Have you ever noticed the difference in how we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and how we prepare for Pesach and Shavuot?
Pesach, celebrating our Freedom seems all about Hashem and His Mitzvot. Preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the days that ostensibly are all about Him –it seems He’s nowhere to be found!
Just look at the way we prepare for Pesach and Shavuot. Hashem is there with detailed directions every step of the way. “Clean, scour, search, and get rid of the Chametz.” “Now go bake/buy Matza.” “Prepare Marror.” “Drink four cups of wine.” “Do the above at a very detailed Seder with your children.” And now, onto Shavuot. “Here’s a 49-step/49-day program and a special mitzvah and brocha, with My Holy Name in it, every day.”
My parents and teachers were Chabad Chassidim. Like all my peers, I grew up with the parable of the month before Rosh Hashanah, Elul, described as when the King -Gd- is in the “field.” He’s down here with us in our mundane lives. But come the month of Elul in “real” life, it seems He’s nowhere to be found. We walk around the whole month with a Shofar we stole from Rosh Hashanah that cries out constantly, “where in the world are You?” We get up early before dawn, come to Shul and recite prayers we wrote, imploring Him to please, please, listen to us and then leave Shul wondering: did He?
Come the day before Rosh Hashana, we don’t even have that “stolen” Shofar to help us call! Rosh Hashanah reclaimed it – leaving us bereft of even that symbol. It seems backward. To prepare for Rosh Hashanah, when we need to feel His presence, He gives us no mitzvot to help us. For Pesach and Shavuos, when His presence is real and manifestly apparent, He provides us with mitzvot galore.
On Pesach, Torah compares us to a child just born; by the time we get to Rosh Hashanah, we are adults responsible for the things we’ve done and do. From Pesach thru Shavuos, Hashem is with us in the room, talking to us, performing miracles for us, and carrying us every step.
Come Rosh Hashanah – we’re adults. He is not holding our hands the way he did many months ago. On Pesach He is our Redeemer; on Rosh Hashana He is our Creator.
He created our world for a purpose and placed us in it to fulfill it. Now it’s our world to perfect. Now it’s our responsibility to protect it.
A child needs to be hugged and caressed. A child needs to constantly feel her parents’ presence, and a loving parent ensures she does.
The sign of adulthood is independent behavior. He wants us to act on that caress even (especially) when we don’t feel it. Paying it forward when we know He’s watching is no big deal; an adult does the right thing even when no one is watching.
When I plunk down $35 a pound for Shmurah Matzo for Pesach, I do it because I know I’m doing His mitzvah. When I come into Shul on the day before Rosh Hashanah sans Shofar and call out in my imperfect voice, “where are you – we need you” I’m taking responsibility for my part of this world.”
And yes, He hears us, and He will give us a Good and Sweet Year.