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Days of Awe

Days of Awe


Kings have been in rather short supply in recent generations.

Of course, there's still the Queen of England. She has a crown, a throne, a palace, guards, ladies-in-waiting—the works. Theoretically, she can even dismiss her parliament and start issuing decrees. But we all know that she'll never do that. So all the pomp and ceremony has a false ring to it. The crown on her head looks like a Purim costume.

So we're looking for a real despot? There are still some of those around. Saddam Hussein—now there's someone who can bark "Off with his head!" just like in the old days. Still, one would hardly call those fellows "kings". They instill dread, not awe; they possess power, not majesty. A crown on their head would look ludicrous (Saddam knows that—that's why he doesn't wear one).

The kings we remember from our childhood story books had majesty. They evoked fear, but also love. Their subjects trembled before them, but they wanted to tremble before them. There was lots of pomp and ceremony, but the pomp and ceremony meant something, represented something real. The crown on their head looked like it belonged there.

The essence of Rosh Hashanah, our sages tell us, is that it is the day on which we crown G‑d king of the universe.

Unless you're particularly religious, "G‑d" is probably not a word that you use comfortably. Add to that "king of the universe," and that's enough to make a modern person squirm. When we go to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, most of us would not think of it as attending G‑d's coronation.

But let us contemplate for a moment what is it that we are missing in our lives. Why it is that we still yearn for those kings of our childhood world.

What we lack in our lives is awe. With a click of the mouse, we can purchase a meal or a house, find a job or a marriage partner. What is much more difficult to find is a source of authority in our lives.

There are, of course, plenty of people out there who are prepared to tell us what to do, including many who, given the opportunity, would force us to do what they are telling us to do. But that's not authority, any more than Saddam Hussein is a king.

And we can, of course, appoint our favorite psychologist, pundit or fashion guru as the authority in our lives. But in the final analysis, that's just another form of take-or-leave-it advice. It's not the authority we need and crave, any more than the Queen of England is a king. It's nice and beautiful and impressive, but at the end of the day, we're left with the same hollowness inside.

True authority is absolute. It commands, not advises. At the same time, it is not something imposed upon us, for it is fully in harmony with our quintessential will. It is something to which we submit wholly and unequivocally, but to which we want to submit wholly and unequivocally because we recognize it as the voice of our deepest self.

On Rosh Hashanah, we devote two days to the search for the voice of authority we so deeply crave, for the king of the universe we have been seeking since our childhood. But don't look for Him in the synagogue, in your prayerbook or in the rabbi's speech. Look for Him in your deepest self: in the things that no one has to tell you, because you already know them absolutely; in the commitments to which you willingly submit, because you recognize them to be expressions of, rather than impositions upon, your true will.

On second thought, do go to the synagogue, where you will be in the company of many others conducting the same search, seeking that same core of truth and source of awe. Do read the verses printed in the prayerbook, which capture humanity's six-thousand-year quest for a king.

When the shofar sounds, close your eyes. Imagine yourself in the midst of a jubilant crowd who has gathered to celebrate the coronation of their king. Hear the trumpet blasts that express the terror and joy of a people submitting to an authority that embodies their own deepest strivings and aspirations.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Old soul PA September 7, 2013

Thank you For many reasons, I enjoyed this article and do not understand the harsh criticisms of it. I love Judaism also and am a seeker of G-d and student of Judaism. I am very well old enough to be familiar with Saddam's history and the first Gulf War. Please give my kind regards to the author of this article, I am touched with awe and respect by everything in Judaism. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous Wayne September 16, 2012

Days of Awe I do not agree that we are searching for authority. I do not feel that I am a supplicant searching for the ultimate authority. Furthermore, I don't think most people give this search any thought. I found the whole tone demeaning.

When I think about G -d, I think about a kind moral Leader who shows us the way to lead a good moral life, not some authoritan figure. Reply

Anonymous Notarealcity, Notarealcountry April 3, 2012

Kings? Really? To be honest, I think it"s only fair for the people to rule, fairly and democratically. G-d is our leader, our "king", if you can say that, but to find a physical, human king, whether or not that king is as righteous as David or Solomon, would be putting too much power in to one man's (or woman's) hands. Reply

Anonymous CZ, Italy September 29, 2011

G-d But "god" is not a name, rather it is a title such as "Mr." or "Dr." or "Count". This is particularly true in the case of the Sovereign God, Jehovah, Geova, Yaveh...the scriptures show us there IS no other besides Him.
Across human civilization, myriad "gods" have been worshipped, honored, showered with sacrifices: the Mayan god Acan, the depraved, cruel and immoral Greek and Roman gods; the Egyptian gods Anubis, Osiris, Ra; Ishtar, Baal, the horrible Molech and Adrammelech...with which of these could the Only Sovereign Creator be associated, even in title...? Reply

