The Kabbalah of Rosh Hashana: From Tears to Transformation
At sunset on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, G-d**
will remove some of his light from the world. He will still
remain present in a basic way, of course, or the world could not
sustain itself. But that presence will be remote, withdrawn.
Then He will wait. The next move is ours.
At around midday of the holy day, when Jews in every corner of
the world acknowledge His sovereignty with prayers and the
blowing of the shofar, G-d will once again agree to be our King.
He will recommit to His relationship with our world. And when He
does so, it will be with an entirely new level of light and
power. Entirely new possibilities - possibilities that never
existed before - will enter the world. We will advance one giant
step closer to our ultimate destiny.
But the first move has to come from us. We must renew our
contract with our Creator if the world is to continue to exist.
Once each year, the world must choose G-d.
FROM TEARS TO TRANSFORMATION
Why the blowing of the shofar, the ram's horn? What power does
this primitive instrument have to bring down such an intense and
More than a simple horn, the shofar is an instrument of
transformation. Its sound is like a heartbroken cry, and its
power is the power of tears.
Living in a physical world, subject to the many stresses and
challenges of life on earth and subjugated to the relentless
demands of our body and our ego, we are not even remotely aware
of our own true potential. Our soul, with all of its unlimited
awareness, insight, creativity, love and power, is trapped and
But when our defenses break down, when we come face to face with
our essential smallness and vulnerability within this vast
universe, we cry out to G-d.
And this cry - this intense awareness of our own limitations -
is what sets us free. A broken-hearted cry can release your soul
from its prison and leave you open to something completely new.
This freedom, not coincidentally, is also connected with the
trumpet-blast of the shofar. In fact, it is the blast of 'the
great shofar' - the shofar of Redemption - that will herald our
ultimate freedom and transformation at the End of Days.
Weakness and power. Smallness and greatness. Isolation and
Unity. Slavery and freedom. How do they go together? And how is
it that the very same sound can symbolize both?
A WORLD OF OPPOSITES
Kabbbalah explains that everything that exists is made up of two
polar opposites. The opposite of darkness is light. The opposite
of evil is good. The opposite of death is life. The opposite of
slavery is freedom. Wherever one is found, so is its opposite.
They define each other. Without one, the other could not exist.
However, these negative states have no intrinsic reality.
Darkness is not a permanent condition. Just like the first step
in throwing a ball is to move the arm backwards, the darkness is
actually a prelude, a gateway, to a far more powerful light.
That's why tears can be so transformational. Paradoxically, it
is only in realizing our smallness, weakness and aloneness - the
limits of our ego-based existence - that we create an opening to
expand beyond our perceived limits and become who we were truly
born to be.
This possibility for transformation is intensely present on Rosh
Hashana, when the world begins anew.
ON THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW WORLD
On this Rosh Hashana, in the year 5766, transformation is not
only more possible but more necessary than ever before, not only
for Jews but for the entire world.
Every year on Rosh Hashana the world waits, suspended in the
dark space between the old light and the new. Between two ways
of being there is always an empty space, a space of transition.
In this space we have the opportunity to let go of the old - the
pettiness, the resentments, the past mistakes, failures and
fears. We can embrace a brand new way of being; a more
passionate sense of purpose. We can commit ourselves to a new
level of kindness, respect and compassion for the people around
us - those we already love, and those we could love if we
stopped being angry or afraid.
In opening ourselves to life, we create the greatest possible
opening for G-d to inscribe us in the Book of Life for a year
that is good and sweet in the truest sense.
But on this Rosh Hashana the world waits at the threshold of
Redemption. In these unprecedented times an intense level of
darkness hovers over the earth. Our world is shaking. Terror,
war, mind-numbing natural disasters and crisis in the Middle
East cast a threatening shadow over our lives. These times are
frightening and challenging. But this darkness is nothing more
or less than the gateway to an entirely new level of light - a
OUR TIMES IN ANCIENT PROPHECY
These chaotic times were foreseen in great detail millennia ago
by the sages of biblical times. A full discussion of these
prophecies is way beyond the scope of this article. But read the
words below and see whether or not you think they describe our
Insolence and self-centeredness will increase, there will be
oppressing inflation, people will be addicted to the good life
and the costs will be high, moral standards will dissolve,
morality and wisdom will be denigrated, there will be unbridled
irresponsibility on the part of authorities, centers of learning
will turn into centers of immorality, poverty will increase, the
young will denigrate the old, families will disintegrate,
leadership will be impudent. The world will see a succession of
troubles, epidemics of terrible diseases, and international
confrontations. The face of the generation will be 'like the
face of a dog'. Just as dogs are not embarrassed by anything
they do, so too people will lose their sense of embarrassment.
THE GREATER THE DARKNESS, THE GREATER THE LIGHT
Against this challenging, chaotic backdrop, we are being called
upon to expand beyond our boundaries, to strengthen our
relationship with our Creator and to actualize our own potential
as partners in Creation.
We are living through the time of transition between exile and
Redemption. Out of the breakdown of the old and unworkable, we
have the opportunity to create something completely new.
In fact, it is our destiny.
ROSH HASHANA: IT'S YOUR CHOICE
This Rosh Hashana each one of us has a choice. We can choose to
stay unconscious, trapped within the prison of our fears,
confusion, resentments and longings, remaining passive victims
of circumstance. Or we can use this opportunity to begin to fly.
To align ourselves with our destiny. To learn to be free.
Freedom is a lofty concept, but it's lived in the choices you
make each moment. In your relationships. In your spirituality.
In your commitment to a life of joy and fulfillment. In your
awareness of G-d's nurturing presence in the intimate details of
your daily life. In remembering that you're here for a purpose
and being willing to do something each day to make that purpose
If you could create a new future, one not based on your fears
and past failures, who would you be? How would you behave? What
would you dare to create? Who would you thank? Who would you
listen to and what would you share? What would you do to enhance
your connection to G-d and your own essence? What part of you
that you've given up on would you start to nurture? What dreams
might you make come true?
Rosh Hashana holds within it an awesome power. The light of the
past is withdrawn and the light of the future has yet to come
down into the world and into your life. The Book is open. What
will you choose?