1. The Jewish calendar system rotating on a 19-year cycle, institutes a leap year periodically to compensate for the days lost in the juxtaposition between the lunar and solar calendars, the Jewish calendar being based upon the lunar calendar. This past year, a leap year, concludes an entire 19-year cycle and effects a perfect correspondence, leaving no disparity, no extra days or moments, between the two calendars.
This calendar adjustment is reflected in a Jew’s service to G-d. The Baal Shem Tov explains that everything a Jew sees or hears should serve as a lesson for him in his service to G-d. Particularly, the fixation of the calendar, which is a mitzvah of the Torah, (the purpose of all the mitzvos being “I have commanded you these mitzvos to fear G-d” contains valuable lessons in the service of G-d.
The leap year teaches every Jew that during the leap year he can compensate for the service he has not fulfilled in previous years. Although this concept applies throughout the entire leap year, there are particular stages within the year when the concept is more relevant. For example, the month of Elul was instituted as a time of Teshuvah for the entire year. Within Elul itself, the last 12 days are of special importance. Each days serves as a period of Teshuvah for one month of the previous year. Erev Rosh Hashanah contains the potential to effect Teshuvah for that month of Elul (which in turn effects a Teshuvah for that entire year, which subsequently can effect a Teshuvah for the entire past 19-year cycle).
On this one day, Erev Rosh Hashanah, each Jew has the capability to compensate for all the deficiencies of his previous 19 years. Teshuvah is a movement which is above time and is possible in one moment, with one turn of attention. It is within the grasp of-every Jew. The realization that a Teshuvah, which can have such far-reaching effects, is within his potential should motivate every Jew towards increased joy in his study of Torah and performance of mitzvos.
2. The above-mentioned concept holds special relevance this year when Erev Rosh Hashanah falls on Motzaei Shabbos, Parshas Nitzavim. Parshas Nitzavim opens with the verse, “You are standing this day, all of you before the L-rd, your G-d, your leaders of your tribes ....from the hewers of wood to the drawers of water.” All of the various different levels of Jews from the leaders and the elders until the wood-hewers and the water-carriers joined together into one union.
Commenting on this verse, the Alter Rebbe explains that the power of the Jews’ stance depends on the extent of their unity. The Tzemach Tzedek elaborates on this concept, explaining that Nitzavim (the word translated as standing) is written in the passive “you are made to stand”. The unity of the Jewish people affects G-d to the degree where the Jews approach a level of spirituality “before the L-rd, your G-d” (higher than the level of G-d’s Name). This level of unity prepares the Jewish people to approach the judgments of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The relationship between Nitzavim to Rosh Hashanah is further expressed by the Baal Shem Tov. Commenting on the fact that the traditional blessing for the new month is not recited for the month of Tishrei, he explained that the month of Tishrei is blessed by G-d and with the strength of that blessing the Jews bless the other months. G-d’s blessing is expressed in the Torah reading of the Sabbath, “You are all standing before the L-rd, your G-d” you all stand, and are triumphant in judgment.
The Jewish people enter these days of judgment from Erev Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur with happiness and joy, confident that they will be victorious in judgment and merit G-d’s blessing.
This farbrengen was intended to communicate this concept in a public assembly of Jews (in such an assembly, the Shechinah rests). May the Jews stand victorious in judgment and may the Jewish people as a whole and each Jew as an individual receive G-d’s blessing for success in their service and with these blessings, overcome all obstacles in their paths.
- (Back to text) After most leap years, a difference of days still remains between the two calendars. However, every 19 years the cycle of leap years is coordinated to produce and complete a perfect juxtaposition.
- (Back to text) The Mishnah describes the purpose of a Jew’s creation as to serve G-d. Everything he encounters has to serve that purpose.
- (Back to text) Indeed, the fixation of the months was the first Mitzvah (according to some commentaries and among the first Mitzvos according to all commentaries) which the Jews were commanded to fu1fi11.They received the commandment while still in Egypt.
- (Back to text) Though each Mitzvah has its own unique lesson and purpose, all Mitzvos share one common goal. They all serve to bring a Jew to a state of fear of G-d.
- (Back to text) When the Jewish people achieve this state of union, they reach a spiritual level “before the L-rd, your G-d”, i.e., higher than the mystical energies expressed by G-d’s name.
- (Back to text) Erev Rosh Hashanah marks the birthday of the Tzemach Tzedek. During the year of his birth, the Alter Rebbe celebrated the occasion by reciting the maamar “Mashbiyim Oso”(they administer him an oath) which later became the basis for the first three chapters of Tanya.
Commentaries interpreted the phrase “Nashbiyim oso” in three different manners: 1) the literal translation — the soul was given an oath; 2) By stressing the relationship between the word “Mashbiyim” and the word “Shivie”, the explanation “the soul was invested with seven powers” (an interpretation relevant to Tishrei which is the seventh month); and 3) the “Shin” of ‘Mashbiyim’ is read as a “Sin”, making the phrase read “the soul is made full”.