Jerusalem Post October 9, 1999
IN MUSAF OF ROSH HASHANAH, we find a description of G-d’s “remembrance”: “When the remembrance of every created being comes before you — every person’s deeds and mission…” The term “deeds” refers to a person’s observance of the commandments. But what is meant by a person’s “mission?”
There is no Jew without his or her own individual task. That task can be performed by no one else, for no one else was born with precisely the same configuration of strengths and weaknesses, no one else is born into the same family at precisely the same moment or into the same historical situation, and no one else confronts the same challenges and tests in life.
Because each Jew is a world unto himself and absolutely singular so is his task in life unique. That task is the “mission” referred to in the Zichronos section of Musaf.
We might think that so long as we have kept our sins to a minimum that we are destined for a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashanah. But the Midrash makes clear that our fulfillment of our appointed task is no less determinative. The Midrash recounts the story of Navat the Carmelite, who was put to death by Queen Jezebel. Navat was a completely righteous man, who refused to sell his vineyard to Jezebel. How can I sell that which G-d gave to my forefathers? he told her. As a consequence, Jezebel hired false witnesses to testify against Navat, and he was put to death.
The Midrash asks: How could such a righteous man have come to such a terrible end? And the Midrash answers that Navat had a uniquely beautiful voice. Each festival those going up to Jerusalem looked forward to hearing his beautiful prayers. One year, however, Navat did not come thereby disappointing all those who eagerly anticipated listening to his prayers. That year he was put to death by Jezebel. When a person does not use the gifts that G-d has given him in the manner intended, the Midrash teaches us, he or she has no further reason to live.
The Jewish people together constitute a potential symphony orchestra of praise to G-d. No Jew is born without an instrument or the ability to play it.
Say a prayer for the soldiers of the IDF, and for all residents of the Holy Land (suggestion: Psalm 20 is traditionally said in times of distress).
Charity and acts of kindness: Put a coin in a charity box, give a gift of money to a fellow in need or to a charitable cause, or extend a helping hand to someone who needs it.
Tefillin: If you already put on tefillin every day, encourage a friend to do so. If you don’t yet, now is a good time to start!.
Mezuzah: If you don’t yet have a mezuzah get one now! If you already do have one, it may be time to have it checked to ensure that the words on the parchment have not faded.
Tzitzit: start wearing tzitzit even during the night, and even while sleeping.