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Parshas Ki Tavo (5776)

How to Annul All Harsh Decrees This Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the “Day of Judgment”, is just around the corner and, frankly, it’s a scary time. I am sure that each and every one of us knows someone who was alive last Rosh Hashanah but who is no longer with us today. And what about all the terror attacks and stabbings in Israel this year?

We believe that every tragedy that occurred this year whether to an individual or to the community at large – and it’s not over yet – was decreed by the Heavenly Court on this past Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur. Who knows what harsh decrees are in store for us, Heaven forbid, this coming Rosh Hashanah!

Thankfully, our Sages have provided us with a way to annul those harsh decrees – and I am going to share it with you, just in time for Rosh Hashanah.

In the Talmud in Shabbos 119b, the rabbis teach us that whoever answers [in the Kaddish prayer] “Amein. Yehei shemei rabba mevorach l’olam ul’olmei olmaya … Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever”, with all his strength and concentration, if an evil sentence has been decreed against him, it will be annulled.

We can understand how this works as follows: The ultimate purpose of all Divine punishments is to cause us to reflect on our lives so that we can redirect ourselves towards serving G-d properly. The harsh decrees are a “wake-up” call of sorts, reminding us never to forget the purpose for which we were created – to bring G-dliness into the world through the way in which we live our lives. Whoever answers “Amein. Yehei shemei rabba mevorach…” in the Kaddish prayer, with total focus and concentration, proclaiming for all to hear that his only true desire is that G-d’s great Name be blessed on this earth and that nothing else matters, has already achieved such a high level of Divine service that he is no longer in need of any further wake-up calls – and the harsh decrees against him will be annulled.

During the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, the “Ten Days of Repentance”, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, we will have the opportunity to hear the Kaddish and answer “Amein. Yehei shemei rabba mevorach…” many, many times. If we can only remember to say these powerful words slowly and with real focus and strength, while concentrating on their meaning, who knows what evil decrees for the coming year we might be annulling.

May we merit to have a Kesivah V’Chasimah Tovah, and may we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life!

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