The unique aspects of this year, the significance of Rosh HaShanah being celebrated on Thursday and Friday, the significance of the association between Shabbos Teshuvah and Parshas Ha'azinu, and the significance of the postponement of the Fast of Gedaliah, were all discussed last year when the festival was celebrated on the same days of the week. Hence, there is no need to repeat these matters. This is particularly true since the concepts were already printed and hence, are known or at least should be known by all. Nevertheless, despite the heights of service reached in the previous years, this year, we must seek to reach even higher levels as our Sages declared: "Precede higher in holy matters."
Since Torah is described as "a Torah of light" and "the living Torah," it follows that all of its concepts, including the concept that this year we must proceed to an even higher level than in the previous years, must be understood simply by every Jew.
This surely applies in light of the stress on Jewish unity associated with Rosh HaShanah. Then, "you are standing all together, your heads...your children...your hewers of wood and carriers of water;" i.e. the entire Jewish people stand together. Thus, it follows that all the lessons associated with Rosh HaShanah must be understood even by the most simple people and the children.
In regard to the above principle, even a young child can appreciate that if two time periods follow in succession, the previous one is a preparation for the one which follows. Thus, if the first period is on a high level, this will itself increase the level of the time-period which follows.
From a more particular perspective, this concept can be applied regarding every day and every hour for each day and hour serves as a preparation for the day and hour which follow. Similarly, in a larger sense, this concept can be applied in regard to years. Each year serves as a preparation for the year which follows and an increase in the level of the previous will also cause an increase in the year that follows. Thus, we must go from "strength to strength," realizing that the reoccurrence of all the factors mentioned above does not represent a mere repetition. Rather, it is impossible to be satisfied with the peaks of service reached in the previous year. Indeed, the reoccurrence of these factors is itself a sign that we must precede to a higher level this year. Furthermore, though the past year possessed certain qualities that are not present this year, i.e., it was a leap year containing the most possible days that can be within a year, nevertheless, those advantages themselves add to the higher level that can be achieved this year.
The service of Rosh HaShanah effects the entire year. Therefore, we should use all the powers that are granted us from above and thus, add to our service in the entire year to come.
The above is also related to the Messianic redemption. The exile is a descent for the purpose of an ascent, allowing us to reach an even higher level than could otherwise be reached. Indeed, in the Messianic Age, we will thank G-d for the exile for we will appreciate the great heights which it allowed us to reach. Thus, when we contemplate the extended duration of the exile, we are forced to say that the only reason is G-d's desire to bring us to an even higher level of redemption than was possible before.
Nevertheless, after all these explanations, the Jews would be willing to forego them in order to be redeemed even one moment earlier. In regard to the exile from Egypt, G-d told the Jews to ask the Egyptians for silver and golden vessels in order to fulfill the promise made to Avraham: "Afterwards, they will go out with great wealth." The Jews responded: "Let us out one day beforehand and we won't ask for anything more." They were willing to give up the great wealth promised them in order to leave exile one moment earlier.
The same applies regarding this final exile. The Jews cry out: "till when?" telling G-d we are willing to forego all the advantages that can be achieved through the exile in order to leave exile one moment earlier.
Just as in regard to the exile from Egypt, G-d "sprung past the appointed time" because of His great love for Israel, not holding them back even for a moment; similarly, in regard to the present exile, we should be redeemed immediately without having to wait an additional moment.
If one will say -- "I don`t want any present, I want to work on my own," in this context the story of the Tzemach Tzedek is well known. Once the Alter Rebbe wanted to give him the entire Torah as a present. He declined, explaining that he wanted to achieve knowledge through his own merits. Afterwards, he had regret, explaining that he should have accepted the Alter Rebbe's offer and then begin work with his own efforts. Similarly, after the redemption, we will be given even greater powers and our service will be on an even higher level.
May it be G-d's will that the above be revealed on the plane of material reality with the ultimate and complete redemption led by Moshiach.
[The Rebbe Shlita asked that a niggun with words from each of the Rebbeim be sung. Before the Chassidim began singing, the Rebbe continued.]
The first Nassi (leader of the Jewish people) was Moshe. Therefore, it is appropriate to sing the niggun: "Vayihi B'Yeshu-run Melech -- There was a king in Jeshurun," which according to certain commentaries refers to Moshe.
