Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fearsome Days or Happy Days?

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva

There was a TV program called HAPPY DAYS. Are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Happy Days or Fearsome Days? The Mishnah in Tanit states that our most joyous and most happy Yom Tov is Yom Kippur. But Yom Kippur is the final seal of Judgment Day! So which is it?

These days are called YAMIM NORA'IM. In English it's translated as DAYS OF AWE. Where does the word NORA'IM come from? The first time that the word NORA is used in the Torah is in the story of Yaakov's dream. When he awakes after seeing Hashem, he is filled with awe and says, "How awesome - MA NORA - is this place! This is none other than the abode of Hashem, and this is the gateway to heaven." Yaakov is not really afraid. He has no reason to be, since Hashem has promised to watch over him and care for him.

Yeshayahu also had an experience of seeing Hashem. In that vision, he hears the angels proclaim, "Holy, holy, holy! The Lord of Hosts" (6:3). Those two words - NORA - awesome – and KADOSH - holy - often appear together and seem to have a similar meaning. For example, "His name is holy and awesome" (Tehillim 111:10) and in the prayers of the Days of Awe we say, "Holy are You and awesome is Your name." The Torah defines Hashem as "the great, the mighty and the awesome G-d" (Devarim 10:17). This description has become an important part of our prayers, appearing among other places toward the beginning of every Amida.

These days are also YAMIM NORA'IM in the sense of days of fear, because they are days of judgment. This idea of Hashem sitting in judgment at this time on all humanity is found in the Mishnah Rosh Hashanah (1:2) when it describes Hashem as a commander who reviews all of his troops as they parade before Him and as sheep passing single file before the Shepherd.

The Mishnah’s description does not elaborate and does not speak of fear. That element was brought into our liturgy by the Talmudic sage Rav, in his introduction to the Remembrance verses (Zichronot) of the Musaf Rosh Hashanah Amida. "All creatures will be visited on this day, to remember them for life or death" and the destiny of all nations is then determined, "which for the sword and which for peace, which for hunger and which for plenty."

But the truly terrifying description is found in the piyut, Unetaneh Tokef. The poet made use of the Mishnah and Rav's prayer and borrowed from various Biblical works describing the great day of Final Judgment, and the yearly Day of Judgment of Rosh Hashanah.

The prophet Malachi had called that day, "the great and awesome - HAGADOL V'HANORA - Day of G-d" (3:23). Unetaneh Tokef states, "We shall ascribe holiness to this day, for it is awesome - NORA – and fearsome - AYOM." The poet has defined "awesome" to truly mean something fearful, and describes how all creatures, including the angels, are filled with fear and trembling on this Judgment Day. Because on it is determined "who shall live and who shall die." Kabbalah describes this feeling and emotion as YIR'A SHEL AHAVA (loving fear).

Thus, the Days of Awe also means "Fearsome Days". However, we should remember that the main designation of Rosh Hashanah according to the Sages is Yom HaZikaron – The Day of Remembrance. This is based on the phrase in Vayikra 23:24 - ZICHRON T'RU'A - translated as "a reminder by blowing the Shofar". The sounding the Shofar causes Hashem to remember us for good and to fulfill all of His promises to us.

We pray that Hashem should remember us for good and for blessing on these YAMIM NORA'IM - Awesome Days.



  1. Rosh Hashanah: Is Judgment Day Supposed To Be Joyful?


    "תומר הדדי - אל נורא עלילה - Tomer Adaddi - El Nora Alila"

    What does the word

    “Awesome” or “Awe-inspiring” in reference to Hashem.


    -האל הגדול הגיבור והנורא

    (ha’el ha’gadol ha’gibor ve’ha’nora)
    "The great, the mighty and the awesome G'd.

    In modern-day Hebrew, the as an adverb meaning "very," or “terribly.” It can be added to negative adjectives, but also to positive adjectives, like in

    נורא יפה (nora yafe), “terribly beautiful” or

    מעניין נורא (me’anyen nora) “very interesting.”

    The word נורא (nora) also appears in the expression לא נורא, (lo nora) meaning something like "It's okay," or "It's not a big deal


    This is our last chance.
    Nothing to do with modern Hebrew.
    We are ancient people of Hashem.


    The highest level of soul, pure faith
    complete devotion
    the will to sacrifice all for Hashem


    “And it shall be an everlasting statute to you, to make atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.”

    Come inside the GATE.

    MA NORA!


    May we be sealed in the gates of Hashem's Kingdom on Earth.

