1. As is customary every year, we are gathered together in the days closely prior to Rosh Hashanah for the purpose of blessing each other — and thereby all Israel — for a good year. An assembly of Jews together at any time is a great thing, as Torah instructs “Do not disassociate yourself from the community,” meaning that every Jew must include himself within the general Jewish community. This is to the extent that every morning a Jew must accept upon himself the fulfillment of the mitzvah “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” thereby including oneself in the general Jewish community. Indeed, the Baal Shem Tov taught that Ahavas Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew) extends even to a Jew whom one has never seen or knows; but knowing that he exists, love for him is aroused to the extent of loving him “as yourself.”
Ahavas Yisrael must be felt in one’s innermost soul. Although a person’s nature is to love and worry only about himself, the Alter Rebbe explains that the path to fulfillment of the mitzvah “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” is through realizing that all Jewish souls are one — “all are of a kind having one Father.” The soul of every Jew is a “part of G-d above,” and therefore all Jewish souls are united. Thus, when a Jew makes his soul primary and his body secondary, he truly feels “You shall love your fellow as yourself.” Obviously, this feeling must be expressed in concrete deed: Even when a soul is below on this earth, it is still bound with our Father in heaven, and therefore all Jewish souls are united.
The idea of unity and Ahavas Yisrael applies the entire year. Certainly then, in these days of preparation for Rosh Hashanah, which is the time for resolutions to increase in all matters of Judaism in daily life — through which we ensure the coming year will be a good and blessed one — the greatness of Ahavas Yisrael is emphasized even further.
There are several levels in these days of preparation for Rosh Hashanah. The entire month of Elul; the days beginning from the 18th of Elul; and the days of Selichos. Thus now, which is in the days of Selichos, has added emphasis on Ahavas Yisrael and unity between Jews.
In addition, today, Wednesday, has an added distinction in the preparation for Rosh Hashanah this year, which is on Shabbos. The Talmud (Pesachim 106a) states that the preparations to greet Shabbos begin from Wednesday; and since Rosh Hashanah this year is on Shabbos, it follows that today, Wednesday, is the principal start of the preparations to Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, Wednesday is superior to Thursday in this respect, although Thursday is closer to Shabbos. The “Song of the Day” for Wednesday includes the first three verses of the psalm “Lechu Nerranano,” which is the psalm said in welcoming the Shabbos. The contents of this psalm have special significance for Rosh Hashanah, for it talks of crowning G-d King of the world — “Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow down; let us bend the knees before the L-rd our Maker.” And on Rosh Hashanah, we crown G-d King of Israel, and thereby King of the world. Our Sages explain that on the original Rosh Hashanah, when Adom. was created, he crowned G-d King of the world by saying to all creatures, “Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow down ... before the L-rd our Maker.” Thus we see that Wednesday has greater emphasis on the preparations to Rosh Hashanah, and correspondingly, greater stress on Ahavas Yisrael.
By uniting together, Jews crown G-d “King of Israel,” and immediately He redeems Israel, as stated: “King of Israel and his redeemer.” That is, G-d redeems all Jews from any difficulties they have in their service to G-d, including those in the observance of Ahavas Yisrael. From this personal redemption, we go to the general redemption of all Jewry, when together, as one community, all leave the exile in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.
In addition, through our unity we merit an increase in G-d’s blessing. The Alter Rebbe, on the prayer “Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, in the light of Your countenance,” explains that when Jews are united — “all of us as one,” this effects an increase in the concept of “Bless us our Father in the light of Your countenance.”
Although the blessings from G-d are the greatest gift possible, nevertheless, it is a person’s nature to have more delight when the gift is a result of his own work. Likewise, G-d wants that a Jew should not feel that he is receiving G-d’s blessings as an outright gift, but as a result of one’s service and thereby have greater enjoyment of them. Therefore, at an assembly of Jews, it is a Jewish custom to undertake good resolutions to increase in the dissemination of Judaism (besides the actual fulfillment of Ahavas Yisrael inherent in the very gathering), thereby effecting an increase in G-d’s blessings as a result of Jews’ service.