Chana Brooklyn, NY September 8, 2010

We write "G-d" for two reasons:
a) If someone were to print this article and then throw it out, and we hadn't put the "-" in place of the "o," it would constitute a name of G-d being destroyed.
b) It reminds us that He is the ultimate Mystery, and never completely knowable :)

So you see, it has nothing to with being ashamed. All the best. Reply

Anonymous September 18, 2009

Why do you never say his name GOD why the subterfuge? "G -D" He is GOD Talk about him without shame. Without hiding his name. Reply

Lee Pinero Everett, WA February 28, 2009

Days of Awe This Article needs to be brought up to date. Pretty soon some of its' readers will be asking, who is Saddam. Saddam Hussein is dead, your artitlce should say that he is dead or that there was someone named Saddam, and why not replace him Hitler?
I always enjoy reading your articles. Reply

sue Kanata, ON February 16, 2009

Six of One, Half a Doz of the other? surf to an article on Prime Minister Balfour of Great Britain and Zionist Israel.

The article will lead to several links on the ethos expressed by British leaders with regard to the safety and also the holiness of those of the lumen.

The problems of Conflict and providing Resolution have been seen to be solved fairly respectably by older hands at Democracy, that is, the British aristocracy, which has held fast to principled ethos, and also the promise of universal love, which is decidedly and recordably, also British.

There will be Zionists who scream that the "Queen" tries to exit all Jews, and that Rt. hon PM Balfour was a forerunner of ill thought toward all of Judaism, sure.
In fact, in the Victorian days, some British Lords criticized Balfour as if he were trying to ghettoize the Jew, rather than to fulfil the quest of re-establishing the land of Israel as Holy. Shalom, Britain fought, died and starved, thereafter,for you. Reply

Dyslex London, UK February 11, 2009

Days of Awe Removing all of the Jews from England could and would if necessary be done by an order in council, for example if there had been a Nazi invasion during WW2. Jewish children would certainly have been evacuated to Canada, but not to the USA because Jews would have been denied permission to enter the USA. Reply

Dyslexia Unlimited London, UK February 11, 2009

Days of Awe Re. Queen of England. During 1969 in the U.K. things were so bad that the dissolution of paliament and rule by royal decree was a very real possibility. Reply

Anonymous September 27, 2008

is it appropriate to mock the qeen of england? Oh i don't think that conciously anyone thinks, that the pomp and ceremony is fake. None definitely intends it to be. It is very real, and the money and power is very real. Therefore no one is mocking the queen herself, which i clearly stated in my previous response. He is merely implying from the phrase, "the crown on her head looks like a purim costume", that this is something that has a false ring. The love with which we crown Hashem, or allegorically, the love with which the nations had, when they used to crown their authorities, is so extremely different than our authorities nowadays. There is a tremendous contarst.

This is what he means by saying, the crown on er head, looks like a purim costume. You have to admit, ( and of course, no political offense intended), it definitely does. The crown on her head does not in fact, instill in me any sort of awe or fear. Just a smile. And that is the difference.
May the coronation of hashem for this year, grant you and yours a happynewy Reply

N. Bar September 25, 2008

Days of Awe. This is not a relevant answer to the question. I did not say the article was mocking - I asked if it was appropriate to mock the Queen of England. I am not aware that the Queen pretends, or has ever pretended, to have great power. So the pomp and ceremony is not intended to imply that she does. Hence I can not see what is false about that pomp and ceremony - it does not pretend to be something that it isn't.

Jews have always prided themselves on respect for legal authority (in their Shabbat morning prayers for instance), in this case the Queen, who is nominally head of state, but a constitutional monarch, a figurehead.

I question whether it is appropriate to mock a head of state in a religious article unless there is some valid religious reason for doing so. Unless of course Chabad now sees itself as a political satirist. If so, fair enough. Perhaps then it would be appropriate to mock, or have a cheap laugh at, the Chabad leader? I think not somehow. Reply

Anonymous September 25, 2008

is it appropriate to mock the queen of england? This article is not mocking the Queen herself, he is only mocking her position as Queen. That is to say, if she would decide to evacuate all the Jews from England, she would have no army that would positively jump to fulfil her latest command. it would be humiliating for her. That, I think, is what the author means to say. Reply

N. Bar September 23, 2008

Days of Awe Mr. Tauber writes: "Of course, there's still the Queen of England. She has a crown, a throne, a palace, guards, ladies-in-waiting--the works. Theoretically, she can even dismiss her parliament and start issuing decrees. But we all know that she'll never do that. So all the pomp and ceremony has a false ring to it. The crown on her head looks like a Purim costume."

Is it appropriate to mock the Queen of England? Reply

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