There is a common custom not to inscribe Torah books with “From the Library of John Doe,” “This Book Belongs to . . .” or similar Hebrew equivalents. Instead, the name itself is written with no preamble. Some have the custom to preface their names with “LaHashem haaretz umeloah,” “The earth and all that fills it belong to G‑d,” or the acronym lamed, hay, vav.
The custom is attributed to Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid (“the pious”) 1150-1217, who writes in his ethical will that people should “not write in a holy book that it is theirs. Rather, they should write their name without writing it is theirs.”
Some explain that this custom is a fitting reminder that nothing truly belongs to us; it is only entrusted to us. Accordingly, one should follow this practice not just with regard to Torah books, but with all personal belongings.
What a remarkable attitude of detachment in recognition of God’s sovereignty and generosity.
Imagine extending the approach more broadly: The earth and all that fills it belong to God. This MacBook, this iPhone, this winter jacket, this meal, etc. belong to God. And I am ready to hand it over to whoever is in need of it when my stewardship of it should cease.
My mother sent me the snap accompanying this post of a page from a booklet she received when she went to hear the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
I was curious to look up these various symbolic interpretations of the significance of the shofar. This list was devised by a rabbi from the late ninth-to-early tenth century.
I had heard Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recall how Maimonides considered the shofar as “God’s Alarm Clock“, but I had never before heard about the connection between the sounding of the shofar as a reminder of the resurrection of the dead.
Eliyahu Kitov’s article says, “The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the resurrection of the dead, as the verse [Isaiah 18:3] states: All those inhabitants of the world and those who dwell in the earth, when a sign is lifted upon the mountains you shall see and when the shofar is sounded you shall hear.”
I went and tried to read that chapter of Isaiah in context and I could not really figure out what it had to do with the resurrection of the dead.
I also tried to find other Jewish sources speaking to the importance of being reminded about resurrection on Rosh Hashanah and I didn’t really find anything.
The shofar can only be the spiritual wake-up call it’s meant to be if it’s understood what exactly we are being awoken to and for.
What difference would it make if we were reminded, even annually, to think about resurrection?
This is the neat story of how Alfred Nobel was inspired to establish the Nobel Prize after becoming unsatisfied with the foretaste of what his legacy would be when his brother’s death was accidentally reported to be his own.