[The Chassidim sang the melody including the verse, "Od Yeshamah B'orey Yehudah -- There will yet be heard in the cities of Yehudah, the voice of rejoicing, the voice of happiness, the voice of a groom, the voice of a bride." Afterwards, the Rebbe Shlita continued:]
There are those overly-earnest people who will complain: What will people say? How can a happy niggun, one talking about "the voice of rejoicing, the voice of happiness..." be sung on Rosh HaShanah?
In response, it is well known that the Alter Rebbe told the Chassidim, who complained that other Jews were upset and asking questions about their behaving in a Chassidic manner, that they should be happy that their behavior provoked such questions. [According to another version, the Alter Rebbe replied that Chassidim should be happy. The fact that others ask these questions shows that they have no other questions of a more serious nature.]
Similarly, in the present context, let us be happy that these are the questions asked of us. Furthermore, we just read the verse, "and there was a king in Jeshurun," from the Torah in the Minchah service and, indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between this verse and the service of Rosh HaShanah.
According to other commentaries, "and there was a king in Jeshurun" applies to G-d. [Though this interpretation differs with the previous one, as often explained, whenever there are different interpretations of a verse, the two complement each other.] This is intrinsically connected to the service of Rosh HaShanah which involves the acceptance of G-d as king of the earth. This is also related to joy, for it is well known that the coronation of a king is always accompanied by great celebration.
The connection of Rosh HaShanah to the final verse of the niggun, "There will be heard...," can be explained as follows. The ultimate wedding, that of G-d and the Jewish people, will be in the Messianic age. Similarly, in that era, we will witness the ultimate level of G-d's sovereignty as Ovadiah 1:24 states: "[Then] sovereignty will be G-d's." Also, the "gathering of the heads of the people," the continuation of the verse "and there was a king in Jeshurun," will reach its most complete level in the ingathering of the exiles in the Messianic age. Thus, the concept of a wedding is intrinsically related to the verse: "And there was a king (G-d) in Jeshurun."
In our Minchah prayers, we asked: "May our eyes behold Your return to Tziyon in mercy," requesting the redemption. Similarly, Motzoei Shabbos is a time associated with "David, the anointed king," the ancestor of the Moshiach. Thus, "the bride," the Jews, and "the groom," G-d, are both present. Similarly, teshuvah, the force that will bring the redemption is also present. Hence, it is an appropriate time to make our requests and thus, hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption.
As explained above, Rosh HaShanah emphasizes the unity of the Jewish people, despite the differences in level ranging from "heads of your tribes" to "the hewers of wood and the water-carriers," each one with his own particular service. Nevertheless, when we come "to establish a covenant with G-d...to establish you today as a nation," we all join together as a single collective entity.
The same principle can be found in Torah. Indeed, since "G-d looked into the Torah and created the world," it follows that this concept of unity originated in Torah. Accordingly, we find that the Ma'amarim of Rosh HaShanah develop a connection to many different concepts throughout the Torah. This emphasizes how despite the various divisions in Torah, ultimately, the Torah is a single entity.
Every concept in Torah presents a lesson that can be applied in our behavior. Thus, a Jew who wants to know how he should act should first "look into the Torah," and accordingly, determine his behavior.
Every Jew is a living Chassidic discourse. Or, to quote Bereishis 5:1 "This is the book of the happenings of man," i.e., each individual's personal history is a book from which we can learn. Similarly, Pirkei Avos 4:1 declares: "Who is a wise man -- one who learns from everyone."
Similarly, in the present context, from the stress on unity expressed in the Chassidic discourses associated with Rosh HaShanah, we can learn the importance of Jewish unity and the need to establish bonds between all segments of the Jewish people.
Jewish unity should not be emphasized as a means to overcome one's individual needs, i.e. a person's colleague possesses a quality which he lacks. On the contrary, even a person who is complete, who is a "head" of the Jewish people, should work towards Jewish unity. By doing so, he adds to the glory of G-d as Mishlei 14:28 declares: "The glory of the king [is expressed] by the multitude of the nation."
This year, the fact that the Shabbos follows directly after Rosh HaShanah further emphasizes this concept. The Midrash (Berei-shis Rabbah 11:8) relates that when G-d created the world, the Shabbos approached Him with a complaint. "All of the other days have a partner and I have none!"
