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Rosh Hashana #3

Rosh Hashana

On Rosh Hashana we read the story about Avraham throwing out Hagar and Ishmael (Bereishis, 21; 1-34).

The torah (21;1516) relates that Hagar was carrying Ishmael in the desert but then ran out of water so she placed him beneath a tree and walked away. However, how could Hagar, who was worthy of marrying Avraham, be so uncompassionate towards her son?

Additionally, why do we read about this story on Rosh Hashana? What's the connection between the story of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert to Rosh Hashana?

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that Hagar sincerely cared about Ishmael, but the problem was that she did things for him for her own benefit. Meaning, Hagar viewed Ishmael as an extension of herself (a continuation/part of her life). As a result, she only helped him so that her name would be elevated and so that he could continue her name after death. Therefore, once Hagar thought there was no hope for Ishmael to survive (as there was no water) she just put him down and walked away since there was no longer anything for her to gain from him. Similarly, Rabbi Zweig explains that Hagar also left Ishmael all by himself because she wasn't willing to endure any pain from seeing him die. Meaning, although Ishmael surely wanted her to stay with him, since she saw that there was no more benefit for her to receive from him she left.

From here, Rabbi Zweig explains that the torah is teaching us that one must always be focused on what's best for their child-not themselves (like Hagar). Now, the question arises: How exactly can one focus on making decisions based on what's best for someone else?

Rabbi Zweig explains that on Rosh Hashana everything is about Hashem. At this time of year our focus should all be on Him. Everything we do should be to make Him feel good-not just so we could get benefit. We should all realize that were not living in an egocentric universe and focus on others (I.e. Hashem). Therefore, Rabbi Zweig explains that without our Rosh Hashana mindsets every single one of us could become as selfish as Hagar was.

We could learn from here a very important message: The best way to improve our interpersonal relationships is to focus on giving. One needs to be committed to helping and doing kindness for others. In fact, Rabbi Zweig explains that if one truly focuses on their friends then they won't come to speak lashon hara about them. And how is that? People speak lashon hara in order to bring others down. If, however, one is truly focused on giving to others and helping them then there's no reason why they would speak lashon hara about them as they want the best for their friends. One who is only interested on doing what's best for others won't bring those people down. Therefore, if we all focus on giving to our friends instead of seeking things for ourselves then we should all be able to improve our interpersonal relationships

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