Recently, the whole world is looking on with fear at the Islamic terrorist organizations who are decapitating their victims, who threaten to increase their violent murders without any mercy. This fear is justified and understandable, however at the same time we are obligated to remember that we need to have much greater fear from the decapitators who have been in our surroundings for many years, who have aggressively murdered many people recently.
Who are we speaking of?
Five thousand, seven hundred, and seventy five years ago, on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, Hashem created the first Man, Adam, and his wife Chava (Eve). Hashem designed their form in this way so that the head should be at the upper region of the body, thus emulating life to the entire body and guide the body through its three vital organs, namely 1)The eyes – to see and to read; 2)The mouth – to eat and to speak; 3)The brain – to understand and gain intelligence, and to guide the rest of the body in the upright and proper manner. These three body parts are the foundation of human life.
Why did Hashem create human beings? Hashem did so solely to be able give them benefits! Since He is the Essence of Kindness in Eternal Abundance and Goodness, He did not want the neshamos (souls) He created to receive the pleasure of basking in the Glory of the Shechinah in the Higher Gan Eden for free. If they would, then the neshamos would be filled with shame and embarrassment, just like an individual who receives charity for free feels shame while looking directly in the face of the donor. Therefore, Hashem created a physical, material world with materialistic nature, and He also gave the Mitzvos to humanity. This way a person would get to overcome his desires, in order to fulfill the commandments of Hashem. Through this a person can earn his own reward in Olam Haba by the merit of his own efforts, which ultimately gives one an even greater rewarding experience.
Therefore, on the same day that Hashem created Mankind, He commanded Adam and Chavah the first mitzvah, which was that they should not eat from the “Tree of Knowledge” in the Garden of Eden. He also added to this that the punishment for violating this decree would be death. However, the Serpent, who is the Yetzer Hara, then came and tempted Chava to violate Hashem’s mitzvah. Through this, these three mainstays of power in the head were defiled for evil purposes, as the Snake presented before Chava that the fruit would taste good for the mouth, it would appear to be beautiful for the eyes, and he also promised that this would bring intelligence to the mind. Through these three things he drew Chava in, as it is written “and the woman saw that (1) the tree was good to eat, (2) and it was desirable to the eyes, and (3) the tree was pleasant to intelligence, and she took from the fruit and ate” (Bereishis/Genesis 3:6).
We see how powerful the Yetzer Hara is! It can cause a person to ignore his own will, and the will of his Maker! If someone would hear that a particular fruit is deadly poison, the person would naturally run far from this fruit even if there is a doubt, just as he would run from an arrow’s target! Here, Hashem Himself told Chava that the Tree of Knowledge was a deadly poison. She had the opportunity to partake of the taste of thousands of various fruit trees that were found in Gan Eden. She had no evidence for the words that the Yetzer Hara was claiming concerning the taste and other qualities of this fruit, for she had not eaten from it yet. Despite all of this, the Yetzer Hara succeeded in arousing her desire and confusing her mind so she should violate the command of Hashem! Thus, her head was cut off and lost, because the purpose of the head is to guide the body in accordance with the commandments of the Creator. Instead, she caused mortality to befall herself, her children, and all future generations.
In this manner, the Yetzer Hara and all of his faithful agents have caused both spiritual and physical death to masses of people throughout the generations. We see it particularly in the recent generations including the present one, where this is done in various forms of temptation that cause a person to lose his head and to be subjugated to his animalistic desires, which end up destroying his life in This World and in the World to Come.
With this, we come to the conclusion that there is no greater decapitating murderer than the Yetzer Hara!
We also learn, that the way to be protected from the Yetzer Hara and how to battle against him, is through observing the Torah and mitzvos that Hashem gave us. This teaches us how to conduct ourselves and to be worthy to life in This World and in the World to Come, through careful guard duty for these three powerhouses of the head:
1. Sight: One must be careful to guard what his eyes see. Avoiding to gaze upon things that cause wicked and forbidden lusts, and which blur and confuse the mind, thus destroying life in Two Worlds, as we see clearly. This is particularly true in our modern technological age. Even if one enjoys pleasure from this momentarily, it is like a poison that a person eats. He may experience a momentary enjoyment from it, but after a while, his entire life is destroyed. A person should take care to only look at holy things, and then he rises in holiness and comes closer to the Creator of all Worlds! We see this from the Torah’s instructions concerning the mitzvah of tzitzis “and you shall see it and you shall remember all of Hashem’s mitzvos and do them”, that looking at the tzitzis
2. Eating: One should be careful to avoid eating non-kosher food. The Rambam writes that non-kosher foods cloud the mind and the heart. Therefore a person should be careful that he should not follow the natural human desire to eat, which can sometimes cause him to eat unhealthy foods because he is unaware of the health hazards, as the enjoyment of the food may blind him from recognizing the damage done by the food. Just as this is the case with physical health, so too is it the case with spiritual, mental, and emotional health. A person therefore must be careful when it comes to kashrus, to only eat foods that Hashem allows us to eat according to His Laws, and to eat with the intention that through this one will have energy to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvos, thereby elevating the food to kedushah (holiness).
3. Mind: One should be careful that he should not use his mind for forbidden uses, such as studying heresy, or thinking sly ideas for falsehood or theft, etc. Thereby one might find “reasons” or “permissions” in his mind to throw off the yoke of the mitzvos. With time, this can destroy a person. One should use his mind only to follow the Will of his Blessed Creator, and to think of His greatness. He should use his mind to contemplate his deeds, and to fulfill one’s purpose in the World, because this will bring him good benefit in This World and in the World to Come.
Rosh Hashana is the best time to strengthen these things, being that it is the first day of the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. During these Ten Days of Repentance, one should accept upon himself good resolutions for the new year, to avoid being drawn to the temptations of the Yetzer Hara. Through this we can rectify the Original Sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, which took place on the day of Rosh Hashanah.
Now we can understand the reason behind the custom of eating an apple dipped in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Since the sin of the Etz HaDaas was through eating the fruit of a tree, and some say it may have been an apple, therefore we dip the apple in honey, in order to hint that the Avodah of the day is to rectify the sin of the Etz HaDaas, through Teshuvah
The prayer we recite on the Night of Rosh Hashanah, that we beseech Hashem “may it be Your Will that we will be for a Head (Rosh) and not for a tail”, also brings out this point. The Hebrew word “Rosh” consists of three alphabets Reish, Aleph, and Shin, which stands for “R’e’iyah” (sight), “A’chilah” (eating), and “S’eichel” (mind). We are requesting that we should be a true “Rosh” in accordance with the Torah and the will of Hashem, and we should be able to use our heads to control our bodies in the way expressed by the letters of the word “Rosh”. This will result in a person’s elevation and receive good reward in This World and in the World to Come. “… And not for a tail”, that a person should not be drawn after the Yetzer Hara and animalistic desires.
Also, the day is called “Rosh Hashanah”, because this day obliges us to accept upon ourselves that during this year we will use our head and the powers of the head, as mentioned above, to follow the Will of the Creator.
In this merit, may Hashem grant us good long lives, and great minds to study the Torah in order to know Hashem. We should eat in accordance to His Will, according to the laws of the Torah, which gives a person Eternal Life. May we be worthy to a good and sweet year in all aspects, and may Hashem redeem us with the Geulah Shleimah, soon and in our days, Amen!