G-d answered: "The Jews will be your partner." Thus, Shabbos further emphasizes the concept of unity.
Thus, the following lesson can be derived. As we make the transition from the service of accepting G-d's kingship on Rosh HaShanah to the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos throughout the year, it is necessary to recall that "love you fellow as yourself is 'a great principle of the Torah.'" Therefore, in addition to one's own individual service, each person must make an effort to reach out to others and unite with them in all matters of Torah and Yiddishkeit. To express the concept in different words: A Jew's service centers on "And there is a king in Jeshurun;" acceptance of G-d as king.
Similarly, that acceptance also implies the recognition of Moshe as king (the second interpretation of the above verse as explained above). This also applies to the Moshe present in every generation, the Nassi of that generation, in our case, the Previous Rebbe. We must carry out the missions with which he has charged us.
This involves service with ourselves -- becoming a king over ourselves, controlling our evil inclinations. Our Sages declared: "With a king's word, a mountain is uprooted." In Chassidus, it is explained that when a person adopts the stance of a king, he can uproot a mountain -- the evil inclination which Sukkah 52a describes as a mountain.
[The expression states, "uproot a mountain." The intent of our service is not to destroy the evil inclination, but to uproot it, to transfer its desires from their previous position, opposing holiness, to the point where they become included in the sphere of holiness itself.]
Similarly, fulfilling the Previous Rebbe's desires involves working with others. When someone asked the Previous Rebbe how he could establish a connection with him (hiskashrush), the Previous Rebbe answered: "The first mitzvah of the Torah is 'Be fruitful and multiply'. A Jew must make another Jew."
There is a three-letter sign which is given to each year. The first letter marks the day on which the first day of Rosh HaShanah is celebrated. The second letter tells whether the months of Cheshvan and Kislev are full or not and the third, the day on which the first day of Pesach is celebrated.
The sign for the present year is hakaz. The hay stands for Rosh HaShanah since it falls on the fifth day of the week. The chof implies that Cheshvan and Kislev follow kisidran -- in the usual order of months, one lacking and one full. The zayin re-veals that Pesach will be celebrated on Shabbos.
Each of these points provides a lesson in the service of G-d. The lesson to be derived from the order of the months of Cheshvan and Kislev can be explained as follows.
In general, there are two approaches to the service of G-d: that of tzaddikim, the righteous, and that of baalei teshuvah, those who repent and return to G-d. There is an advantage to each service. On one hand, we find that baalei teshuvah must take greater care than the righteous and must always be on guard lest they revert to their previous behavior. Nevertheless, our Sages also teach us that "In the place of baalei teshuvah, even the completely righteous cannot stand."
The service of the righteous is a gradual, ordered progression, "the daily offerings according to their order." In contrast, the service of baalei teshuvah involves springing beyond one's personal boundaries. Ultimately, a Jew's service should include both of these qualities. Thus, the Zohar relates that Moshiach will make the righteous turn to G-d in teshuvah.
There are two possible paths to reach this level of fulfillment: to have tzaddikim do teshuvah as above, or to teach baalei teshuvah the service of the righteous.
Nevertheless, even after acquiring the other quality of service, there will still be a difference between the two services. The original thrust of a person's service will always remain dominant. Though a righteous person will have also achieved the quality of teshuvah, his major thrust in service will not have changed. His service will still be characterized by steadiness and order.
Thus, there are two levels of righteous men: a) those who possess the quality of teshuvah; and b) those who lack it.
The two qualities can be compared to the situation of the world at the beginning of creation and that of the Messianic age. At the beginning of creation, "the world was created in its fullness." However, the sin caused "a descent for the purpose of ascent," which allowed the world to reach the higher level achieved through teshuvah, culminating in the ultimate teshuvah, the teshuvah to which Moshiach will motivate the righteous. Nevertheless, even though an advantage will be achieved through teshuvah, the essential service will be that of the righteous, "the daily offerings according to their order."
The redemption will be brought about through the service of teshuvah, springing beyond boundaries, as was the redemption from Egypt. However, after the redemption, we will return to an ordered and structured service.
