We have spoken many times concerning the greatness of the unity of Jews. Which comes to expression in an open manner in a farbrengen of many Jews.
On the other hand each Jew is a being unto himself, also according to Torah. The proof of this being that we see the difference between nine Jews, and ten Jews, until we reach the point where many Jews that gather together increases the honor of the king (Hashem).
In contrast to this we see that there has to be the aspect of unity. There has to be the carrying out of the command "Love your neighbor as yourself." The truth of the matter being that Israel are one being, like one body.
Also in Torah there are differences: The revealed and the hidden Torah, four levels of pardes, six hundred thousand explanations in Torah.
This difference of six hundred thousand is also connected with the six hundred thousand souls among Israel. Which is why we find differences in the preference of the learning certain parts of the Torah. Some people enjoy p'shat others sod etc..
Nevertheless, there is also the matter of unity in Torah.
The point of the matter being that having both differences and unity are not in contradiction one to the other. On the contrary, each one complements the other. In Torah the unifying point is to do all mitzvos with an awareness and fear of Hashem.
However this unity has to be in a visible form. This being through the gathering together of many different types of Jews. People who work, people who learn, and people who learn different things and who do different types of work. This also reaches the point until, as the Alter Rebbe says, "a chassidishe farbrengen can accomplish more than the angel Michoel can accomplish."
In addition to the greatness of unity that we have spoken about, this is more so in a gathering which is held in a time when it is in a opportune time for a gathering of unity.
This is brought out on a holy day. This is when the differences between Jews is nullified. An example being Shabbos compared to the week. Relating to the months, Elul brings out this point.
To preface: There are months that have in them Yom Tovim. There are those that have Yom Tovim from the Torah, and there are those that have Yom Tovim decreed by the Rabbis. But in Elul we don't find Yom Tovim.
The uniqueness of Elul compared to other months is: Elul is the month that there has to be an accounting for the whole year. This is a fitting preparation for Rosh HaShanah. This fact is applicable to all Jews. Therefore we see that the service of the month of Elul unifies all categories of Jews. Although the accounting is different by each one, nevertheless, the goal of each person is the same.
More importantly, each Jew is given a good sealing immediately on Rosh HaShanah. To explain in more detail the unity of Jews brought about by the service of Rosh HaShanah:
Our sages tell us that a talmid chocham who is involved a whole year in learning Torah, in Elul has to limit the amount of time he spends on Torah in order to increase in prayer and supplications.
In the learning of Torah there are differences in levels of understanding and abilities. Whereas in prayer everyone is equal. In addition to the fact that prayer emphasizes the nullification of ones being to Hashem. All this emphasizes the unity brought out by the month of Elul.
Another matter that is emphasized in Elul is tzedakah. In the month of Elul we are accustomed to increase in the giving of tzedakah. In the giving of tzedakah the aspect of unity is brought out in two ways. The first is that there is a unification between the giver and the receiver. This leads to brotherhood and peace. Unity is achieved between them even though there may be great differences between the giver and the receiver in terms of wealth or in spiritual levels.
The second point is that everyone is equally obligated to give tzedakah. Therefore, even though there are many different levels among the givers of tzedakah, being that the amount given depends on the financial resources of the giver, nevertheless, from the receivers viewpoint it doesn't matter to him if he receives tzedakah from a very wealthy person or from another poor person who is also obligated to give tzedakah. Regarding this mitzvah of giving all Jews are equal.
The unity achieved through tzedakah is even greater than that achieved through prayer. In prayer there are differences in eighteen blessings, prayers of the three weeks, Shabbos and Yom Tov etc.. This is not true relating to tzedakah. A person can fulfill the mitzvah in the same way the whole year by giving a coin to a poor person.
The matter of unity connected with Elul is emphasized by the fact that the letters that spell out Elul hint to all matters of service. This service being, in addition to tzedakah that was mentioned, the service of Torah and prayer. Also including teshuvah, and the redemption. All these five different things are united by one word, Elul.
