Miriam Leah Epstein Preil
musical neshama

The King and I: Getting to Know You God, on Rosh HaShana!

Machzor, circa early 1900's, devotely used by Zayde z'l.

It’s Rosh HaShana, time to come before our King.  

Just how exactly do we approach a king? 

The King is enthroned high and lofty.  He inhabits eternity; Exalted and holy is His name.  And it is written:  Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous, for praise from the upright is seemly.  By the mouth of the upright, You shall be extolled; by the words of the righteous You shall be blessed; by the tongue of the devout You shall be sanctified; and in the midst of the holy You shall be praised. (Machzor* Koren pub. translation)

Perhaps we start at the beginning.  God is Creator of Heaven and Earth, Master of the Universe.  Adam and Chava were the culmination of God’s Creation on Rosh HaShana.  His relationship with us is as a Father who lovingly cares for His children.  The truth is we always have a connection, it isn’t necessary to wait until now to reach out to Him.  The closeness between God and His creations is eternal.  Certainly we don’t need any intermediary because He is accessible to us at all times.  Anytime we choose we may pause to say a prayer, give thanks, ask for Divine guidance, or cry for mercy. 

So why is it different on Rosh HaShana?   Why does Rosh HaShana evoke such trepidation ? 

It is called Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment and Yom haZikaron, Day of Remembrance.  We are all being judged on our merits.  It is also Yom Teruah, the Day of Shofar Blasts when we coronate our King, a solemn occasion and a joyous one too.  The Head of the Year begins the Ten Days of Awe, Yamim Noraim, which lead us to Yom Kippur.  How could we not be in fear of such a great reckoning?

Relationships are complex.  They require investment of time and energy.  When we care deeply for another we make the effort because we want the relationship. If we want it to last, we’ll work hard at it and not take it for granted.  How much are we invested in our relationships with our families and loved ones?  What about our connection with God, our King?  Do we have one?  What does that look like?  He is in the Heavens so how can we have any relationship at all?  It is a difficult concept because we are but dust of the earth.  Whether we realize it or choose to accept it, or not, the beauty of it all is that we are never alone.  Our Heavenly Father is watching over us, eager to dote on us with all His kindness.  Every act we do, every word we speak is an opportunity to say thank you to our Creator for giving us life and the world around us.  It strengthens our bond and brings us closer to God. When we conscientiously do good, when we observe Mitzvos and sanctify Life, we are partners in creating a harmonious kingdom.

Yes, we may have fear for the God of Justice Who will give judgment. Rightly so.  We are only human after all. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll stray from the path and even get lost.  Surely there must be something to tilt the scales in our favor when we’ve lost our way.  Who doesn’t need another chance?  Fortunate for us He is the God of Mercy as well, always providing a way for us to come back, and He never gives up on us.

Much as we may tremble before the King, we’re able to bring about a change of decree though opportunities to do Teshuva, Tefillah, and Tzedakah.

uTeshuva uTefillah uTzedakah   Zayde’s Machzor, z’l

Actually, we’ve already begun!     We have been blowing Shofar since the month of Elul began, heralding the upcoming coronation!  We are preparing ourselves for the most auspicious time of year when we come even closer to greet our King, ask for mercy, and peace, true Shalom for Israel and the world.

This is our way of investing, and getting to know You God!

Perhaps the Avinu Malkenu, “Our Father Our King” prayer,  holds the answer to our original question.  For centuries we’ve poured our hearts into reciting these verses of supplication and hope on Rosh HaShana (and Yom Kippur).  Listen to this heartfelt rendition from 1927:  Avinu Malkenu Isaac Algazi Efendi1927.  Now, hear the rich sound of Chief IDF Chazzan Shai Abramson’s plea, almost 90 years later: Shai Abramson Avinu Malkenu .

How could our King, our Father, possibly turn away from such devotion?

This Rosh HaShana, I think Something Wonderful is in store for The King and I!

Avinu Malkenu Zayde’s Machzor, z’l

Kesiva v’Chasima Tova,  CHAZAK!

Miriam Leah

Dedicated l’ilui nishmos my Zayde, Rav Yaakov ben Avraham, z’l, and my brother Danny, Yaakov Chanan Dov z’l, ben Yosef Mordechai haLevi,  who added Zayde’s name to his own to give him the strength he needed to keep his Ruach alive until he was niftar on the 27th of Elul, “Zach” Elul 5768, Erev Rosh HaShana.    

About the Author
Miriam Leah Epstein Preil grew up in the midwest, but her heart has always been in Israel! She began playing piano by ear when she was six years old, and by age seven was already studying piano seriously. Her musicality and passion for music were remarkable from an early age. She and the piano are inseparable! Music fills her life and home. Miriam Leah has composed pieces for piano, piano and voice, and many Niggunim. Her poetry is unique, each poem stands on its own yet becomes greater within her collection of poems. All universal. She utilizes her writing to engage people in thought, stir discussion, share insights, support causes, bring forth truths, educate, and inspire souls. She has taught Judaics and Jewish music extensively in Jewish Day schools for many years. Miriam Leah combines her love of music and creative writing with her devotion to Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel, through her writing of Divrei Torah and advocating for Jewish values and Israel.
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