Within this context, we can explain the lesson to be derived from whether the months of Cheshvan and Kislev will be complete or not. When both months are complete as in the previous year, this implies compensating for a loss. This is particularly true since the previous year was a leap year. These factors allude to the service of teshuvah.
In contrast, the present year follows the usual order, kisidran. Thus, it alludes to the service of the righteous. Nevertheless, since it follows the previous year, it can be appreciated as the highest level of the service of the righteous, the service of the Messianic age, when Moshiach will have motivated the righteous to repent.
The celebration of Rosh HaShanah on the fifth day of the week provides the following lessons. The Talmud (Kesuvos 5a) relates that the unique characteristic of the fifth day of creation is that on this day, a blessing was given to the fish to reproduce. Thus, it is a day of blessing in regard to worldly things, in contrast to the sixth day of creation on which a blessing was given for man.
In a similar context, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 12:2) relates that our world, in contrast to the world to come, was created by the letter hay, numerically equivalent to five.
A Jew may have fears about involving himself in worldly matters, questioning whether he will be able to fulfill his purpose in the world or not. This is the lesson we can derive from the fifth day of creation. A Jew who enters worldly affairs must know that he is accompanied by G-d's blessing.
He must realize that every element within the world was brought into being by G-d and, as Pirkei Avos teaches, was "created for His glory." Hence, there is no reason to fear involvement in worldly matters. On the contrary, as the Baal Shem Tov's father told him in his final testament, there is nothing to fear but G-d, Himself.
[This statement was related in the text Shivchai HaBesht. According to Chassidic tradition, the author of that text heard the story from the Alter Rebbe. Accordingly, this story is frequently quoted in Chassidic texts, those published and those, still in manuscript.
(In this context, it must be noted that in these last years, there has been a concerted effort to print more Chassidic texts. May the individuals involved be blessed for their efforts in bringing about "an abundance of knowledge and wisdom.")]
To return to the above concept, a Jew may involve himself in worldly affairs without any fear. On the contrary, through his involvement, he will reveal the G-dly energy that is invested within the creation.
The celebration of Pesach on Shabbos also provides an important lesson. The ultimate purpose of all creation is to reach the Messianic redemption. This is associated with the Pesach holiday for that festival centers upon redemption. Furthermore, the Messianic redemption shares an intrinsic relationship with the exodus from Egypt as implied by Michah's prophecy: "As in the days of your leaving Egypt, I will show you wonders."
The celebration of Pesach on Shabbos further emphasizes that connection for Shabbos is a microcosm of the Messianic age. Indeed, the Tractate of Tamid refers to the Messianic age as "the day which is all Shabbos and rest forever."
This provides an obvious lesson: The concept of redemption, the goal and purpose of our service of Torah and mitzvos, must permeate every aspect of our service throughout the entire year.
This concept can be clarified by citing the following example: Vayikra 25:2-4 states: "When you will come into the land... the land will rest as a Sabbatical to G-d. Sow your field for six years... and the seventh year will be... a Sabbatical for G-d." The question arises: Why does the Torah begin "the land will rest as a Sabbatical"? On the surface, it should first describe the six years of agricultural work and then state, the seventh year will be a Sabbatical.
Nevertheless, by choosing such an order, the Torah emphasizes how the purpose of the entire six years of work should be to come to the Sabbatical year.
A similar concept applies during the week. The six days of work should be permeated with the awareness of Shabbos. Accordingly, the Torah commands: "Remember the Shabbos day to make it holy. Six days shall you work...."
The Mechilta comments on the above verse: From Sunday onward, "Remember the Shabbos." If you find a choice portion purchase it for the Sabbos. Indeed, the Talmud (Beitzah 16a) relates that on Sunday, Shammai would purchase the most choice animal in the market place for the following Shabbos. If on the following days, he would find a choicer one, he would purchase it and substitute it for the first. Thus, he was conscious of Shabbos throughout the entire week.
Similarly, in this context, our service throughout the entire year should be permeated with an awareness of Shabbos, and of the Messianic age, the ultimate Shabbos. This is facilitated by the fact that the first day after Rosh HaShanah is a Shabbos. Thus, after accepting G-d's kingship on Rosh HaShanah, the first day of the year's service is a Shabbos, a day of rest and pleasure.
