The Special Responsibility of Leaders in Rosh HaShana

This Elul teaching was sponsored by Jerry Krivitzky and is dedicated to his rabbi, R. Joel Soffin in gratitude for his instruction and modeling of how to live by Jewish/Torah values.

An Elul Teaching, 2006/5767
By A Still Small Voice

rosh.hashana.image5These forty days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur are called days of grace. They correspond to the forty days that Moshe again spent with HaShem receiving the second Tablets (replacing those that Moshe shattered in his outrage at the Golden Calf). HaShem forgave the people, replaced the Tablets, and revealed one of the deepest secrets of the universe, called the Thirteen Principles of Mercy. These are Thirteen descriptions of Divine compassion, and the vibrations created by their words, when spoken aloud in a prayer gathering, open the deepest gates inside the soul. Kabbala teaches that the grace of these forty days comes from the fact that HaShem released these love-lights into the world when He forgave the unforgivable, the idolatrous betrayal of His beloved people in this very season, »3,500 years ago.

Always, light refers to consciousness. According to Kabbala, these thirteen revelations of Divine compassion are channels that link the soul’s superconscious root (keter) with its conscious levels of mind (chokmah/binah). In some sense HaShem’s compassion depends upon our capacity to perceive that compassion, and that depends upon the state of these thirteen channels inside our soul. The more expanded the channels, the greater our capacity to absorb new light and appreciate its gift. The more constricted the channels, the greater the gap between mystery (keter) and knowledge (chokmah/binah). The conscious mind cannot grasp the fullness of Divine compassion, which then remains hidden, appearing as its opposite, and this is a painful state both for us and for Him.

The custom is to blow the shofar each of these forty days from the first of Elul to Yom Kippur. The Hebrew word for shofar has the same root as shipair (self improvement). The Baal Shem Tov explains that one major point of this custom is to awaken the leaders to do their inner work, to take time for deep introspection, and to wage a battle with their lower inclinations (as subtle as they may be). Presumably this is because the leaders are likely to become complacent when they compare themselves to the more lowly masses. The Baal Shem Tov suggests that the simple folk will do their Elul work either way, and that the shofar is calling upon the leaders to join in, and take the lead, and bind the people into a group effort that is greater than the sum of its individual parts (RH & YK -1).

Every generation is itself, altogether, a single partzuf (macrocosmic stature) and its leaders function as the thirteen channels of mercy that connect the commoners to the superconscious root of their collective soul. When the leaders do their inner work, the channels stretch and Divine compassion rules, grace fills the world, and life is good.

But truly there are leaders on every scale. There are inner leaders, outer leaders, big leaders and small ones. In fact, we are all leaders in some context, with others depending upon us. The Ari explains that every human soul is connected by an invisible circuitry of golden threads to certain animals, plants, and minerals in the world (which s/he may never actually meet face to face). Together they comprise a soul cluster (with the human at its center) and their destinies are entwined. The bounty that will be available to these creatures this coming year (sunshine, fertilizer, health, provisions, etc.) is dependent upon what their human soulmate pulls down this Rosh HaShana as a result of their own inner work.
Let it be, that we should all rise to the shofar’s cry this Elul, admit our failings, improve our deeds, and rededicate our lives to the service of G-d, and truth and good. And let our resolve be potent to sustain its commitment. And let the transformation effected by this teshuva draw HaShem’s utter compassion down into the grasp of our own conscious selves, and into the heart-minds of all of our dependents, and ultimately the entire of creation. Let us finally tip the scales and bring Moshiach Now!

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