The general rule of "Open with a blessing" applies to the opening of any matter; and when it concerns a gathering of Jews, especially in a synagogue and for the purpose of undertaking good resolutions, the blessing is then that much greater. For since blessings come from G-d, and G-d is infinite -- there is no limit to a blessing.
In addition, extra distinction accrues from the special nature of today: The parshah learned this week is "Berachah" -- "Blessing"; and today's section of this parshah concerns the wonderful blessing given to Yosef -- "His land is blessed of G-d, with the sweetness of dew from the heaven, and the waters that lie deep. And the sweetness of the sun's produce, and the sweetness of the moon's crop;...and the sweetness of the everlasting hills, and the sweetness of the earth...." This blessing to Yosef has special significance to our generation, for the name of the leader of the generation is Yosef. Since the benediction of "Open with a blessing" today is based upon all the above, we can appreciate what a lofty blessing it is, for both material and spiritual matters.
Further, today is a time of blessings stemming from the preceding days. We have the blessing from the month of Elul, when Jews wish each other to be written and sealed for a good and sweet year. We have also the blessing from Rosh HaShanah, when every Jew is given G-d as his portion and inheritance, which is translated also into material good. Moreover, Rosh HaShanah this year is followed immediately by Shabbos, when "all your work is done" and delight is the day's theme -- all of which adds to today's's blessing. And since G-d, the source of all blessings, is infinite, we can increase in all the above blessings by "opening with a blessing."
This is especially so since this period is the one leading up to Yom Kippur, when Jews are compared to angels. As angels and agents of G-d, all Jews' needs are provided for by G-d, especially since they are not just ordinary angels but Jews, who, through their Divine service, earn G-d's blessings from "His full, open, holy and ample hand."
In a situation replete with the above blessings, Jews, by opening with a blessing, add to the blessing. A further increase is elicited by Jews assembling to undertake good resolutions in Torah and Judaism, for we are assured that when we observe Torah and mitzvos, G-d provides us with all our material needs. And, in the words of the Previous Rebbe: "Stand ready, all of you" to receive G-d's blessings for a good year, spiritually and materially.
Further emphasis is laid on the above by the fact that many Jews are assembled here with brotherly love and unity. In a blessing in general, the more Jews present, the loftier the blessing -- as, for example, in the blessing recited after a meal. Thus an assembly of many Jews elicits an increase in all the aforementioned blessings.
In addition, the very assembling of Jews for the common purpose of undertaking good resolutions connected with G-d's will reveals the common bond between them regardless of their different personalities. And this expression of brotherly love and unity adds to G-d's blessing.
Just as place and time has an effect on a blessing in general, so they have an effect on the brotherly love present at this gathering. We are in a synagogue, bais haknesses in Hebrew, which literally means a "house of assembly" -- the assembling and uniting of Jews. It is also a study-hall, where Torah is learned -- and Torah brings about Ahavas Yisroel and unity between Jews, and makes peace in the world -- true peace being when total opposites are brought together and united.
The time at which this assembly is taking place is also important regarding brotherly love and unity between Jews. We have just come from the month of Elul, when the "king (G-d) is in the field." The idea of a "field" emphasizes the differences between Jews, for a person must be extremely careful not to trespass on another's property, clearly delineating one Jew's domain from another's. The king's presence in the field unites these Jews together peacefully.
Rosh HaShanah follows the month of Elul, and it is the time when G-d is crowned king of the Jews. This is accomplished by the uniting together of Jews, as is written, "He (G-d) was king in Yeshurun when the heads of the people assembled, the tribes of Israel together." Hence on this day, which closely follows Rosh HaShanah, there is special emphasis on the idea of unity amongst Jews, with brotherly love.
Another special aspect to today is that it is within the period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, of which it is said, "Seek the L-rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near." Since G-d is able to "be found" and is "near" to Jews at this time, and G-d is one, it causes Jews also to be one and united.
From all the above, we see how great is the emphasis on unity between Jews on this day, especially in association with this gathering.
The same concept is present in man's service to G-d. The theme common to the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is repentance, as, indeed, these days are termed, "The Ten Days of Repentance." Repentance, too, emphasizes the idea of unity, for repentance is an experience that is not comprised of many different details, but is one, single movement, which can occur in a single moment -- a movement towards G-d, when "the spirit shall return to G-d Who gave it."
