[The shofar was blown and the 12 pesukim recited. The camp directors then spoke.]
This month of Elul is the last one of the year and of the summer. Its unique quality is described by the Alter Rebbe, who brings an example of, "The inhabitants of the city who go out to meet the king in the field, before he arrives in the city. At that time, anyone who wishes can meet him, and he receives all of them warmly and pleasantly."
The explanation of this is as follows: as we recited in the 12 Torah passages, G-d stands over every Jew, and examines him to see if his service is fitting. From this we see how important to G-d every thought, action, and deed of a Jew is, for He sets aside all the rest of the world in order to examine him individually. (Tanya Ch. 41)
This is true the entire year, but during Elul it is stressed even more. The entire year, G-d examines primarily the Jew's service, i.e. prayer, Torah study, and mitzvos. During other times of the day, when he is sleeping or eating, for example, the Jew is "in the field". Just as the field is used to prepare food for the people in the city, so too these activities prepare a Jew to serve G-d through Torah and mitzvos.
This is the uniqueness of Elul, that G-d is with each and every Jew even "in the field." Since these activities are essential preparations for the service of G-d, He considers them important and joins the individual even at such times. Furthermore, the individual can make requests then even for things having to do with the "field," i.e. his physical needs, and have them answered pleasantly by the King Himself.
Therefore, the entire month, a Jew should have in mind that G-d is with him at all times. This is the proper preparation for Rosh Hashanah and the entire year to come, for he will always view himself as being in G-d's presence.
This week we are learning the parshiyos Nitzavim and Vayeilech. Since today is Tuesday, and we are at the end of the day, it is appropriate to examine the end of the third segment of this part of Chumash.
This section contains an obvious lesson to every Jew: "It is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it." A Jewish child might wonder, how can he fight against and conquer the yetzer hora?
First of all, the Torah tells him, that with effort, one is assured success (yagati u'matzasi ta'amin). Furthermore, in today's portion he learns that it is "close," even "very close!" G-d gives him special strength and the ability to serve Him properly.
The child might think, however, that this applies only to matters between himself and G-d. Perhaps Ahavas Yisroel and other mitzvos which relate to one's fellow man are not as important.
This is the lesson of Tuesday, which our Sages relate, is a day which is "good for the heavens, and good for the creations." The conjunction of the two teaches that he must behave properly in matters which pertain to his fellow man just as in those which relate directly to G-d.
This lesson presents the opportunity to once again (see Sicha of Rosh Chodesh Elul to Day Camps) discuss an important topic, which, disappointingly, does not receive sufficient attention. This is the importance of totally avoiding even the slightest bit of falsehood.
For example, one child might see another with a toy or lollipop for which he has an irresistible urge. The owner turns his head for a moment, and the child, unable to hold himself back, grabs it away. When the original owner asks what happened to it, the child lies, and denies having any knowledge of it.
One must explain to children that G-d stands over them constantly and sees everything that they do. The child is worried that if he admits his misdeed, perhaps he will get into trouble, the police will come, it will cost him money, or cause him disgrace. Furthermore, he thinks of himself as a "smart boy" (or herself as a "smart girl") for getting away with it without getting caught.
The truth is the direct opposite. G-d is always before him, even at the moment when he lies. The child is worried about what others think of him, but not about G-d, in whose face (so to speak) he has the chutzpah to speak falsely. This shows his lack of faith, as if he could fool G-d as he has fooled people. This is tremendously foolish -- he is afraid to tell the truth for fear that the "judge" will punish him, but forgets about G-d, the true Judge, whom he cannot fool.
Such behavior is inappropriate for any human being; all the more so for a son of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Ya'akov, or a daughter of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah. It is as if the yetzer hora has caused him to cease acting like a human (er iz gevoren ois mentch). Just as an animal runs away from a human, so too he runs away from his G-dly soul and the truth.
The fact that he has gotten away with it this long is merely because of G-d's patience, and His desire that he finally realize his error and correct it. Even should he have been behaving in this way for a very long time, today's Torah portion teaches him that it is "very close" and easy to correct the past.
An additional lesson can be drawn from today's portion in Psalms (ch. 104), for the 21st of the month. The portion begins with a detailed description of the wonders of G-d's creations. A child who recites this psalm, and thinks about its content, will be inspired to express his praise and gratitude to G-d.
The end of the daily portion speaks of G-d bringing the Jewish people, "His chosen ones," to Eretz Yisroel, with great joy, with the arrival of Moshiach Now!
Before concluding this gathering with the customary distribution of charity, it is proper to reiterate something we have mentioned many times in the past -- that every child should own a personal siddur, pushkah, and chumash.
Since these three things are his own personal possessions (as everything a child holds precious, he wishes that they be his own) and are always visible in his room, they will serve as a constant reminder of the importance of serving G-d through the three pillars of Torah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah.
This is also the proper time to make resolutions regarding two additional gatherings (as mentioned in the Sicha to Day Camps) to make a total of three, and to conclude with joyous songs, also sung three times apiece.
[The Rebbe concluded by announcing, "L'shanah tovah tikasev v'sechaseim."]