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Rosh Hashanah Aliyah Summary

Rosh Hashanah Aliyah Summary


Day One of Rosh Hashanah (Genesis 21:1-34; Numbers 29:1-6):

General Overview: On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Torah reading focuses on our Patriarch Isaac's birth. The reading begins with the words, "And G‑d remembered Sarah." According to the Talmud, G‑d "remembered" Sarah, and chose to bless her with a child, on Rosh Hashanah. The reading also discusses Ishmael's expulsion from Abraham's household due to the negative influence he posed for Isaac, and the treaty between Abraham and Abimelech, king of the Philistines.

First Aliyah: At the age of ninety, previously barren Sarah miraculously gave birth to a son, who, as per G‑d's instruction, was named Isaac. Isaac was circumcised when he was eight days old.

Second Aliyah: Sarah was overjoyed by the tremendous miracle. "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children," She exclaimed. Abraham made a huge feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Sarah noticed that Ishmael, Abraham's eldest son born to him from her maidservant Hagar, was behaving inappropriately. She demanded from Abraham that he expel both Ishmael and Hagar from the household. G‑d instructed Abraham to hearken to Sarah's words, for "your progeny will be called [only] after Isaac."

Third Aliyah: Nevertheless, G‑d promised Abraham that Ishmael's descendents, too, will be made into a nation, for he, too, is Abraham's seed. Abraham expelled Hagar and Ishmael; they wandered in the desert and eventually ran out of water. Ishmael was about to perish from thirst when an angel "opened Hagar's eyes" and showed her a well of water from which to give Ishmael to drink. Ishmael grew up in the desert, became a skilled archer and married an Egyptian woman.

Fourth Aliyah: At that point, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, approaches Abraham and requested to enter into a treaty with him, whereby neither party will harm the other for three generations. Abraham agreed, but first reprimanded Abimelech concerning a well of water which he had dug which was stolen by Abimelech's subjects. Abimelech proclaimed his innocence, claiming to have been unaware of the situation. Abraham took sheep and cattle, and gave it to Abimelech as a symbol of their treaty.

Fifth Aliyah: Abraham then set apart seven ewes from the flock. Abraham told Abimelech to take those seven ewes as evidence that he, Abraham, dug the well. Abraham planted an orchard and established an inn in Beer Sheba and proclaimed the name of G‑d to all passersby.

Note: If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, then the same reading is read, however it is divided into seven aliyot (sections) instead of five.

Maftir: The maftir reading details the various sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple on Rosh Hashanah, along with the accompanying wine libations, oil and meal offerings.

Day Two of Rosh Hashanah (Genesis 22:1-24; Numbers 29:1-6):

General Overview: The Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah discusses the Binding of Isaac. On the day when we are judged by G‑d, we invoke the merit of our Patriarchs, and their willingness to sacrifice all for G‑d's sake. The reading concludes with the birth of Rebecca, Isaac's destined soulmate.

First Aliyah: G‑d commanded Abraham to take his son Isaac to the Land of Moriah, and offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain (eventually to become known as the Temple Mount). Abraham rose early in the morning, took along Isaac and necessary provisions, and set out for the Land of Moriah.

Second Aliyah: On the third day, Abraham spies the mountain from afar. He leaves behind his two servants and proceeds together with Isaac. In response to Isaac's question, "We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sacrificial lamb?", Abraham responds, "G‑d will provide for Himself the lamb..."

Third Aliyah: They arrived at the place which G‑d had designated. Abraham built the altar, bound Isaac, and placed him on the wood pyre atop the altar. As Abraham stretched out his hand to take the slaughtering knife, an angel appeared and ordered him to desist. "Now I know that you are G‑d fearing, since you have not withheld your only son from Me!" Abraham offered a ram which was caught in a nearby thicket in lieu of his son, and named the area "The L-rd Will See."

Fourth Aliyah: G‑d promised Abraham great blessings as a reward for passing this difficult test. "I will make your descendents as numerous as the stars in heaven!" Abraham and Isaac returned home to Beer Sheba.

Fifth Aliyah: After these events, Abraham was notified that his sister-in-law, Milkah, had given birth to children. One of these children, Bethuel, was the father of Rebecca, Isaac's future wife.

Maftir: The maftir reading details the various sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple on Rosh Hashanah, along with the accompanying wine libations, oil and meal offerings.

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Menachem Posner September 30, 2014

Tradition tells us that G-d remembered Sarah on Rosh Hashanah. In addition, it is a wonderful story of how G-d grants a person's wishes, something we want to evoke on this special day of judgement.

The sacrifice of Isaac is the root of the entire Rosh Hashanah service. We blow a ram's horn to "remind" G-d of the ram caught in the thicket by his horns, who saved Isaac from being sacrificed, thus evoking Abraham's willingness to give up his beloved son for G-d.

Regarding Abimelech: All the notables of the time and place were invited, including the local king Reply

Brian Sandridge Simsbury September 23, 2014

1.Why are these the readings for RH?
2. Why does Torah attach Abimelech to the party for Isaac's weaning? Is it to formalize the understanding that regardless of who dug the well, it is to be counted as if Abraham did it? (IOW did Abimelech dig the well into Sarah?) Reply