This shows the concept of unity is most highly stressed in the Ten Days of Repentance, of which today is a part: in this period all Jews are united in the theme of repentance, a theme that cannot be broken down into particulars either in time or place, since it is a single movement, one and indivisible.
A farbrengen and gathering held in the Ten Days of Repentance, then, is special in that unity between Jews does not remain in the realm of soul matters, but extends to the body, actual deed, and to the world. And when Jewish bodies assemble together, the above unity is emphasized and brought to the fore.
The unity present at this gathering brings with it an increase in the blessings mentioned above, especially now, after Rosh HaShanah, when all Jews stood together, as written, "You are all standing today" -- "today" referring to Rosh HaShanah; and especially since we are now in the Ten Days of Repentance, when G-d is close to us, and Jews are close to each other. This unity between Jews brings G-d's blessings in its wake, as stated, "Bless us our Father, all of us together, with the light of Your countenance."
As in all matters, where "deed is paramount," everything we spoke about concerning brotherly love and unity between Jews must be translated into actual deed. In plain terms, one must increase in all the mitzvos and efforts associated with Ahavas Yisroel and unity between Jews, beginning with the mitzvah of tzedakah, which is equal to all the mitzvos.
In addition to all the above, we must also derive a lesson from the particular reason for this farbrengen; and although it is a particular reason, it has an effect on all other aspects of Torah. In Torah study, for example, the study of one topic lends understanding to other parts of the Torah, for it is "one Torah." Everything in Torah comes from the one G-d, and thus, even when differentiated, all concepts are interrelated, all having the same source. In our case, since the particular reason for today's farbrengen is associated with Torah, we can derive a lesson from it for all Torah's aspects.
Thus, although today's farbrengen is associated with a woman (the yartzeit of the Rebbe Shlita's mother), and the lesson derived from it therefore pertains particularly to women, nevertheless, that lesson must also apply to all Israel, including men.
That lesson is that there should be a special strengthening in the three mitzvos given specially to women: the lighting of the Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles, the kashrus of food, and family purity. Although given to women to fulfill, these mitzvos are also obligatory upon men, for they are the three pillars upon which every Jewish house stands. Yet, Torah has ruled that it is the women who actually take care of these mitzvos, for since the woman is the one who is in the home, it is she who lights the Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles, she who prepares the food -- and therefore takes care of its kashrus, and she who fulfills the laws of family purity.
[The Rebbe Shlita here spoke about the role of women in Jewish life. This sicha was published as a separate essay, entitled Equal Rights.]
One of the memories I have of my mother, from which it behooves us to derive a lesson, concerns the time of the First World War. I was then in cheder, and did not really know what was happening. But there were unusual occurrences that were impossible not to notice, and the following is one which I remember.
At the beginning of the First World War, the Russian government issued an edict that all Jews living near the borders of hostile countries must move deeper into Russia, since the government did not trust Jews. This edict affected a huge number of Jews, and thus many, many refugees moved inland. One of the cities to which these refugees fled was the city in which my family lived -- Yekatrinislav.
Because of the large number of refugees, it was imperative that they be properly taken care of as soon as possible. For the proportionally small number of Jews resident in our city, this was a heavy task indeed. Various committees were immediately established to provide the refugees with all their needs, and it was my mother who headed these committees.
I then witnessed an amazing thing. Never had I seen such incredible energy as my mother displayed then in attending to the refugees' needs, day and night. It was so outstanding that although I was then in cheder, not in the house, it remained engraved in my memory forever.
On her yartzeit, when all the Divine service performed by a soul on earth is remembered, it behooves us to remember also the above mentioned episode in my mother's life. What however, can we learn from it to apply in actual deed? By G-d's grace we find ourselves in a benevolent country, each person living at ease and securely, and many organizations devoted to helping people in their needs. What lesson, then, can we derive from my mother's activities on behalf of refugees?
Every Jew, however, is a refugee, for we have been exiled from our Holy Land! Even those Jews living in Eretz Yisroel are missing some things, including everything associated the Bais Hamikdosh. Thus every Jew needs the help due a refugee. Indeed, the very fact that we think that we lack nothing because we live in a benevolent country, where everyone can carry on his business peacefully, with G-d granting ample sustenance, and everything seeming so good -- itself indicates how severe is our lack of true Judaism to the extent that we don't even feel any hunger for spirituality.
True, there are many Jewish organizations, and people have study sessions in Torah and observe mitzvos scrupulously. But this cannot be compared to the revelation of G-dliness; it cannot be compared to the understanding in Torah and observance of mitzvos in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh.
