We Jews are ancient, expert travelers in time.  We are given special times, from our holy Torah and wise Sages, in which we can help mend, renovate and elevate the entire creation. The whole month of Elul along with the first twenty two days of the month of Tishrei are a case in point. To the rest  of the nations these days are merely times on a calendar that hangs  on a wall, destined  to be marked off and discarded. For us, these sanctified days are our “time machine” that transports us to new levels of holiness (kiddusha). If we program this “time-craft” of opportunity carefully according to the laws (halachas) and  customs (minhagim), fill it with the fuel of enthusiasm and adjust our trajectory by keeping our proper spiritual focus, we can strive to reach into the “stratosphere” of kiddusha undeterred by the pull of  the atmosphere around us.

THE COUNT DOWN  – T minus 30 Days:[1]   

ALL CHODESH ELUL : Take on board sefarim on Musar and Chassidus to inspire thoughts of teshuvah. Sefardim begin saying Slichos and blowing the shofar, Ashkenazim blowing the shofar and many are reciting additional Tehilim. We now have a unique opportunity to prepare for our new journey:  (The space shuttle is launched in two stages.  At liftoff, it uses boosters and main engines.)


T minus (minimally) 4 days: (Main engines ignite in staggered intervals.)  Ashkenazim begin to say Slichos the Motzei Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah which can fall no less than four days before Rosh Hashanah in order to allow for final countdown preparations. A small reminder of the power of these days:  {These engines provide 1.2 million pounds of thrust and the boosters provide 6,600,000 pounds of thrust.} 


T minus I day:   (Main engines commanded to lift off position.)

EREV ROSH HASHANAH.  It seems that there could not possibly be sufficient time to achieve what needs to be accomplished before we set off.  However, through various minhagim and halacot such as:  hataras nedarim, fasting until chatzos, toveling in the mikvah and other Yom Tov preparations culminating in halacot narot, we are then able to reach the necessary level of energy and preparedness for our holy mission. Erev Rosh Hashanah is the last moment before take-off :{In order to attain orbit,  the space craft has to accelerate  from zero to eighteen thousand miles per hour and travel at an altitude higher than most of the Earth’s atmosphere.}


T minus 0 seconds: Rosh Hashanah seen as the lift off for the New Year :       ( Onboard computers ignite solid rocket boosters; three main engines at 100 per cent thrust level. Ground launch sequence terminated, lift off.) 

ROSH HASHANA:  All of the external preparations – the Yom Tov clothing, the festive meals and the internal preparations of introspection, learning halachas, making resolutions- are done, and here we are.  We lift up our machzorim and feel the weight of the awesome and spectacular task that lies ahead of us.

Rosh Hashanah, the – rosh – head, is truly the beginning of the new year, setting the trajectory which in turn sets the course for the whole year.  Using delicate instruments consisting of  halachot and minhagim, it fine tunes the three essential dimensions of  person-nefesh, place-makom and time-z’man.

The first tikun in the dimension of nefesh is when upon concluding our tefillos on Rosh Hashanah eve we greet and bless our friends and families with the wish that they be inscribed for a good year. 

One of the first unique tikunim achieved for the dimension of place on Rosh Hashanah is when, at our table, which halachically is designated our– makom seuda – the place where we partake of our festive meal – we dip our challah and apple into – d’vash – honey. Perhaps this symbolizes that our produce – a moshal for the ‘fruits of our efforts’ should be sweetly accepted by the Creator, Who is referred to as HaMokom.

The tikun achieved for the dimension of time—z’man is through the sounds of the shofar.  The sounds of the shofar are halachically regulated by the length and number of the notes which help to rectify the dimension of time. These holy customs and laws are infinitely more powerful than the following moshal: {At lift off the shuttle with its boosters and fuel weighs 4.5 million pounds and takes eight seconds to accelerate to a speed of one hundred miles per hour.  After one minute,  the craft is traveling at 1,000 miles per hour and has used more than one and one half million –pounds of fuel.}


T plus 2 days: Solid rocket boosters separate.

ASERES YIMAI TESHUVA: Rosh Hashanah with its stirring tefillos,  awe inspiring melodies and soul searching shofar blasts proclaims Hashem’s Kingship. Now it is the fast day – Tzom Gedalia, the third day of the ten days of repentance. Even during the fast we are still continuing to ascend:  {When it reaches an altitude of twenty eight miles, and is traveling at 3,000 miles per hour, it jettisons its boosters.} 


T plus 9 days:  (The three main engines continue to fire.)

EREV YOM KIPPUR. Sometimes we feel distant from the process, as if the judgment is going to happen to someone else, but as Erev Yom Kippur arrives we all become very involved, feeling the day of awe and hope is soon to be with us. This dichotomy within us also exists in the creation:  {The engines burn liquid hydrogen – which at  minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit is the second coldest liquid on earth – with liquid oxygen. When they unite and burn the mixture can reach a temperature of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit – higher then the boiling point of iron.}


T plus 10 days:  Space Craft  attains preliminary orbit.

 YOM KIPPUR.  We are now shaping the path and direction of the coming Year. We are accelerating very quickly because we must break out of the physical atmosphere and move into a very unique spiritual zone.

To do this we need let go of those habits and thoughts that have weighed us down and taken their toll upon us in the past year. This is a critical moment, allowing for our final stage of being freed from the past:  {After that period of time, the space craft, in an ovoid (oblong) orbit, reaches a speed of five miles per second.  The engines shut down, the external fuel tank is jettisoned and the shuttle will have consumed more than 3.5 million pounds of fuel}.

       T minus 14 days:  (Orbital maneuvering system engines are fired.) 

 SUKKOS.  We now are dwelling in our Sukkas.  For an entire week we live inside this unique mitzvah where we rebalance ourselves and establish our course for the year, free of the gravitational pull of our daily lives.  We wave the lulav, esrog and two other species in all six directions suggesting an empowerment over all of the spatial orientations and also symbolizing the Heavenly gift of freedom from attachment to the – teva – nature through our deepening connection with the Creator. Our avoda on Succos is essential for our spiritual growth in the upcoming year.   :  {If nothing more was done, the space craft would begin to descend and re-enter the atmosphere.  However, about a half hour after the main engines have shut down, usually as the shuttle reaches the highest point in the ovoid orbit, the two orbital maneuvering system engines, are fired for about three minutes. This causes the spacecraft to travel in a circular orbit that stabilizes it at a safe altitude above the atmosphere.}

    From this elevated position which spiritually parallels Shimini Atzeres/ Simchas Torah we are truly free of  the gravitational pull of this world.  We enter a euphoric / blissful state of “free fall” sustained and supported by rapturous song and ecstatic dance while embracing the holy Sefer Torahs.         

             These first twenty-two days have been given to us as a blessing to assure our proper and safe “take off” directing us properly to our new set of goals for the New Year.   May we all travel together, returning in joy and peace to our land, with the advent of the Mashiach soon in our days.



[1]  The data for the space shuttle reported here is provided by the National Space Agency. It is in no way meant to minimize our days of holiness or limit them to the physical world. These figures are only here to help alert us to the awesome power of these days and the advoda in them.

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia

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