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A careful study of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah reveals that the Yom Tov is closely associated with women. Let us cite a few examples. (1) When Chazal seek to relate to power of prayer on this day they illustrate this by noting that three women were answered on Rosh Hashanah. They are Sarah, Rachel and Chana (Berachos 29a). All three were answered with children. Indeed the Torah reading of first day of Rosh Hashanah relates how Hashem remembered Sarah and the Haftora relates how Hashem remembered Chana. (2) The Torah reading on the second day concludes with the birth of Rivka (Bereishis 22:23). Many commentators wonder why these few posukim are included when the Torah reading could have easily been arranged to conclude with the end of the akeidah. Obviously, the birth of Rivka has significance in its own right. (3) We derive the nature of the sound of the shofer and the number of sounds we blow from the mother of Sisrah. (4) According to some opinions the wailing sound of the shofer is symbolic of the cries of Sarah as she became aware that her son Yitzchak was almost slaughtered by her husband Avraham (Avudraham).
(5) On and leading up to Rosh Hashanah we are deeply concerned about the satan. We do many things to confuse and counteract his powers. For example, we do not bless the new month in advance. We do not blow shofer after davening on erev Yom Tov. We recite special posukim before the blowing of the Shofer to counteract the powers of the satan. We blow the shofer before the shemonah esrei and after in order to confuse the satan (Rosh Hashana 16a), etc... It is a bit odd that on no other holiday are we concerned about the satan.
Chazal tell us that the first time the letter samach appears in the Torah is in the posuk vayiskor basar tachtenah (Bereishis 2:21). The posuk here describes how Hashem created Chavah. The posuk relates how Hashem removed a rib form Adam and fashioned it into Chava. He then closed up the area from where He removed the rib with flesh. The Midrash explains that the letter samach is phonically related to the letter sin and thus represents the satan. The significance of the letter samach appearing together with the creation of the first woman teaches us that the satan was created together or as a byproduct of the first woman. If we are correct that the holiday is closely associated with women this would explain why only on this holiday we go out of our way to be concerned with the satan. The satan is the woman’s closest associate.
(6) The most significant and undisputable connection between the holiday and women is the fact the Rosh Hashanah occurs on rosh chodesh, the first day of Tishrei. Rosh chodesh is the holiday of women. Chazal teach us that originally the twelve roshei chodashim were full holidays that corresponded to the twelve tribes. As a punishment for worshiping the golden calf the holiday was taken away from the men and given to the women in reward for their refusal to donate their jewelry to the golden calf (Pirkei Di`R`Eliezar Hagadol 45). The holiday was later reinforced in reward for the women coming forth and gladly donating their jewelry for the construction of the mishkan (Avudraham based on a Midrash). Today there are various customs as to exactly how this holiday is observed by women. The fact the Rosh Hashanah occurs on their holiday obviously has much significance. What is this relationship all about?
In our daily morning blessings we find a difference between the blessing of a man and woman. A man thanks Hashem for not making him a woman. The commentators explain that women are exempt from all time related positive mitzvos. A man thanks Hashem for the opportunity to perform more mitzvos than women. Although women can also perform many of these mitzvos, they lack the advantage of being commanded to do so.
On the other hand, women thank Hashem for having been created according to His Will. The Ye’ho’shuos Yaakov explains the when Hashem created man he first consulted with the angels. He said “Let us make Man” (Bereishis 1:26). Although the word “us” gives the false impression that there is more than one God, Hashem preferred to teach mankind a lesson of humility by using this expression despite the possibility that some would use this as a excuse to deny the oneness of Hashem. However, when Hashem created the first woman He said, “I will make him a helper against him” (Bereishis 1:18). Here Hashem did not consult with the angels.
A woman thanks Hashem that He made her according to His Will. This expression highlights the fact that Hashem alone decided to create the first woman. This expression is not appropriate for Man, since Man’s creation was according to the will of Hashem and the angels. The next best thing for man to say is that he thanks Hashem for the opportunity to perform more mitzvos than the one who was created according to His Will only.
A central theme of Rosh Hashanah is the concept of malchioes. On this day we coronate Hashem as King over the entire world. The text of aleinu serves as our main form of expression in declaring Hashem as King of the world on this day. In addition to accepting Hashem as King we also ask in the aleinu prayer for Hashem to obliterate idolatry form the world. Only with the complete eradication of idolatry can Hashem be truly established as King over the entire world.
It is noteworthy that one of the primary causes of proliferation of idolatry is that Hashem said “let us make Man.” This statement provided the heretics with an excuse to mislead others that there is more than one God. However, this is only true concerning Man. With regard to the first women there is no room for error. Hashem said “I will make him a helper against him.” With the creation of the first woman there was a clear recognition of Hashem’s oneness and sovereignty over the entire world.
Perhaps this is why of Rosh Hashanah is closely associated with women. They are more attuned to Hashem’s sovereignty than men. On this day when we crown Hashem as King over the entire world we invoke the merit of the righteous women who have a greater sense of Hashem oneness. The merit of their unique relationship with Hashem is what gets `man`kind through the Day of Judgment.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2003