[In the Messianic age, there will still be a difference between Shabbos and the other days of the week, for the Torah will be observed in that age as well. The Talmud (Niddah 61a) declares: "In the future, the mitzvos will be nullified." However, in Iggeres HaKodesh 26, the Alter Rebbe explains that this refers to the age of resurrection. In the Messianic era itself, the Shabbos laws will be observed.
These laws reflect an inner spiritual process. In order to reach a higher level, it is necessary to first undergo a descent. This is alluded to by Mishlei 24:16, "A righteous man will fall seven times and rise." Thus, as a reflection of this process of descent and ascent, there will be weekdays and Shabbosim even in the Messianic age.]
To summarize the above, the hay of hakaz teaches that we can be involved in worldly matters without any fear or worry for G-d has given His blessing even before we have begun our service. The chof teaches that our service must be carried out kisidran, in an ordered and systematic fashion. Also, since this year follows a leap year, it alludes to the service of the righteous after they have acquired the advantage of baalei teshuvah. Finally, the zayin em-phasizes the goal and purpose of this service, the Messianic redemption.
Just as the above has a lesson for each of us in our individual service, it also contains a lesson in regard to our service with others. In that context, it is also necessary to work kisidran, in an ordered and systematic fashion, appreciating the nature of the person with whom you are working. You can't overpower the person or present him concepts that frighten him. Even if you are giving him something good, if the good is too great for him to appreciate at present, the efforts will not find success. Only by an ordered, thought-out, approach can one be successful.
Similarly, the concept of blessing as implied by the fifth day of the week is also important. Just as before a convert enters the Jewish faith, he "is informed about the reward for mitzvos, that he will merit the life of the world to come, so that he will hold the mitzvos dear," so too, a Jew should be told about the blessings brought about by his service. Even before this, it should be explained to him that as a Jew, he has no choice in the matter. No one asked him whether he should be born as a Jew or not. Thus, by his very nature, he shares a connection to Torah and mitzvos. His 248 limbs are parallel to the 248 positive commandments and his 365 sinews are parallel to the 365 negative commands.
Similarly, by nature, a Jew has no connection, indeed, his soul is revolted, by anything gentile in nature. This concept has an expression in Torah law. If someone sells a Jew non-kosher food and the Jew eats it without realizing that it is not kosher, the seller is obligated to return all the money he charged the purchaser. Any food forbidden by Torah is not fit to be eaten by a Jew and he is considered as not to having benefited from eating it. This law applies even if the purchaser, himself, states that he derived pleasure from its consumption.
Thus, when a Jew is told of the potentials he possesses and the blessings that can be drawn down through his service of Torah and mitzvos, he will be motivated to approach that service without fear.
Similarly, the lesson of the zayin is relevant to others. We must teach others that the ultimate goal is the Messianic redemption and all our service must be directed towards that purpose.
This service will arouse Divine blessings for the entire year. May we have a year of pleasure, a year of happiness, a year of abundant good... (the Rebbe Shlita mentioned a blessing for each letter of the alphabet beginning with tof and ending with aleph) culminating in, a year of Teshuvah, a year of Tefillah, and a year of Torah.
Last year, a great emphasis was placed on another aspect of the order of the festivals this year, that the Fast of Gedaliah is postponed. Even when the Temple was standing, Rosh HaShanah was celebrated for two days. Thus, even during that era, it was possible that the fast of Gedaliah would be postponed.
The postponement of a fast gives the potential for the ultimate nullification of the fast. [This is particularly relevant in regard to the fast of Gedaliah since, according to many commentaries, the commemoration of Gedaliah's murder is postponed for the murder itself took place on Rosh HaShanah.] May we soon merit the age when "all the fasts will be nullified and furthermore, transformed into festivals."
It is also appropriate to mention various different charitable donations that should be made. Firstly, Keren HaShanah, the fund established to allow for charity to be given each day of the year and also, the collections made for charity associated with Chai Elul and Chof Av. Even if someone has already made these donations, he may increase his gifts, which will, in turn, increase his blessings.
It is also proper to mention the need for involvement in the ten mivtzoyim and also, the campaign to unify the Jewish people by writing communal Torah scrolls in which each Jew possesses a letter.
May these activities hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption when "our eyes will behold Your return to Tziyon in mercy."