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Parshas Ki Tavo (5777)

It's All Decided on Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. Everyone knows that this is the day when we stand in judgment before G-d and it is decided who shall live and who shall die, G-d forbid, in the coming year.

What most of us don’t remember – or we choose to forget - is that how much money we will make or lose in the coming year is also decided on Rosh Hashanah.

You read that correctly… According to Jewish tradition, that six-figure salary that you worked so hard to earn this year was already predetermined last year on Rosh Hashanah.

As we are taught in the Talmud in Beitzah 16a:

Rabbi Tachlifa, the brother of Rabina’I Chozaah, taught: All of a person’s income [for the entire year] is determined for him [during the ten days] between Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, except for the money he spends for Shabbos and Jewish Holidays, and to pay the tuition for his children’s Torah education. If he spends less [for any of these] he is given less, and if he spends more he is given more.

This means that, with the exception of monies spent on Shabbos and Yom Tov and tuition paid for Torah education, which are not part of the Rosh Hashanah accounting, but which are ‘reimbursed’ based on how much one spends, all the money that we earn throughout the year has been predetermined during the judgment on Rosh Hashanah.

But wait, there’s more…

According to the Rabbis, all the monetary losses that one incurs throughout the year are also predetermined on Rosh Hashanah.

As we are taught in the Talmud in Bava Basra 10a:

Rabbi Yehudah ben Shalom lectured: Just as a person’s income for the year is determined on Rosh Hashanah, so are his losses determined on Rosh Hashanah. If he merits, those losses will take the form of the tzedakah (charity) he gives… but if he does not merit, his money will go to the tax collectors. An illustration of this is the case of the nephews of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. He saw in a dream that they were going to lose seven hundred ‘dinars’ in the coming year. [During the course of the year] he urged them to give this amount of money to tzedakah, [and they gave most of it,] until the day before Rosh Hashanah they were short seventeen ‘dinars’ [of the 700 ‘dinars’; they had given only 683 ‘dinars’.] On the day before Yom Kippur, government agents seized seventeen ‘dinars’. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai told them, “Don’t be afraid [that they will take more]; you had seventeen ‘dinars’ and those they took.” They asked him, “How did you know all this?” “I saw it in a dream,” he replied. “Then why didn’t you tell us, so that we could have given the entire amount to tzedakah?” He replied, “I wanted you to give tzedakah purely for the sake of the mitzvah, [and not because of the decree I saw in my dream].”

If we would take these Talmudic teachings seriously, it would literally change our lives. We wouldn’t force ourselves to work crazy hours – often at the expense of quality time spent with the kids – just to earn more money. We would say to ourselves, “Why should I work overtime when it has already been decided last Rosh Hashanah exactly how much money I am going to earn from this job? Better I should spend that time studying Torah, doing mitzvos or just chilling with the family!”

The problem is that we don’t actually believe what the Talmudic Sages are teaching us – or at least we don’t live our lives that way.

Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach ZT”L (1825-1894) the second Rebbe of the Belz chassidic dynasty, already observed this reality in his time and interpreted the following verse in this week’s Torah portion homiletically: “Your life will hang in the balance, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be sure of your livelihood.” (see Deuteronomy 28:66):

“Your life will hang in the balance” – your livelihood is set on Rosh Hashanah and ‘hanging’ in front of you, ready for you to earn, so there is no reason for you to worry.

“and you will be frightened night and day” – so why then are you so worried about your livelihood night and day?

“and you will not be sure of your livelihood” – it is because you aren’t sure that you believe that your income and livelihood is actually predetermined!

Now I am not here to judge anybody for not believing or living what the Rabbis teach us. Judging is G-d’s department, not mine.

However I do feel that it is important to share with you what the Torah has to say about this important issue so that we can learn from it, okay?

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