In addition, alluding to all the above, the word Elul begins with the letter Aleph (Ç) which symbolizes unity. This infers that all the matters of Elul are relevant to everyone equally.
The concept of unity in Elul is emphasized on Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh Elul includes and unites all the matters of Elul, and is similar to the head of a person, which includes and unites all the limbs of the body.
Taking into account all the matters we have mentioned regarding Elul we can understand the great significance of this gathering being that it takes place on Rosh Chodesh Elul. This being a very auspicious time relating to the matter of unity.
In addition to the place that this gathering is being held. In a synagogue and Bais Midrash in which are many Jews are unified in prayer and learning Torah. Especially that it is the synagogue and Bais Midrash of the Previous Rebbe who unites all Jews.
Being that action is the main thing each person should make good resolutions that he will actually carry out. Through which we will merit to a good and sweet year in physical and spiritual matters. In addition to the most important thing being the redemption through Moshiach. All these matters should be done swiftly and quickly in our days.
Another point relating to the uniqueness of this year is the fact that this is a Shemittah year. During the course of six years each individual works on his own different fields. Whereas on the Shemittah these differences fall away, and the unity of everyone is seen.
This year the Shemittah year begins on Shabbos, being Rosh HaShanah. As a result, being that Rosh HaShanah includes and connects all the days of the year, thus all the days of this year have a connection with Shabbos. Therefore the unity of Shabbos permeates the entire year.
Relating to Rosh Chodesh Elul being on the third day of the week (Tuesday).
The unique aspect of the third day of the week is that it is the only day of the week that Hashem says that it was good twice. Good for the heavens and good for the earth. In other words this day unites all the different aspects of the creation.
In the lesson of the Torah that is learned today it talks about the matters of the tribe of Levi. Here we also see that even though Jews are separate and divided into twelve tribes they are all united by the songs of the Levites.
Concerning the unifying aspect of the tribe of Levi the Rambam states: "Not only the tribe of Levi alone, but every person that is nullified, and willingly stands in front of Hashem in order to serve Him, this person initiates the holiness of the holy of holies, and Hashem will give him an eternal inheritance." And he now acquires the merit of the Kohanim, and levities.
Therefore we see that all Jews have the ability to reach the level of the tribe of Levi, and even reach the holy of holies being the level of Aaron the Kohen Gadol. As result all Jews can become united on a supernal level.
All the things mentioned should lead to actual doing.
To begin with the custom of blowing the shofar from Rosh Chodesh Elul onwards. On Rosh Chodesh Elul Hashem told Moshe to go up on the mountain. Then there was the blowing of the shofar in the camp. Therefore the sages made a decree that there should be the blowing of the shofar every year, in order to warn Jews to do teshuvah.
To note, there are different customs of the blowing of the shofar, corresponding to the different opinions of when Moshe actually went up on the mountain. The custom of the Previous Rebbe is already well known that Chabad starts blowing the shofar on the second day of Elul. Nevertheless, we also blow on the first day in order to practice the blowing of the shofar. But even this blowing accomplishes the matters that the blowing of the shofar accomplishes. May this all lead to the blowing of the great shofar when Moshiach comes.
As was explained, in the month of Elul there has to be an accurate accounting of ones actions of the past year. This is in order to repair and complete any lackings. In order that this accounting should be true and complete there has to be set aside a proper time. This being the case, there has to be a lessening of time devoted to other matters, even though they may be in accordance with Shulchan Aruch. It is obvious that this is in order to be able to accomplish the matters that are required by the time, being the month of Elul. This is found in halachah that the involvement of a timely matter pushes away other activities.
Even more so, even a talmid chocham whose main involvement is Torah, has to set aside time from his Torah learning in order to increase in prayer and supplications, including the time to make an accurate accounting. This applies even more to every day matters that need to be set aside in order to make this accounting.
There are those that think that the only time this need be done is during the ten days of teshuvah, which is the most opportune time for teshuvah. Nevertheless, even this time requires a preparation, which is the whole month of Elul.
Therefore there has to be a lessening of other matters in the month of Elul in order to be able to accomplish what needs to be done.
There doesn't need to be asked of me questions that relate to matters that are found in the Shulchan Aruch. If one can't find an answer there, he should go to a rav. Concerning other matters one should ask knowledgeable friends. In matters of health a doctor should be asked, or two doctors.
However there are still those that will still ask in order to receive a signed answer to know that I thought about their question. They send a letter and they add on that if they don't receive a letter, and very soon, they will assume that the answer is such and such. This threat is made including many more conditions.
This threat can only be carried out if the letter is read. But since now we are in the month of Elul this is not the time, not only not to answer letters, but even not to read letters. Therefore this threat will not help. If there ever is a time to read a letter like this.
As the Previous Rebbe said, "there are times when letters cannot be read." If this was something private why were we informed of it? Rather it is to inform us not to make any assumptions on the not receiving of answers at certain times of the year. One should conduct oneself as we mentioned earlier.
We come to an additional question relating to the traveling here for the month of Tishrei. Especially since it is a Hak'hel year.
In regards to this there was already an answer given for many years, and since the answer was based on Shulchan Aruch it won't change from year to year.
Traveling here is only possible under the following conditions: Travel here will not detract from holy work affecting the congregation. Secondly, one should not go into debt. Even more so if we are talking about a debt that one is in doubt if he can pay. If it is clear to him that he can pay the debt, but he won't be able to rest because of it, he should ask his rav.
Relating to those who are married, they need to ask their wives if they want to go. The same also applies to children, they should ask the permission of their parents; following the teaching of honoring ones parents. If there is a question a rav should be consulted.
An additional condition for those that live in Eretz Yisrael is that they should ask a rav that lives in the holy land, being that he feels the importance of Eretz Yisrael, if it is permitted for them to leave.
May it be that we won't need all that was mentioned above since Moshiach will already be here, and we will return to the holy land.
All the above should be done with a very great simchah since Moshiach's coming is imminent. Simchah is the preparation for Moshiach's coming because simchah has the ability to break through boundaries, including the boundaries of this exile.
In addition, the service of teshuvah has to also include an increase in good deeds. Through teshuvah a person becomes a new being, therefore teshuvah helps to correct all matters since this is not the same person that sinned. Similarity, the increase in the doing of good things has to be in a new manner. Both relating to the learning of Torah, and the doing of mitzvos. So too one should be aroused in all the services of Elul.
Similarly relating to mivtzoyim. One should speak to others relating to all the matters of Elul. This should be in a way of sincerity and from the heart, as this is what will enter the other person's heart. He should also be a living example, and conduct himself in a proper manner. They also should be told that Hashem through His kindness has given us a whole month in which we can correct the past.
In this week we can learn that one should transform the lands outside of Israel.
As is stated in Iggeres HaKodesh (4) that prayer is an individual redemption, which is similar to the general redemption. This means to say that after one has done an accounting of himself, and done teshuvah, nevertheless he has to now also affect the outside world.
The Rambam explains (the end of Temurah), "Many laws of Torah where given to correct a persons character, and his actions." This being similar to correcting the land outside of Israel.
The difference between Israel and the other lands is: Israel shows on a unity with Hashem through doing mitzvos. As it says (Bereishis Rabbah 5:8) "Why is it called eretz, because it runs (ratz) to do Hashem's will." Whereas other lands show on a situation of separation, and being far away from Hashem.
Relating to a person's personal service, Eretz Yisrael represents all matters relating to holiness, being Torah and mitzvos. Other countries represent secular matters. The lesson for every Jew is that he has the ability to transform the other lands (secular matters) into the purity of Eretz Yisrael (make them holy).
A person should also realize that the whole purpose of this exile is only as a preparation of the ultimate redemption (a time of holiness). When we now act in a way of holiness even in lands outside of Israel, we effect their transformation.
As is the custom we will end this gathering with the giving of tzedakah. May it be that the resolution to give tzedakah effect the redemption. As it is stated "great is tzedakah that brings closer the redemption" (Bereishis Rabbah 10:1).