We have become so accustomed to exile that one thinks his Torah study and observance of mitzvos has reached the peak of perfection. Torah says differently, however: a Jew's soul is "verily a part of G-d above," and therefore when a Jew learns Torah, it must be openly evident that "My words are as fire"; and when he observes mitzvos, it must be as G-d desires it to be done. But a Jew cannot learn Torah and practice mitzvos in such a fashion, for the darkness of exile does not allow him to. He can do nothing about this, for in exile, all of creation falls short of perfection. But at least Jews must know what they have lost!
We have lost the G-dly revelation that existed in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh, when "ten miracles happened to our fathers," some of them extending to the whole of Yerushalayim. True, even today we see G-d's miracles and kindness in providing for the whole world -- but simultaneously we must remember how different it was in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh.
When we are cognizant of the low state of exile, we will utter the prayer "Speedily cause the scion of Dovid Your servant to flourish" with heartfelt devotion. We will cry out these words, not because they have been made part of the prayer liturgy, but because we feel the lack. We will truly want the "scion of Dovid Your servant to flourish" speedily, for if the redemption comes one moment sooner, the promise, "The glory of the L-rd will be revealed and all flesh will see that the mouth of the L-rd has spoken" will be realized one moment sooner.
The above story concerning my mother teaches, then, how much we must help Jews, everyone of who is a refugee. And by helping Jews, especially with the mitzvah of tzedakah, one brings closer the redemption.
Today's portion of Rambam's Mishneh Torah are the second, third and fourth chapters of the Laws Concerning Things Prohibited for the Altar. After citing all the animals which are prohibited for the altar, Rambam concludes that "We thus find that there were in all fourteen categories of animals prohibited for the altar. They are: One with a blemish, one not of the choicest,..." etc.
Ravad (one of the foremost critics of Rambam) argues that Rambam should have counted more than fourteen categories of animals prohibited for the altar, citing those which he believes Rambam omitted. Other commentators cite other instances of omission. One answer suggested by commentators is that all the instances of omissions cited by Ravad and others, are included in one or another of the fourteen categories enumerated by Rambam.
This answer is difficult to accept, for Rambam, in his introduction to Mishneh Torah, writes that his book is devoted to make the laws clear to people both "small and great." Now, since the commentators on Rambam struggle to understand in exactly which category of the fourteen types of animals some instances of animals unfit for the altar omitted by Rambam fall -- and indeed Ravad believes some do not fit into any of those fourteen categories -- Rambam should have explicitly mentioned those instances, instead of relying on people being able to figure out for themselves into which other category they belong! Had Rambam not limited himself to fourteen categories, everything would have been clear to people "small and great."
Rambam on a number of occasions notes the total number of things which he has already enumerated individually. He does this as a memory aid, for if a person knows that there should be such and such number of things in any given subject, he will immediately notice if he has ommited one or more, simply by comparing the number of things he remembers to the total number that should be present.
Rambam in a number of instances chooses for such a memory aid the number fourteen specifically. Commentators indeed note that Rambam seems to have had an affinity for the number fourteen, it being a number especially auspicious to him. He divided the entire Mishneh Torah, for example, into fourteen sections.
Now, as noted above, the reason for giving a number is that it serves as a memory aid. But if the number does not have any special meaning, it will not help one to remember, for one will forget the number as easily as one will forget the things he is trying to remember through the aid of the number.
The number fourteen, however, does have a meaning. In Hebrew, fourteen is comprised of the letters Yud (10) and Daled (4), which together form the word "yad," which means "hand." This serves as an excellent memory aid, for now the number does have meaning -- it means "hand" -- and indeed, has relevance to Torah in general, which was given to Jews from G-d's right hand.
This seems to be the reason why Rambam says there are fourteen categories of animals prohibited for the altar. Although there are 50 or more particular things which render an animal unfit for the altar, the number fifty would not serve as a memory aid, since one would have difficulty remembering if the number was forty, fifty, or sixty. The number fourteen, in contrast, will not be confused with any other number (e.g. thirteen or fifteen), for fourteen has meaning -- "hand."
Since all the animals which are prohibited for the altar can be divided into fourteen categories (according to Rambam -- even those Ravad disputes), Rambam chose this number specifically since one can remember it easily.
We can further understand why Rambam chose the number fourteen specifically, by first exploring the spiritual equivalent of these laws. The first two categories of animals unfit for the altar are those which are blemished and those not of the choicest. This is the negative counterpart to the law previously written by Rambam, that "It is a positive mitzvah for all offerings to be whole and of the choicest." An animal can be unblemished and yet not choice, if for example, it is whole but lean, not fat and choice. On the other hand, it can be fat and the choicest of the entire herd -- but still have a blemish.
What is the meaning of whole and of the choicest in man's service to G-d? Our sages say that a person's 248 limbs correspond to the 248 positive mitzvos, and the 365 sinews correspond to the 365 prohibitory mitzvos. Based on this, the verse "You shall be whole with the L-rd your G-d" is interpreted to mean that a Jew -- i.e. his limbs and sinews -- is whole with G-d only when he fulfills all mitzvos.
But this does not mean that the mitzvos performed are also of the choicest. A person may fulfill mitzvos simply because he is accustomed to do so, without enthusiasm, or without bothering to perform it in the best way possible. In such a case, the mitzvah has been performed -- i.e., it is a "whole" mitzvah -- but it is not choice, it is not "fat"; it is a "lean" mitzvah.
Now, in general, there are two types of mitzvos: positive mitzvos, which correspond to the right hand, and prohibitive mitzvos, which correspond to the left hand, as stated, "the left [hand] repels and the right [hand] brings near." And it may be for this reason that Rambam, in giving the sum total of animals prohibited for the altar -- which, we have said, corresponds in spiritual terms to the way mitzvos are performed -- chooses the number fourteen specifically, since, "fourteen" means "hand," alluding to the idea of "the left hand repels and the right hand draws near" -- i.e., mitzvos in general.
We can go further, and posit that the two types of service of "whole and "of the choicest" correspond to the service of tzaddikim (the completely righteous) and ba'alei teshuvah (penitents) respectively. A righteous person has never in his life entertained any thoughts other than to do G-d's bidding: he is "whole," with his service to G-d always on the same, regular level. Repentance, however, adds a further element to this service: it makes the service "fat," of the choicest. For although the righteous person fulfills G-d's will perfectly, he is lacking the true delight in fulfilling mitzvos (delight -- the idea of "fat") which comes only when one previously did not taste the joy of performing mitzvos. It may be compared to a person who previously was in darkness, and then was exposed to light. The light to him is much brighter than to one who was always exposed to light. So the penitents' delight in performing mitzvos after a life of spiritual darkness is much greater than that of one who has performed mitzvos all his life.
Repentance is applicable not just to outright sinners, but also to the righteous, who can, and must, rise to a yet higher degree of holiness. But the order of service is first to be "whole" -- to serve G-d steadily and regularly; only afterwards one may and should rise to the higher level of the service of repentance, when one's service is of the choicest.
Repentance itself consists of two aspects: contrition over the past -- i.e., negating one's past deeds, and good resolutions for the future -- i.e., the positive aspect to repentance. One's service of repentance must be whole and of the choicest in both these positive and negative aspects of repentance, just as one's service must be whole and of the choicest in both positive mitzvos and negative mitzvos.
Because the number fourteen is special in that it expresses the idea of service in general, and in its two aspects of positive and negative in particular (right and left hand), Rambam chose to use this number as the number of categories of animals unfit for the altar.
It is usual on the sixth of Tishrei (today) to conclude the study of a tractate in the Talmud (siyyum). What tractate should be concluded? We are now in the Ten Days of Repentance, which begin with Rosh HaShanah and conclude with Yom Kippur. The appropriate tractate, then, would seem to be Yoma, which deals with the matters of Yom Kippur ("Yoma" means "day," referring to the one, special day in the year -- Yom Kippur). Further, the beginning of this tractate talks of the seven days before Yom Kippur when the High Priest was kept secluded in the Bais Hamikdosh, preparing for Yom Kippur. Thus, in addition to this tractate's connection to Yom Kippur (to the extent that this tractate is called "Yom HaKippurim" by some, and its last chapter is called "Yom HaKippurim" by everyone), which is the conclusion of the Ten Days of Repentance, the tractate is also connected with the Ten Days of Repentance themselves, since the beginning of the tractate talks of the seven days before Yom Kippur. In general, the theme of tractate Yoma is repentance, which is its connection to the Ten Days of Repentance. However, although this tractate is appropriate for making a "siyyum" today, we have in the past made a number of siyyumim on this tractate.
There is another tractate which has a connection with the Ten Days of Repentance. Both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the beginning and conclusion of the Ten Days of Repentance respectively, are associated with Mattan Torah (Giving of the Torah). The mitzvah of Rosh HaShanah is shofar; and in the ten verses concerning shofar said in the prayers on Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of these verses deals with Mattan Torah in great detail. On Yom Kippur, the latter tablets containing the Ten Commandments -- the idea of Mattan Torah -- were given.
Now, Mattan Torah is termed the "wedding day" (between G-d and Jews), and thus the appropriate tractate upon which to make a siyyum in the Ten Days of Repentance is Kiddushin. The beginning of this tractate talks of the three ways in which a woman is betrothed, which have their spiritual equivalent in G-d's betrothal of the Jews at Mattan Torah. The connection between this tractate and Mattan Torah is seen even more openly in its conclusion, which talks of the greatness of Torah study (i.e., the idea of Mattan Torah). However, we have in the past made a number of siyyumim also on tractate Kiddushin.
A further complication is that since the Ten Days of Repentance have a relationship to the themes of both repentance and Torah, the question arises: should the "siyyum" be made on the tractate Yoma which is connected with repentance, or on the tractate Kiddushin which is connected with Torah?
To resolve this quandary, we shall make a siyyum about the connection between the two tractates. Kiddushin discusses the laws of betrothal between man and woman, and Yoma discusses the service of Yom Kippur. The connection between them is, as noted above, that Mattan Torah is the betrothal (Kiddushin) between Jews and G-d, and Yom Kippur's theme is repentance -- and Torah and repentance are essentially the same concept. Indeed, the seven days before Yom Kippur, when the High Priest was secluded in preparation to his service on Yom Kippur, corresponds to the three days of preparation the Jews underwent before Mattan Torah.
In deeper analysis: The concept of repentance may be compared to a woman who was sent away from her husband for improper behavior, and now returns to him. The bond between man and woman after the separation will be deeper and stronger than before -- similar to the latter tablets, which were superior to the first set which were broken because of the Jews' improper behavior. Indeed, so strong is the power of repentance that the renewed bond between man and wife compared to the old bond may be compared to the superiority of marriage over betrothal. In terms of G-d (man) and Israel (wife), Mattan Torah was the betrothal, and the marriage will take place in the Messianic era, when G-d will "return the righteous in repentance."
The above may be related to our previous analysis of the Rambam's words that a sacrifice must be both whole and of the choicest. As noted above, that a sacrifice must be whole corresponds to the service of the righteous, whereas the service of a penitent corresponds to the idea that a sacrifice must be of the choicest -- i.e., a penitent's service, because it follows previous spiritual darkness, is with more enthusiasm and delight ("fat" -- of the choicest) than the service of one who has always been righteous.
This difference corresponds to the difference between Torah (the theme of the tractate Kiddushin) and repentance (the theme of the tractate Yoma). A righteous person conducts himself according to Torah, never having sinned in his life. Repentance adds perfection ("of the choicest") to the observance of Torah, a concept which is applicable also to the righteous, the mitzvos of whom are made "good and illuminating" through the service of repentance.
The tractate Kiddushin, we may further posit, is not just primarily the concept of Torah, and the tractate Yoma primarily repentance, but both tractates discuss both types of service. The conclusion of tractate Yoma (in the mishnah) states: "Rabbi Akiva said: Happy are you, Israel, for before whom do you become pure, and who is it who purifies you? You Father who is in heaven, as it is said, 'And I will sprinkle purifying waters upon you and you shall be pure.' And it says, 'The L-rd is the mikveh of Israel.'"
The conclusion of tractate Kiddushin (in the mishnah) talks of the greatness of Torah. "Man enjoys the reward [of Torah study] in this world, while the principal remains for him in the World to Come. All other professions are not so, for when a man comes to sickness or old age or suffering, and cannot engage in his profession, he must die of starvation. Torah, however, is not so, for it guards him from all evil in his youth, and gives him a future and hope in his old age. Of his youth what is said? 'They that wait upon the L-rd shall renew their strength.' Of his old age what is said? 'The shall be fruitful even in old age.' And thus it is said of our father Avraham, 'And Avraham was old ... and the L-rd blessed Avraham with everything.' We find that our father Avraham observed the whole Torah before it was given, as it is said, 'Because Avraham listened to My voice, and kept My charge, My mitzvos, My statutes, and My laws.'"
We see that the conclusions of both tractates talk of two concepts. Tractate Yoma cites two verses -- "And I will sprinkle upon you purifying waters" and "The L-rd is the mikveh of Israel"; and tractate Kiddushin also cites two verses -- "They shall be fruitful even in old age" and "Avraham was old." The two verses in both tractates, we may posit, correspond to the concepts embodied by the righteous ("whole") and by penitents ("of the choicest").
A person can be purified in two ways: By a mikveh, or by the waters of a fountain. A mikveh is a collected body of water, in one place, with a specific minimum amount of water. A fountain, in contrast, purifies with flowing water, and has no minimum amount -- it transcends the very idea of set measurements.
In general, these two types of purification correspond to Torah and repentance. Torah represents wholeness -- cor-responding to the righteous whose service has always been whole, and always on the same set level (a mikveh). Through repentance, in contrast, a person is always rising from level to level (similar to the flowing waters of a fountain), to the extent that it transcends many levels -- for, as noted earlier, there is no minimum time limit in which to repent: it can happen in a single moment, transforming a sinner into a complete tzaddik. Torah does have measurements, beginning with the fact that it was given after forty days (corresponding to the forty se'ahs of water, which is the minimum amount of water for a mikveh).
These two types of purification -- by mikveh or by the waters of a fountain -- exist also within repentance itself, and within Torah itself. Repentance is the purification from sin, and it can be performed in two ways. One can repent to the extent that any omissions in service are completely filled, but he does not add anything to otherwise whole service (corresponding to purification by a mikveh). Or one can repent to such a lofty level that the penitent's service is superior to that of the regularly righteous person (because, as explained above, the penitent observes mitzvos with more enthusiasm and vitality).
In Torah study, too, there are two levels, corresponding to a mikveh and a fountain. One type of scholar is he who is like "a cemented cistern which does not lose a drop" (a mikveh, corresponding to the idea of being "whole"); the other type is he who is like "a fountain which flows with ever-increasing strength" (a fountain, corresponding to the idea of being "of the choicest").
In the conclusion of the tractate Yoma, the idea of "The L-rd is the mikveh of Israel" corresponds to purification by mikveh; the idea of "I will sprinkle upon you purifying waters" corresponds to purification by the waters of a fountain. Thus these two verses and concepts in Yoma correspond to the two levels in repentance (in addition to corresponding to Torah and repentance in general, as discussed above).
The two concepts in tractate Kiddushin correspond to the two levels in Torah study. As noted just previously, there are two types of Torah scholars: the one who is like "a cemented cistern which does not lose a drop," and the one who is like "a fountain which flows with ever-increasing strength." Both of these are alluded to in the conclusion of tractate Kiddushin. Rashi explains that the verse "They shall be fruitful even in old age" means that "although because of suffering he cannot now engage in Torah study, he still enjoys the reward of his earlier Torah study." This corresponds to the scholar who is like "a cemented cistern which does not lose a drop," for 1) Rashi's interpretation that "he cannot now engage in Torah study" means that he only cannot study with ever-increasing strength -- but he can continue to learn as before (i.e., he "does not lose a drop"); 2) in relation to the reward he receives for his earlier Torah study, which was with ever-increasing strength, he does not "lose a drop" of that reward.
The second concept cited by the tractate Kiddushin, "Avraham was old," and that Avraham "observed the whole Torah before it was given," refers to the fact that Avraham did not just receive reward for Torah study accomplished in his youth, but that even in his old age he continued gaining new accomplishments in Torah study -- like "a fountain which flows with ever-increasing strength." This is the level of repentance within Torah, repentance being the idea of returning to G-d. When a Jew learns Torah, with "G-d reading and learning opposite him," and recites the blessing over the Torah before learning -- he returns to the Giver of the Torah, and he then continues to learn further.
What lesson can we derive from all of the above? We are now in the Ten Days of Repentance, which begin with Rosh HaShanah and end with Yom Kippur. Rosh HaShanah is the time when we crown G-d as king and accept His decrees, corresponding to the service of the righteous, the theme of the tractate Kiddushin. Yom Kippur is the time of repentance, the theme of the tractate Yoma.
Today, because it is between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, combines both together, and partakes of the themes of both. Thus on this day we possess the advantages of both types of service: that of the tractate Kiddushin -- the service of the righteous, and that of the tractate Yoma -- the service of repentance. This is especially so since, as we elaborated on above, the conclusions of both tractates encompass both types of service.