  3. I was born in the mid 60's, therefore Happy Days and The Fonz, Bruce Lee, John Wayne, Evil Knievel, The Bionic Man etc, were my hero's as a kid in the 70's. Funny back then as a kid you heard much news that the ice age was coming, killer bees were on their way from Brasil and were in Texas and soon to be heading north. Bigfoot was all over the Pacific Northwest, the Lockness Monster was being tracked in the Scottish Lock, the Bermuda Triangle was a place of awe and mystery and many people seemed to disappear there, and getting a sunburn was the normal precursor to establishing a good tan lol. No sunblock, no helmets, and you walked to school and were not driven and coddled as with kids nowadays.
    Anyhow the reference to Happy Days reminded me of all those things from being a kid in the 70's. They were great times back then, no internet, no cell phones, adventure and awe, and just being a kid. I miss that, this adult stuff is not always so fun at all.
    So now for something that I feel really serious about, and that never really seems to add up for me. Please forgive me for these questions and inquires.
    Why can we not happily and with vigor from our hearts proclaim the Name of God as it was known? It's always said instead as proclaiming The Name/HaShem. The day's of Antiocus and all the evil pagan rulers of long past that forbade saying the Name under penalty of death, are long ago dead an buried. They are also the reason for Torah portions as well, because of their decrees against the Jewish people and their Torah.
    My heart and being longs to hear the Name being said throughout the earth. All I see and hear all the time are the names of other gods like allah, jesus, yeshua etc etc. I just wish we could know for sure, as it is said that the "True" Name is lost, and I wish we could proclaim who the real and only God is. There are also sadly many names that are not correct being proclaimed as the God of Israel, mostly by so called messianic's, which do not be deceived are xtrians with yet another strange doctrine which is not of Torah or of the Most High at all.
    I'm sorry for my questions and ignorance. I just wish we could shout the true Name of the God of Israel from our rooftops and against all the other false gods, so that in His Name people will have fear and honor it instead of the false ones.
    As a for instance, just look at the recently opened comments section at Rabbi Glazerson's YouTube page. It's full of people once again proclaiming jc as god or allah. This can also be seen constantly at Rabbi Singers, and many many others pages as well.
    I pray for the coming of Mashiach and to hear the Name of God as it always has been known, before my last breath is taken, if I should be so lucky to be counted in this.
    Will the days of Mashiach bring the True Name of God to lips of all peoples as in the days of King David?
    Something else that never seems right is the usage of the Greek term that many people use in the description of the four letter Name. I won't even say it.. Who the heck are the Greeks that they are so special to talk about the God of Israel? Or the Romans? They are nothing. The are much the same as this world and it's rulers, save for those that were/are anointed.
    I know this is a hard subject. It is my wish and heart that we could know and proclaim the true Name of the Most High against all the other gods of the people without reservation, and in awe and reverence.
    I am not a worthy one, I prove this to myself over and over again.
    I pray that everyone on this earth will soon be fully enveloped and carried by the Pure Holy Name of the Most High God of Israel,and that all peoples will come to the fear and awe that The Holy One will have no other before His Face.
    Praise the Most High God of Israel who has no comparison from above or below.

    Shalom Dave.


    1. The Ten Commandments, specifically number 3:
      "You shall not take the name of the L-RD your G-d in vain."
      Unless we are in prayer or Torah study, we should avoid using the names of Hashem. Especially, when swearing and using it very improperly. Those of us who are in the habit of using Hashem are much better off.

      If there is any question about a proper use, the violation of a commandment is averted by just saying Hashem, or The Holy Only, blessed be He, or the Aibishter (the One above), etc. Why question whether we are violating a commandment, when we have an easy answer to avoid it?

  4. Thank you Rav Menanchem,
    I understand the meaning and tradition, but I wonder how can the Commandment be taken in vain when one is wanting to declare the Name to put away other false gods as Elijah did, or to sing praises as King David did, or to not be burdened by the pagan leaders of old who said you will die if you say the Name of the God of Israel and declare it in their face anyway?
    I dunno just my thoughts, and it's not an inquiry that reads well as I have written it, nor does it come across as meant in my heart.
    I guess I mean something like when you have other peoples proclaiming that one must accept other gods, who they have made up, or suffer the consequences. In return I would like to say that there is only One God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who's Name is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ! He will have no other gods that you have invented before His Face. Repent from your gods of wood and stone, and honor the True God (and then His Name). This is what I mean I guess.
    Is my understanding correct that when Mashiach is reveled, all of what is left of the peoples of the earth will know and declare the pronunciation of the The Holy One's Name?
    This I hope to merit, or if not those that I love.


    1. Go back and read my blog post of 24 Aug 2015, Prayer Works,
      In that post is proof that every word we say causes energy to flow, in a positive or negative way. Saying any name of Hashem is very beneficial when in organized prayer, but could be very dangerous otherwise. Hence the commandment be very careful not to take Hashem's names in vain, out of context. We have absolutely no idea what the result will be.

      We are oblivious to the spiritual reality of saying any word, let alone the most important words in existence, Hashem's names. Since we do not know and only evaluate what we say based on flawed human logic, flawed human opinion, we really have no concept whatsoever if we are helping ourselves, such as in prayer, or hurting ourselves such as in normal conversation. The best advice: when in doubt, leave it out.