Our sages bring down in the tractate of Rosh Hashanah (11A) a list of events that occurred on Rosh Hashana (New Year) two of them pertain directly to Yosef. He was conceived by his mother Rachel on this day and it was on Rosh Hashana that he was released from prison. In addition, it is mentioned that the slave labor of the Jewish people in Egypt ceased precisely at this time. In order for us to try and understand the connection between Yosef and the stopping of slave labor to Rosh Hashana we must first take a quick glance in what the meaning of Rosh Hashana is and why we celebrate it. In the written law very little is mentioned about the Rosh Hashana holiday. In the book of Leviticus 23:24 it says “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by shouting, it shall be a holy day. In the book of Numbers 29:1 it says “on the seventh month on the first of the month it shall be to you a holy day you shall not do any work and it shall be a day of shouting” Afterwards the Torah mentions the various sacrifices that are offered on this day. What is so unusual is that all other holidays the reason behind the celebration is clearly outlined in the Torah whereas on this day the Torah does not explain why we celebrate the holiday. Even the word “Teruah” where most translate as sounding trumpets literally means shouting. As we learn out in the book of Joshuah chapter 6:5 “It shall be that when they make a long blast with the sheep’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.”Here the verse clearly distinguishes between the horn of a sheep and the “Teruah” – the shouting of the nation. In other words, the major mitzvah of the day blowing the Shofar is also not mentioned directly in the verse it is only alluded to in the word shouting. This means that all the laws of this day are concealed in our oral traditions!
In addition it is brought down in the oral law that this special day of Rosh Hashan is the Day of Judgment for the entire world, (see the first Mishna of Rosh Hashana) this also is not mentioned in the written Torah – Why did Hashem want to hide this and only reveal us these details in the oral law? In the book of Psams 81:4-6, King David reveals a little more about this special day by clearly mentioning the Mitzvah of blowing the Shofar, at the same time he alludes to the secrecy of this special day. He does mention the connection between Joseph and bondage in Egypt to this special day. Blow the horn at the beginning of the month, at its appointed time on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, An ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it for a testimony in Joseph When he went throughout the land of Egypt. I heard a language that I did not know: When do we blow the horn on the beginning of the month on its appointed time? – on our New Year.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for its appointed time is called “Keseh” – which comes from the root meaning to hide. In other words this appointed time is centered on hiding. What is G-d hiding from us? All the other holidays come out on full moons this is the only one that is at the beginning of the month. The entire world is now closing in on the completion of the sixth thousandth year since man’s creation, where our sages teach us that we have the job through rectification of reaching world perfection at the conclusion of these sixth thousand years. This is achieved by revealing Hashem in the world. One of the most basic concepts of creation is to realize that G-D withdrew Himsef when he created the world in order to allow for man to have free will. It is then our duty to rediscover our creator. This is the major principle of creation. G-D created man in order for man to connect and unite with Him. On Rosh Hashana Hashem judges the world to see if we are getting closer to the goal of creation. Every person is judged – he is asked – what did you do to help the world achieve this unity with G-D? Every nation is judged as well on a national scale to see what they have done in regards to this purpose.The Nation of Israel has the role of being teachers to the world and helping everyone reach this special level of connecting to Hashem. This can only be done when the nation of Israel reaches its proper spiritual height.
When we were slaves in Egypt this special function of our purpose in this world was hidden. We were slaves who would ever expect from a slave nation that they will have such as special purpose in this world. This is what our sages were telling us when they taught us that on Rosh Hashana the slave labor in Egypt ended. Although there was still 6 months left in Egypt until we finally left but the beginning of our redemption began with the end of slave labor: Joseph, who left prison on Rosh Hashana, represents the freedom of the beginning of redeeming his family from the famine and establishing the basis of the Jewish nation. But the nation still had to go through the 210 years of bondage before being liberated. The sound of liberty is represented in the Jubilee year.
Amazingly, it is from the Jubilee year that we learn our in the oral law the mitzvah of blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hasahnah. You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.” When Moses blesses each tribe he blesses the tribe of Joseph with having the strength of a bull and the horns of a Re’em. (See Deuteronomy 33:17). Our sages teach us that his horns had the strength of a Bull and the beauty of the Re’em. Yosef had the special gift of the horn. To sound the horn of freedom for the Jewish Nation. Joshuah who came form the house of Joseph conquered Jericho by having the priests sound the horns of the Shofar. The actual word mentioned there is Yovel meaning Jubilee in Hebrew. In closing the concept of Rosh Hashana means concealing the redemption of the world that slowly comes closer and closer each and every year by revealing more and more the presence of G-D in the world. The sounds of the Shofar which first represented the freedom of Joseph and later the beginning our redemption from Egypy and then the contuinuation by entering the land of Israel. We will continue to sound our Shofar until we reach our final redemption when it says in Isaiah 27:13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great Shofar shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
Dear readers it has been nine years since the desecration of the tomb of Joseph almost to the day(the 9th of Tishray Taf Shin Samech Alef) we ask Hashem especially at this time of renewal to reinstate the Jewish presence in the land of Shechem and return to us this our holy site.
I take this opportunity to bless all our readers with a Shanah Tovah Umituka – may the blessing that Hashem gave to Yosef “Kol Ma SHehu asah Hu Hitzlicah” – everything upon which he touched succeeded” – be upon you!
Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith .