Gem of the Week from Rav Hirsch: Preparing for Selichos


There is nothing truly new in the world. Even gaining new knowledge does not mean creating a new religion. The faithful Jew does not seek a new Judaism—he knows that the excitement of a new form of worship will not help him achieve his goals. The Judaism of the true Jew never becomes obsolete.

Instead, repetition characterizes his life, a search for greater perfection in his single goal. To approach these recurrences with youthful vigor and unmitigated joy, to begin anew with what is old—that is the message.

Do not let your Judaism become old. The Jews were fully aware that if Hashem’s eternal commandments started to seem old and obsolete, it would lead to the obliteration of Israel. “Becoming old in the land” was something to be feared.

Youthfulness is not fostered by frivolity and thoughtlessness, but by modesty and sincerity. Frivolous people value life in terms of the pleasures it offers. They quickly discover that life does not provide pleasure forever. Only enthusiasm leads to genuine joy, only modesty brings real strength, and only the conscientious performance of mitzvos results in true happiness.

Serving Hashem, carrying out his demands, performing our Divinely ordained duties—this alone brings us contentment in the midst of despair.

Listen to the Shofar, the chime of Jewish life, to develop a new outlook on life. As we begin to grasp the scope of our destiny and compare our lives to the ideal prescribed by the Torah, we realize how unfinished our task is. We cross the threshold into the new year with solemn thoughts, realizing how spiritually poor and needy we are. Lo b’chesed velo b’maasim banu lefanecha—k’dalim u’cherashim dafaknu delasecha.

But we are encouraged, knowing that our forefathers appeared before Hashem full of guilt and seemingly without a future, and Hashem allowed them to be mechaper for their mistakes.

We are given this example of Hashem’s love in order to transmit it to our descendants, so that it can lead them back to Hashem, Who, in his infinite mercy, will grant them the hope of a happy and successful year, a year when our galus and mourning will end.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Moshe Pogrow


Ani Maamin Foundation

Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.



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