2. The above applies to all Jews. In this itself, there is a special mission given to Jewish women, each of whom is called the “mainstay of the home,” for the conduct of the entire home depends on her. Every Jewish home must be similar to the Sanctuary and Bais HaMikdash in which G-d’s presence resided; it must be pure and holy, such that G-d can say “I will dwell within them.” Moreover, the pure and holy atmosphere of the home must exert its influence also outside, to be a “light house” that illuminates its surroundings with the light of Torah and mitzvos, similar to the Bais HaMikdash which illuminated the entire world. Since the woman is the “mainstay of the home,” it is she who makes the home a sanctuary, similar to the Bais HaMikdash of which G-d says “I will dwell within them.”
This unique distinction of women applies also to Rosh Hashanah. Many of the Chassidic discourses said by the Lubavitcher Rebbeim on Rosh Hashanah elaborate on our Sages’ saying “Greater wisdom (binah) was given to a woman than to a man.” This unique distinction of women expresses itself in actual halachah: A boy becomes Bar Mitzvah — when he is obligated to fulfill mitzvos — at age 13, whereas as a girl, because of her superior wisdom, becomes Bat Mitzvah at twelve years of age. Her superior wisdom allows her to comprehend the idea of fulfilling G-d’s mission in the world through fulfilling Torah and mitzvos at an earlier age than a man. Since this distinction of women is elaborated on in Chassidus in the discourses of Rosh Hashanah, it follows that it has a special connection to Rosh Hashanah.
Hence, in the service of Rosh Hashanah — crowning G-d “King of Israel” and the entire world, and therefore ensuring (beforehand) that the world is ready and prepared for it — Jewish women have an advantage over men, and can do more in this than men can. They must utilize their superior wisdom in fulfilling G-d’s mission of making the world a fit dwelling place for Him.
Although this mission is very difficult, especially since the world is in such a state of “darkness” in these last days of exile, nevertheless, a Jew cannot be affected by the fact that he is only a single person trying to change the whole world. His efforts are not with his own strength, but with the strength of G-d, acting as G-d’s envoy to fulfill this mission.
When, therefore, each Jew sets out to fulfill his mission from G-d, the words of this week’s parshah will certainly be fulfilled: “Listen, heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth” — the heavens and earth listen to and heed a Jew, thereby allowing him to fulfill his mission of making the world a fit dwelling place for G-d. This verse is from the Torah which is an inheritance for each Jew. When a Jew says this verse knowing he is an envoy of G-d (similar to it being said by Moshe Rabbeinu as G-d’s envoy), he has the strength to ensure that the heavens and earth heed his words — for they are the words of G-d, the King of the entire world.
3. The service of Jewish women, who have a special mission, as the “mainstay of the home,” to illuminate the world with the light of Torah, expresses itself first and foremost in the fulfillment of those mitzvos which are specially for women. They are: Kindling the Shabbos and Yom Tov lights every erev Shabbos and Yom Tov; ensuring the Kashrus of all foods and beverages, and likewise everything else in the home; and keeping family purity — to fulfill the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply” in a pure and holy manner. Every Jewish child born means another soul, a “part of G-d Above,” which has descended into this world to fulfill G-d’s mission. Correspondingly, the merit of the parents who have the privilege to draw down this soul into this world is exceedingly great. Obviously, since the mitzvah of “Be fruitful and multiply” is the fulfillment of G-d’s mission, there is no place for any doubts about having more children because of financial worries etc. G-d, Who feeds the whole world, will certainly take care to feed this child also.
In addition to these three mitzvos, Jewish women have the special ability to engage in the career of education — to influence others, in her special womanly way, to also behave in the correct manner.
In practical terms: The month of Elul in which this gathering is being held, when the King is in the “field” and receives each person benignly and graciously; and particularly on Wednesday which starts the principal preparations for Rosh Hashanah when we crown G-d King of Israel and the entire world; is the appropriate time to undertake good resolutions to increase in the dissemination of Judaism in these last remaining days before Rosh Hashanah. Since these resolutions are being undertaken in the presence of many Jews, they have a special strength, and will certainly come to fruition. Through this we merit an increase in G-d’s blessings for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually; and the more we increase in our efforts, the more G-d increases in His blessings.