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Thursday, September 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

    Following each instance of shofar blowing during the repetition of mussaf, and even on Shabbos when we do not blow the shofar, we recite a small paragraph declaring the gravity and importance of the day and including a short prayer as well. This paragraph begins with the words, "Hayom haras olam," today is the [anniversary of the] conception of the world. This is an accordance with R' Eliezer in the gemara (Rosh HaShanah) who asserts that the world was created in Tishrei. More precisely, he contends that the first five days of creation were before Tishrei and the sixth day of creation, the day that man was created was the day we know of as Rosh HaShanah.
    There are two points I found puzzling about this opening phrase. First, the world includes all of the creations from the first day and on. Why would this day be referred to as the conception of the world? Perhaps the conception of humanity or of civilization would be more precise.
    Second, the step in the circle of life one would probably associate with something new is birth. Why is this day referred to as the "conception" of the world rather than its birth?
    I thought this would be a nice subject to discuss at the table over apples and honey but I have come up with some suggestions of my own. First, it should be noted that Abudarham actually addresses both these points. He answers the first problem by stating simply that the sixth day was the completion of the conception of the world. It was not a world until it was complete. He avoids the second problem by stating that the word "haras" can refer to birth as well as conception and quotes a pasuk in Iyov (3:2) to support that assertion.
    Here are my thoughts:
    Perhaps, when it comes to life as we know it, birth is the ultimate beginning whereas the gestation period is simply the preamble and preparation for that event. As a metaphor for creation, however, conception is certainly the pinnacle. The miraculous creative spark is conception whereas birth is simply a necessary step in the development of the human being. It is therefore more accurate to refer to the creation of the world as conception rather than birth.
    Additionally, we might regard the metaphoric gestational period as corresponding to a certain block of time at the beginning of history. Perhaps Adam and Chavah's brief stay in Gan Eiden was humanity's incubation period, a time of unparalleled closeness between man and God. Following this short period, man was expelled as a fetus is expelled from its mother's womb, and forced to live the gruelling life in this world as we know it.
    The difficulty with this understanding, of course, is that getting booted out of Gan Eiden was not in the plans. It's hard to imagine a master plan for creation including Adam's sin and subsequent eviction. Perhaps the gestational period was the 2448 years that led up to the giving of the Torah and the "birth" of B'nei Yisroel as a nation, an event which we are told by Rashi on the very first pasuk of the Torah was the very purpose of creation. The experiences of our forefathers shaped us as as a nation forever. On Rosh HaShanah, thousands of years ago, was when it all began.
Have a Good Shabbos, Good Yom Tov and a Kesivah Vachasimah Tovah.
Eliezer Bulka
3306A Clarks Ln
Baltimore, MD 21215


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