"So That Their Memory be Invoked Before Me"
Based on a sicha by HaRav
Translated by Rav Elli Fischer
In numerous places, both in biblical verses and in sayings of Chazal, it is implied that that there is a special merit in the very invocation of our memory before God.
This is difficult to understand: Does God, the Master of the world, need to be “reminded” about the nation of Israel? Does he not “remember the covenant,” “remember all deeds ever done and recall all past creatures”? Do we not say that “there is nothing forgotten before His Throne of Glory, and nothing hidden from His eyes”?
Furthermore, we recite the following in our prayers:
For the memory of all creatures comes before you, human acts and purpose, and the contrivances of man’s travails; a person’s calculations and strategies, and the motivations of man’s schemes; for the memory of all actions comes before You, and You seek out all their deeds. (From the berakha of Zikhronot in mussaf of Rosh Ha-shana)
To understand this, we must recall that the primary foundation of akeidat Yitzchak was Avraham’s response, “Here I am”:
And the angel of God called to him from the heavens, saying “Avraham, Avraham;” and he said: “Here I am.” (Bereishit 22:11)
Avraham responded when God called him by name.
As with the akeida, so it was in Gan Eden. After the world’s first transgression, on the very first Rosh Ha-shana, God called Adam:
And God called out to Adam and said, “Where are you?” (Bereishit 3:9)
The first man was hiding from his God, so God, as it were, had to search him out.
This question - “Where are you?” - is addressed to everyone at all times and in all places. Sometimes it carries a special power; the Day of Judgment is one of those times. The essence of the judgment that takes place on Rosh Ha-shana is that very same question: “Where are you?”
Together with that, there is something even more awful which constitutes the source of our terror: forgetting.
According to one source, it can happen that a person forgets his name on the Day of Judgment. The Reishit Chokhma (Sha’ar Ha-yira, end of chapter 12) cites the following in the name of Chazal:
They asked Rabbi Eliezer: “What is the judgment of the grave?”
[He responded:] “When a person passes away, the Angel of Death arrives, hits his grave with his hand, and says ‘Tell me your name!’ He replies: ‘It is revealed and known to the One who Spoke and Created the World that I do not know my name.’”
Esoteric works recommend that a person read, on a daily basis, eighteen verses that mention his name. The holy Shelah adds (Kitzur Shelah 101b) that this is provides protection against forgetting one’s name on the day of final judgment.
The meaning of this is that every person must find his unique place within the Torah. “Give us our portion in Your Torah.” As long as one has not done so, has not discovered his “special letter” in the Torah, one remains in exile, in a sense.
This idea also finds expression in the blowing of the shofar. The shofar expresses the depths of the heart, the most inward, profound, and unique place in the heart of every man.
The gemara in Rosh Ha-shana (27b) states the law regarding a “shofar within a shofar:”
If one placed a shofar within a shofar: if he hears the inner one, he has fulfilled his obligation; if he hears the outer one, he has not fulfilled his obligation.
“If he heard the inner one” - God longs to hear our inner voice.
This is the true sound that we must make heard on Rosh Ha-shana. This is implied by a different halakha that appears there:
If one coated [a shofar] with gold on the inside – it is disqualified. On the outside, if its sound changed from what it was – it is disqualified; if not – it is kosher.
We learn of something similar in the laws pertaining to the Temple (Arakhin 10b):
Our sages taught: There was an oboe in the Temple that was smooth, thin, made of reed, and from the times of Moshe Rabbeinu. The king commanded that it be coated with gold, but then its sound was no longer sweet. They removed its coating, and its sound was as sweet as ever.
On the Day of Judgment, God wants to hear our real voices, not a “coated,” counterfeit voice whose natural sound has been altered.
Would that we knew how to reveal our real voices! If only we could bring it forth from the depths of our hearts, in its pristine state, we would fulfill our obligation.
(This sicha was delivered on the second day of Rosh Ha-shana, 5737 .)