Rabbi YY Jacobson, well-known speaker, shared a powerful shiur about harnessing the power of this time of year. The shiur was dedicated in memory of Mrs. Devorah Leah Hecht a”h, and was hosted by Chazaq, TorahAnytime, Asher to the Yatzar, and www.TheYeshiva.net.
Rabbi Jacobson began by pointing out a teaching of the Sh’lah HaKadosh that in the words aryeh and yir’ah, each Hebrew letter stands for something in this time period. Alef is Elul. Reish is Rosh HaShanah. Yud is Yom Kippur, and Hei is Hoshana Rabah. Rabbi Jacobson taught that, at this time, Hashem’s awe is on everyone; but at the same time we are told to celebrate, so how do we reconcile these two opposite concepts?
He noted that a lot of people are experiencing a lot of fear now. There’s fear and anxiety and stress. “Sometimes we misunderstand yir’as Hashem.” We think it means fearing punishment. The Maharal taught that this understanding of yir’as Hashem is not fear of Hashem but fear for ourselves. The Rambam taught that if you serve Hashem out of fear or for rewards, it is a more primitive level. “We have to develop our relationship with Hashem and bring it to a deeper place.” In the time we live in now, our experience with Yiddishkeit must be deeper.” He added that, of course, we believe in reward and punishment, but we need to focus on a more joyous relationship with Hashem. The Baal HaTanya taught that real yir’as Hashem is “I’m afraid to ruin such an amazing relationship.” The Rambam taught that marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Hashem. The fear we should experience is fear of destroying something so empowering and beautiful. “I should be afraid of forfeiting this gift of this type of a relationship.” Rabbi Jacobson expounded on this, using the metaphor of a strong marriage. Just as we wouldn’t want to do something to harm our marriage, this is how we should feel about our relationship with Hashem. He added, “When we realize how much Hashem loves us, it’s scary!”
He then shared that some of us don’t know how it feels to be loved as, sadly, we have not experienced this in childhood or beyond. We recite every morning before the Sh’ma that Hashem loves us with an everlasting love. The word love is mentioned seven times in the blessing Ahavas Olam before Sh’ma. Rabbi Jacobson pointed out that if Hashem loves me so much, then it’s demanding. It’s demanding in a good way. It awakens me.
“How can you be indifferent to such love?”
He shared a teaching of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the Zohar: “Our main focus should be Hashem’s love!” Rabbi YY said: “Open yourself up and feel the infinite love of the Divine Creator for you.”
Rabbi Jacobson acknowledged that some of us have endured painful experiences and tests. “Life is very mysterious. The journey of life transcends our understanding. We have to have the courage to stay with life and steer into the reality of life.” He noted that in that pain we will find love of Hashem and it will be very powerful.
Rosh HaShanah is a day of judgment for every living creature, and it does seem to be a scary day. Why is it a Yom Tov?
However, if you delve into the holy books of the Sh’lah HaKadosh, the Ramchal, the Vilna Gaon, Rav Chaim Volozhin, and students of the Bal Shem Tov, you will see how judgment is a beautiful thing. He continued to explain that it is one of the most refreshing things in life. “When someone who knows all about you because He designed you and He loves you and He can cast light on your soul and can really excavate all that is going on in your life, how rewarding this is if you are seeking truth. What more can you ask for?” On the contrary, I am afraid of being judged by someone who doesn’t know me or care about me. It’s so different to be judged by someone who knows me better than I know myself. “Hashem conceived us in love. You’re being loved by someone who loves you unconditionally, eternally. That’s Rosh HaShanah. It’s very awesome because it’s a day of so much love and dedication, and the Creator of the world is so involved with me.” He decides to give me all those resources so I can fulfill my spiritual and physical mission in this world. Hashem tells every Jew: Don’t think anybody decides your destiny except for Me. It’s I who orchestrates every event in your life. I love you and I am your greatest fan. I want you to live a life to the fullest in this world and the next.
He emphasized, “Never doubt Hashem’s love for you.” He shared a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: “G-d loves every Jew more than a parent loves a child and even more than parents who have an only child later in life. “Open yourself and allow yourself to experience it. Allow yourself to feel this.”
Hashem wants us to take the yir’ah of these days and search for the p’nimiyus. Go deeper and you’ll see a beautiful soul. “Hashem wants us to see who we are and who we can become, and then write yourself into the Book of Life. Let it be a year that says, I’m going to live.”
He concluded with a beautiful brachah for everyone that it should be a year of blessing and light and joy and happiness and nachas.
This shiur can be viewed on TheYeshiva.net and on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber