1. When as always we gather together in the last days of Elul (which are also the last days of the year that is passing as well as the days of preparation for the year to come), we should take stock of how we passed through the year 5739 and also take in good resolutions for the coming year 5740. It is self-understood that any time a person (and particularly a Jew, one who belongs to a nation described by Torah as “wise and understanding”) begins a new undertaking, he must prepare himself for it. Their is a saying that “there is no wise man like the master of experience.” Wisdom comes through the practical experience of comparing the present situation to similar instances in the past. Therefore, to understand the nature of the resolutions proper for this year, we must meditate on how the previous year passed, how we behaved and what results that behavior brought about.
Thus, the two aspects mentioned before, (the stock-taking of our activities in the previous years and our resolutions for the coming year) are related. By making a proper account of the entire year that passed, we can gain a clearer perspective on which resolutions to accept for the year to come.
Our Sages declared “deed is most essential.” In that vein, it is obvious that it is most important to actually carry out these resolutions. It is important to make a good resolution. (G-d, Himself sees and acknowledges such resolutions). However, the fulfillment of that resolution, — its expression in deed and action — is of even greater importance.
The decisions that we make in the beginning of the year affect our behavior over the course of the entire year. This concept can be understood from the Alter Rebbe’s explanation of the meaning of the name “Rosh Hashanah.” The Alter Rebbe notes that Rosh Hashanah literally means the “head of the year.” He explains that their is a difference between the implications of this term and the term “beginning of the year.” The difference can be understood by analyzing the function of the head in the human body. The head controls the other limbs of the body. When the head fulfills this role, it is healthy and the other limbs are healthy and together they form a healthy body. Similarly, Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year. The resolutions that we make on Rosh Hashanah have to affect all the days of the year. Then we will have a healthy year, both in physical and spiritual matters. We will receive and be able to accept all the blessings that G-d gives, inscribing us for a good year. Afterwards, these blessings will be expressed every day of the year, making every day a blessed day in all its implications.
The above points are always relevant in every month of Elul and on every Rosh Hashanah. However, a person does not stand still. Surely, he changes as a year passes. He becomes older and wiser and therefore “frummer” and more Jewish each year. Therefore, it is understood that each year has its specific insights which in turn should affect the resolutions that we make on Rosh Hashanah.
These particular resolutions should come in addition to the general resolution, that each and every Jew should live a Jewish life — according to the guidelines set down by G-d. Rosh Hashanah is the day when we accept G-d as King, as director and controller of our lives, our families, and our homes. Through the Jews’ acceptance of G-d as King, He becomes King over the entire world. Therefore, we must follow the directives of G-d’s will which are brought out by the Torah. The book of Proverbs declares “Torah is a light.” The light of Torah illuminates every aspect of our daily lives. Elul serves as a month of preparation to accept G-d as King and carry out his directives in every day of the year to come.
The special aspect that is expressed by this year is connected with the fact that Rosh Hashanah (the head of the year) falls on Shabbos. Since Rosh Hashanah controls the outcome of all the days of the year, as the head controls the body, it follows that the general lesson which is connected with Rosh Hashanah, — that is, that we (as individuals, as leaders of our families, as members of the entire Jewish people) should live a Jewish life — must be permeated with the particular insights which can be derived from the fact that this year Rosh Hashanah comes out on Shabbos.
These specific insights can be grasped through an analysis of the nature of Shabbos. Among the differences between Shabbos and the weekdays is the decree of the Torah not to work on Shabbos. Since work is prohibited on Shabbos, we can carry out G-d’s command to make it a holy day and also a day on which “you shall call the Shabbos a ‘delight.’” On Shabbos, a Jew is involved with matters which bring him true pleasure.
The pleasure a Jew derives from Shabbos is not only from knowing that he is fulfilling G-d’s will and living a Jewish life (which itself is the greatest pleasure possible). on Shabbos, every aspect of his behavior, even those activities such as eating and drinking, which are necessary only because the soul descended into a physical body, are permeated with pleasure. The eating and drinking of Shabbos become part of the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos (having pleasure on Shabbos). Even sleeping on Shabbos is considered part of that Mitzvah.
The concept of Oneg Shabbos is that the Jew causes G-d pleasure and G-d in turn, causes the Jew pleasure. A pleasure so powerful that it can be felt by the body as well. Furthermore, the pleasure of Shabbos even affects the nature of the food served on Shabbos, to the degree that a non-Jew can detect a special taste in Shabbos food. The Talmud (Shabbos 119a) brings out this concept in a story about a gentile who tasted a dish that a Jew had prepared for Shabbos and wondered how the food had such a unique favor.
Another factor brings out the connection between this year and Shabbos. In the letter, which I sent out for Rosh Hashanah, I emphasized how the coming year is distinct from the other years. It is the seventh year, the year of Shemitah (release), a year that is called a “a Shabbos unto G-d.”
Just as G-d set aside the seventh day from the other six days of the week, He also distinguished the seventh year from the six years that precede it. The seventh year is called “a Shabbos unto G-d.” It is a year during which a Jew must be holier than in the previous years.
The Torah declares that the Jewish people are a holy nation. Therefore, a Jew must always be holy. Even in the midst of our daily activities we can be holy be following the directives of the Torah which was given by G-d, the ultimate source of holiness. Nevertheless, that holiness does not approach the holiness of the Sabbatical year, when a Jew must be even holier.
The parallel between the seventh year and the Shabbos helps explain this issue. During the six days of the week, a Jew must be holy. Therefore, he separates himself from non-Kosher foods and non-Kosher customs and actions. Nevertheless, when the Shabbos comes he becomes holier. In good, in holiness and in all things connected with G-d we can always proceed higher. Therefore, regardless of his level of holiness during the week, on Shabbos he can reach higher peaks. The same applies in the Sabbatical year. It is holier than the previous six years.
This concept further emphasizes that the resolution made this coming Rosh Hashanah must have a special holiness. For not only does Rosh Hashanah fall on Shabbos, but the entire year is “a Shabbos unto G-d.”
2. The implications of the Shemitah year are expressed in matters between man and man. When G-d set up the order in which a Jew has to rely on another for a loan, He declared that in the seventh year, one must absolve all debts owed him and have faith that his kindness will not only not bring loss but rather greater riches since has fulfilled this command of G-d.
From this, it is understandable that all of our deeds and actions in the coming year must specifically emphasize that we will increase our efforts in the activities that bring one Jew closer to another. That is to say, we must help every Jew. Even in case when one has already done a Jew a favor and lent him money and later the money is needed for his own sustenance, the Torah teaches that in the seventh year, he must release the borrowers from his obligation.
And when we accept the resolutions to act as the Torah requires in the Shemitah year, the Torah proclaims that G-d declares “I have commanded My blessing for you in the sixth year.” G-d orders every blessing and all the blessings for every Jew in all matters that they need. In particular they should have blessings in all the matters connected with the Shemitah year. Not only should nothing be lost, but even more — G-d will bring extra blessings — as the Torah proclaims, “I will command My blessings ... for three years,” meaning that the blessings will be three times as much as normal.
3. The above-mentioned is applicable to all men and women, young and old. However, since this particular gathering is made up of women, girls (including even very young girls) a special lesson that is applicable to women must be derived. That lesson is connected to the concept of Shabbos. The preparation for Shabbos is primarily dependent on the women, not the men. The man brings home the daily income. However, it is the mother who runs the house and prepares for the Shabbos in all its particulars.
The same lesson will apply to the girls. In every Jewish home that has been blessed with girls, as soon as the girls have grown a little older they begin helping the mother. This is particularly true in regard to Shabbos. They help make the Shabbos filled with more light and more pleasure.
Therefore, we can derive a special lesson from this year, a year in which Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos and also a year which is itself like Shabbos. This special lesson is connected with the unique powers that G-d has given each and every Jewish woman, young and old, that they should carry out the holy mission, that G-d has given them that they should make every Jewish house a healthy house, a clean house, a house of light and a holy Jewish house.
The powers that G-d gives them to carry out this mission are enhanced this year by the extra power given at the beginning of the year and the extra power that is connected with the coming year.
Beginning with the first Shabbos of the new year (which falls on Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year), Jewish women and girls receive special power to make the resolution to be a living example of how a daughter of Israel should appear, how she should behave, how she runs her home and prepares her home to reach a state of fulfillment.
In the coming year, they receive special powers to carry out a special mission. In addition to their own service, they must help their husbands appreciate and reveal the Shabbos-like quality of the coming year. During that year each and every Jewish home should appreciate how the entire year is “a Shabbos unto G-d.” Just as “G-d created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day, He rested,” the Jewish people, the nation whom G-d chose to reveal and rest His Presence among, were also commanded to keep the Shabbos and on that day be involved only with things that bring pleasure. This coming year should also follow that pattern.
G-d has given each and every Jewish woman this mission now in the last. days of Elul they must prepare themselves and make the resolutions necessary to carry it out. This preparation should be done with happiness and with desire, just as the preparation for Shabbos is carried out with joy. This will in turn serve as preparation for the days when Jews will no longer have any worries, the time of the Messianic redemption. At that time, the Jews will be redeemed from all worries. The Rambam writes that the Jews will have only good and they will not lack anything. They will be able to devote their full time to Yiddishkeit. This preparation will insure a Kesiva V’Chasima Tova — our inscriptions for a good year — a year of health and success.
The above should be carried out with joy. When “Israel rejoices in its Maker” — when Jews rejoice with G-d, with his Torah, and with the powers and blessings He gives them, — then G-d rejoices in His works.” G-d rejoices together with the Jewish people and with the entire world. Then, “joy breaks down barriers” and destroys all the barriers and straits that are connected with Galus and brings speedily the complete and true redemption of the Mashiach speedily in our days.
May G-d bless you — each one of you individually and all of you as collective — and through all, Jewish women wherever they are to be found — particularly those in the Land of Israel (H). May we be inscribed for a good year, with clear and openly recognizable good and may we very soon go and greet the Mashiach who will bring the true and complete redemption.
- (Back to text) This health in turn is connected to the health of the soul.
- (Back to text) This concept is brought out in the blessings in which we declared G-d is flour G-d — King of the world.” Because we accepted Him as “Our G-d,” He became King of the world.
- (Back to text) The prohibition of work on Shabbos does not mean that we should not use the energies G-d has given us, but rather that we should direct them to spiritual purposes as further emphasized.
- (Back to text) Even though when he is actual sleeping, he is not able to control his will or intention to fulfill the Mitzvah, nevertheless, since when he lay down to sleep he had the intention of fulfilling G-d’s Mitzvah, he is considered to be fulfilling the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos during every moment of his sleep.
- (Back to text) Even if a Jew sins, G-d’s blessings have been already “commanded” that they must reach that Jew. Furthermore, those blessings will reach the Jew in a physical way, a manner where he will actually feel G-d’s blessing: a blessing that benefits both the body and the soul.
- (Back to text) A Jewish home reaches fulfillment when it changes all the homes around it and influences them to follow its example.
- (Back to text) He also gave them the power and the privilege of carrying out the mission.
- (Back to text) The Land of Israel is also connected with Shabbos since the Land of Israel as opposed to the other countries of the world can be compared to the holiness of Shabbos in regard to the other days of the week. (Translator’s note: At this point, the Rebbe Shlita gave a blessing for peace in Israel explaining how that peace can only be served by following the directives of the Torah. Then the complete possession of the Land of Israel will be insured).