Thursday, January 1, 2009

Confounding the Soton

Chazal tell us that on Rosh HaShanah we blow teruah and tekiyah both before and after the amidah in order to confuse the Soton, the heavenly accuser. Tosefos birngs the Yerushalmi which explains that our sounding the shofar at those two points is meant to echo the sound of the “great shofar” that will herald the end of death and evil in times to come.On hearing these blasts, the Soton is reminded that his reign is going to end, and so he gets confounded and does not have the “presence of mind” to accuse us. Of course, the obvious question is why the Soton doesn’t learn from year to year?
When the Imrei Emes, zt”l, was asked this, he responded with the words of Rav Pinchas of Koritz, zt”l: “Every year there is a new Soton!” He can’t learn from year to year since there is a new one appointed every single year!
Rav Elazar of Bialastok, zt”l, was one of the students of the Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l. He was known for his biting wit, and once he decided to employ it to give a certain group of people some moral direction.
Rav Elazar said, “When I come to the next world and they ask me why I didn’t learn enough, I will say that I was busy working. If asked why I thought this was more important than spiritual matters, I will respond with the words of the Gemara in Rosh HaShanah 16b. There we see that even the Soton, an angel, gets confused by the blasts of the shofar.”
He continued, “The obvious question is, why doesn’t the Soton just remember what happened the previous year? The answer is that he doesn’t have time to think. So this will be my answer to heavenly tribunal: If I had thought about it I would certainly have acted differently, but what could I do? When I saw all the bills that needed to be paid and felt all the pressures of my job, I just didn’t have time to think things through and dedicate enough time for Torah study—which is above all else. Surely they will accept that if an angel can get confused, a measly human can certainly be confounded by the day to day pressures of life!”

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