Rosh Hashanah

Inspiration for Rosh Hashanah: Leaving the Apples Behind

Julie Hauser September 12, 2023

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While many Jews are buying apples to dip in honey on Rosh Hashanah, stuck in my mind is an image of a bag of apples left behind. [Soon I will tell you the story…it has to do with my husband stuck in an elevator on erev Shabbat.]

Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger teaches that the approach of a new year is like an intersection of teshuvah (repentance) and geulah (redemption). She says (based on a Rashi in Tehillim) that Hashem delights and relishes in every baby step we take to align ourselves with Hashem’s will.

Change can be so difficult, even in baby steps. Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l taught that teshuvah is one of the hardest things to do. Yet this is the time of year when we can easily tap into that energy of change.

So now here’s the story.

My husband was stuck alone in his office building’s elevator on his way to the parking garage a few Friday afternoons ago. He pressed the emergency button. No response. Baruch Hashem, his cell phone worked. He called 911. The firefighters and police officers arrived, but failed to release him from the elevator, stuck between floors. Though my husband was thankfully safe and calm, it had been close to two hours, so Shabbat was quickly approaching. He stuck his laptop through the cracks of the door (that was all that fit through the space they had pried), not wanting to be left holding it if Shabbat would begin. My husband said he did a lot of introspection on that stuck elevator, and he thought of the prophet Yonah inside the whale.

When the elevator company arrived and he was finally freed, he got up from the floor and exited as fast as he could, without looking back! Here was his geulah! He was not only in a rush to get home before Shabbat; he did not want to spend a second longer inside there. [He arrived home four minutes before shkiah.] As he whisked past the police officer, the police officer motioned and said, “You left a bag, sir.” (A bag of apples he had in the office that he had planned to bring home.) My husband hurriedly responded, “You can keep them!” After all that, he was not stopping, or turning back!

Rav Pincus explains that while the physical world was created on the 25th of Elul, what was created on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, was man, the human being. This indicates, he says, that the teshuvah of Rosh Hashanah is not about physical deeds, rather, “It is a change in one’s whole life program. It is not rectifying wrong-doing; it is more fundamental than that!”

How do we change our whole life program? Maybe it’s about leaving behind the apples. Maybe it’s choosing what to leave behind and about where we are headed.

Rav Pincus says that during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, the days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Hashem picks up each of us, like a crane lifting part of a building. On these days, the gate of mercy is open, and every Jew is lifted… provided we do our part, that we decide to move forward in the right direction.

The way the Alter of Kelm explains it, it almost sounds easy: “Each person has one positive trait that can elevate him to a high spiritual level, and one fault that can ruin him. Our mission is to develop the positive character trait, while preventing the fault from destroying us.”

That image of the apples stays with me as we approach Rosh Hashanah, the time of change, of recreating ourselves. What can I develop further, and what do I leave behind? What is my change for my “whole life program?” What doors can I burst forth from? What’s holding me back?

And even if we go baby step by baby step, Hashem delights in our efforts.

Ketivah v’chatimah tovah! May we share a year of growth and sweet blessings, refuot, yeshuot, and geulah shelaimah!


Julie is an occupational therapist, photographer, and author of several books including her newest, titled Making It Mine. You may recognize her as the author of Pesach While You Sleep, or one of her other titles available here. Julie lives with her husband and children (who wonder which occupation is her ‘real job’) in Detroit, Michigan.
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