Camp Gan Yisrael
& Day Camps
2nd Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5747
The Alter Rebbe explains the theme of the month of Elul by way of a parable:
The King Greets Everyone with Affection
There was once a great king [who had travelled away from the royal city.] When the king was enroute [back] to the royal city he stopped for a while in the surrounding fields and all the citizens of his city travelled out to greet him and welcome him home.
In the field the king allows all who wish to personally greet him to approach, and the king receives everyone with a pleasant countenance and shows a friendly, smiling face to all. Later when he travels into the city all his subjects will accompany him.
Similarly, by way of analogy, during the month of Elul [the King is in the field] and we go out to greet the King and welcome the light of His Holy countenance, in the field. (Likkutei Torah, Devorim 32b)
This story teaches us an important lesson; the special quality of Elul: on every day of the month the Holy One, Blessed be He, conducts Himself like a human king who is "out in the field" and not in his throne room and palace. He looks to all the people He meets "in the field" with a shining, happy face and He openly shows His love and affection for every Jew.
Moreover, during the period of Elul every person has the potential to approach the King and to request all his needs. The King will certainly be ready to fulfill his request with a happy smile and joyous countenance.
This gives all those who are in the field the ability to accompany the King when he later makes his way back into the city.
This parable, taught by a Nassi of Israel, gives guidance to the Jewish people in all generations and it certainly should be understood by all Jews at all levels.
Small Children Will Run to See the King
Even small children can understand this parable. For if someone would inform each of you that the king of the land is now out in the field and anyone who wishes may go to greet him, face to face, and the king will receive everyone with a pleasant demeanor and smiling face and will fulfill all your requests, without doubt everyone of you will drop whatever you are doing and run to see the king.
It is also easy to portray the feelings of great happiness each child will experience when the king, in all his glory, greets him with warmth and friendliness, ready to hear and to grant his wishes.
This experience will definitely influence the child's conduct, and as good as he normally is -- he will act even better. When the child is with his father or teacher his respect and demeanor are much improved and he expresses his awe and love. How much more so, when he is in the presence of the king of the land who is king over his father and teacher as well.
This same idea and a similar experience will emerge when the children understand the analogue (nimshal) from this analogy (mashal). The month of Elul is a unique month when G-d takes on the role of "a king in the field" to greet all His subjects in a warm and friendly way.
Understand the Reality
Although the moral of this story is not clearly seen with human eyes it does not lose any of its reality. In fact, since we cannot see the King because of His supreme loftiness and aloofness, His closeness to us during Elul will engender an immeasurable love, longing and desire to fulfill His will in a manner which is incomparable to any human experience.
From the month of Elul onwards we carry with us this power and potential to carry out G-d's will all year round.
The commandment to "Love your neighbor as yourself" which is "an important rule in Torah" (as you have just recited) places the responsibility on each of you to influence other children. Tell them that the Alter Rebbe related the true fact that in Elul the King will greet every Jew with pleasure and with a smile.
Teach the World to be G-d's Delight
You should also impress upon the world -- heaven and earth -- the message which you received from the King, in His Torah: "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth," and the purpose of creation is: "May the L-rd find delight in His works," when the world conducts itself in a manner that will bring joy to the Creator.
And then "The Jews should rejoice in their Maker" -- a true joy -- when you merit to fulfill the mission of G-d to make a dwelling place for Him in the lower worlds.
G-d Draws Nachas from the Jewish Children
You may be certain that "Your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever." (Yeshayahu 60:21) For every Jew has a portion in Eretz Yisrael, and as the verse concludes: "They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which to take pride." The Holy One, Blessed be He, is proud of the Jewish children He meets in the field, for He sees that their behavior in the field is good and proper, and even more so when they reach the city, in the synagogue and house of study on Shabbos and Yom Tov.
All this hastens the decision of the King, who is the Supreme King of kings, to increase His blessings to each of you and through you to your parents, teachers and counsellors.
