week in Parshas Nitzovim {Deut. 29:9 - 30:20}, we discussed immunities that we often subconsciously provide ourselves. This week we want to continue with that thought. Our subconscious self is very powerful. It influences our every movement. Our subconscious self is the soil beneath our foundation. So when we struggle with change we must look at our subconscious self.

For example in this week's parsha, the parsha for Rosh Ha Shanah, GENESIS 21, the Torah responds to Sarah's subconscious self. Remember in Parshas Vayeira Sarah's subconscious self laughed when the angel said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." {Genesis 18: 10}

For example, in Parshas Lech Lecha, the Torah responds to Abraham's subconscious self. "And G-d said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife - do not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son through her; I will bless her and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples will rise from her.'

And Abraham threw himself upon his face and laughed; and he thought, 'Shall a child be born to a hundred year old man? And shall Sarah - a ninety year old woman - give birth? And Abraham said to G-d, '0 that Ishmael might live before you! G-d said, 'Nonetheless, your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will fulfill my Covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his offspring after him..." {Genesis 17: 15-19}

Holy reader, the birth of Isaac was an extremely important issue at stake here. Yet in these two instances we see Abraham and Sarah struggling with their subconscious selves just as many of us do ...

So at Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur it is imperative for us to wrestle with a chronic condition that opposes change, a chronic condition hidden deep within our subconsciousness! This does not mean another round of quick fix self improvement classes. That is why so many of us have failed in our attempts to change. We placed emphasis upon what is known as personality ethic. Personality ethic focuses on quick fix influence techniques, communication skills, positive attitudes {especially mind over matter}, etc. In other words, personality ethic focuses on lip service. It does not insist on real bona fide change! This is the fundamental difference between personality ethic and character ethic. What we need in our lives, if we want change, is to deal with and to focus on our character ethic. This requires dedicated effort! It is not like using a can of flat fix on a flat tire. It is removing the nail, sanding the punctured area, gluing and patching the puncture, mounting and rebalancing the tire.

When we look at the parsha for Rosh Ha Shanah we see words Vah Tah Hahr, meaning " She conceived. " This is the Torah's reference to Sarah's giving birth to Isaac. The message, "She conceived" is the Torah's paradigm shift to the subconscious self of Abraham and Sarah. This was a view different from the one Abraham and Sarah originally had. Their subconscious selves did not allow for the birth of a son at their advanced ages. Yet the words "She conceived" pre-empted their subconscious selves. The message from the angel provided them with a new paradigm that contradicted - that conflicted with - their own subconscious selves.

From right to left;
Vah Tah Hahr
611 = Vav = 6 + Sav = 400 + Hey = 5 + Reish = 200

611 =
Hey = 5 + Reish = 200 + Vav = 6 + Sav = 400

Now the message "She conceived" ties in so beautifully with Hashem's aforementioned promise to Abraham, "I will fulfill my Covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his offspring after him..." We recognize this Covenant to be the Torah. The Gematria for Torah and for Vah Tah Hahr are both 611. Sarah's conception was a paradigm introducing the Covenant, the Torah! The Torah is a paradigm to our conflicted subconscious self which provides direction and character ethic to those of us who carefully observe it! Not only do we see a message of hope in the words Vah Tah Hahr, but we see the method which we can use to rise above defeat, the Torah. Vah Tah Hahr is a message of change to every Jew! It is the conception of the Torah! It is the soil beneath the foundation for Rosh Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur. It is the map to follow. It is the open gate to positive character change!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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