“His Kingdom Rules over Everything”
By Rabbi Nachum Neria, Head of Yeshiva Torah B’Tzion, Jerusalem
It is written in the Talmud, “A man should always organize his prayers and only then start to pray (that is, it is important to study and understand the prayers before beginning to pray)… with respect to the blessings of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.” (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 34).
While studying with students from wealthy families from abroad, we read the main blessing of the “sanctity of the day” for Rosh Hashana, “Let every moving figure know that You move him,” and we explained the meaning of the passage. They all had a very amazed look, and one of them could not hold back, and he questioned my message: “What is that all about? Am I expected to pray for all the servants in my house? For characters who have no culture at all? For criminals and jungle natives in Africa, asking that they recognize G-d? To beg for all those who live in a world of chaos and who live a life of nothingness?”
So we went through the text of the blessing a second time. “Reign over the entire world in Your glory… and let every moving figure know… and let every creature know that You created him. And let everything that has a spirit in its nostrils declare that the G-d of Israel in King, and that His Kingdom rules over everything.” Everybody in the world is obligated by the seven mitzvot of Bnei Noach, and the first one of these commandments is the belief in G-d. The students responded with even greater amazement: “Aren’t these people here to serve us? We don’t pay any attention to them and to their living conditions. Are we really meant to pray that they will begin to believe in the Holy One, Blessed be He?”
The approach of the Torah is absolutely clear in this matter: The vision of a Kingdom of G-d applies not only to the Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. Every day we end the prayers by reciting, “Aleinu Leshabayach – We are obligated to give praise to the Master of Everything.” This includes the passage, “We therefore hope from You… to remove paganism from the earth… and all flesh will call out in Your name, all the dwellers of the universe will recognize and know…” The students were in shock. They said, “We never heard this before!”
“You haven’t heard this? The text of ‘Aleinu Leshabayach’ was there in front of you all the time. But you did not appreciate the exalted character of ‘Aleinu,’ the vision of Rosh Hashana, and the greatness, the breadth, and the responsibility that stem from the prophecy of Isaiah: “For from Zion will the Torah emanate… and the nations will follow Your light.”
The simple understanding of the text, together with the understanding of the daily prayers and the special prayers for the Days of Awe – all of this first and foremost requires spiritual identification and a deep-felt and broad faith in the Creator of the universe, who created everything and for whose glory it was all created. This includes dark-skinned people, the leaders of Al-Qaeda and the Hamas, and billions of Chinese and Japanese – and also you and me.
We wish you all a good and successful year.