And from Rosh Chodesh Elul there will certainly be the blessing for a Kesivah V'chasimah Tovah, for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that a Jew must take a lesson from everything he sees. Since every Jew is a member of "the wise and understanding nation," he will surely discover how to apply this lesson in his Divine service to his Maker and will in fact carry out the teaching.
This, likewise, applies to small children who are also wise and understanding and are often referred to as the "youngsters in the school of the scholars." The references (in Talmud, etc.) to those "youngsters" give guidance even to the elder scholars as well as to the youngsters themselves who are motivated to emulate the good examples from the stories.
Our Personal Shoftim
Just as we see the differences in the months of the year, so too are there differences in the days of the week. When we want to know the special theme and content of a particular day we must look to the Torah and analyze the portion of the Torah designated for that day.
Today's Torah section is Revi'i, the fourth reading section of Shoftim. The portion of Shoftim gives us the general message to appoint judges and police in all our cities. In our Divine service this represents the symbolic "guards" which a person must appoint for himself/herself, and whenever one has a question on how to act he must consult his guard and judge -- the "Torah of light" which is "Torah of life."
For example, when you wake up Torah tells you to thank G-d for being alive: "I offer thanks to You...for You have mercifully restored my soul within me." After that all your activities during the day will follow the path of G-d who restored your soul.
When you go to eat or drink you must first check whether the food is kosher or not and then you must say the proper berachah (blessing), and so on through the day.
In the section we study today we find the following:
A Kohen, no matter where he lives among all the Israelites, can come to the place that G-d shall choose on a festival or whenever else he wishes to [bring his own sacrifice]. He can then serve before G-d his L-rd just the same as any of his fellow Kohanim whose turn it is to serve before G-d. (Devorim 18:6-7)
Rashi explains to us the plain meaning of this verse:
Can...Serve -- This teaches that a Kohen may come and offer his free will and obligatory sacrifices even at a time when the Kohanic rota is in charge to which he does not belong. Another explanation: It further teaches regarding Kohanim who appear in the Temple at the festivals that they may offer and do the services connected with the sacrifices that are offered on account of the festival, as, for instance the Mussaf -- additional offerings due on festivals -- although the rota is not theirs. (Rashi, loc. cit.)
Normally in the time of the Beis HaMikdash all the Kohanic families were divided into 24 groups and each group was given a set time by rotation (rota) to serve in the Beis HaMikdash.
This verse tells us that when an individual Kohen who is not on duty leaves his home and comes to the Beis HaMikdash to offer a voluntary or obligatory sacrifice he is given the right to do so out of turn. And since his good desire has motivated him to come to the Temple, then during the holidays he may even serve with the special offerings brought on that day.
Devote Yourself to G-d -- and You Will Merit to Serve Him
Nowadays, when we have no Beis HaMikdash, if a person devotes his body and soul, home and surroundings to be a place for the Shechinah, then even if some aspect of spiritual service would normally be done by someone else -- he can merit to do it.
The Rambam explains this concept:
Not only the tribe of Levi but also each and every individual...whose spirit moves him...to set himself apart in order to stand before the L-rd, to serve Him, to worship Him...such an individual is consecrated to the holy of holies and his portion and inheritance shall be in the L-rd forever and evermore..."You guided my destiny." (Laws of Sabbatical and Jubilee Year 13:13)
Levi'im all -- Close to G-d
This role, of being a Levite, close to the Holy One, Blessed be He, is in the potential of every Jew. It is even possible to be sanctified like a Kohen Gadol to G-d. Then G-d will guide him and support him and provide the wherewithal to do more Torah and mitzvos by eliminating the problems of the Yetzer Hora; he becomes healthy spiritually and physically, so that he acts as a Jew should all day.
Hopefully this attitude of serving G-d in the manner of the Levi (Kohen) will usher in the time when the Kohanim will once again go up to the House of G-d, the Third Beis HaMikdash, may it be built speedily in our days. And then we will all ascend -- "our youth and elders, sons and daughters" -- "a great crowd" -- at the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.