Adapted from Likkutei Sichos,
Vol. IV, Parshas Nitzavim;
Vol. XIX, Sukkos
On Rosh HaShanah, our divine service revolves around the acceptance of G-d as King. Throughout the year, we regard G-d's sovereignty as an established fact and we relate to Him through His edicts, the mitzvos. On Rosh HaShanah, however, we focus on the essence of our relationship with G-d, accepting His sovereignty in an act of homage that encompasses our entire existence. In making this commitment, the fundamental G-dly spark at the core of our being comes to the surface.
This expression of our spiritual potential has an effect in the human realm as well as in our relationship with G-d. In paying homage to a mortal king, the most august of nobles and the humblest of subjects bow together; their joint act of submission efficiently levels them. By the same token, all Jews, regardless of their differing levels of understanding and self-refinement, are joined in the unifying act of accepting G-d's sovereignty.
The bond which unites different individuals extends beyond the shared act of homage. At the deep-seated level of the soul where man is one with G-d, there is no division between one man and another. Recognizing our unity with G-d in the king-subject relationship thus reveals the internal unity which binds the entire Jewish people.
The unity of the Jewish people may be clearly pictured by means of the classic analogy with the functioning of the human body.
Although the body comprises organs of diverse structure and function, all these components operate together as a single living organism. By the same token, though the Jewish people is made up of numerous individuals, each with his own distinctive nature, it functions as a single, vibrant unit.
The unity of the human body is manifest in two ways. First, although the limbs and organs differ in form and function, they work in complementary harmony, each contributing a necessary element to the operation of the body. The feet, for example, provide the mobility through which the senses are exposed to a greater range of stimuli enabling the brain to collect and process information.
Secondly, the unity of the body is manifest by a collective consciousness of self, an "I". The various organs do not perceive themselves as independent, separate entities, but as parts of an organic whole. When a person stubs his toe, not only his foot feels the pain.
The collective Jewish body is also characterized by both these kinds of unity. The divergent qualities and personalities which characterize individual Jews are complementary. Even as we function as individuals, we are part of a greater collective entity to which our differences contribute.
Our awareness of this shared identity should affect the quality of our relationships with others. Every Jew has his own unique potential and personality. When an individual sees himself and others as joined in a collective, he can appreciate the differentiating characteristics, seeing them as resources to be shared by all, not as sources of competition and strife.
Jewish unity is also manifested at a deeper level in the fundamental oneness of soul shared by every one of us. We each have a share in the unique "I" - not the "I" of our individual, subjective consciousness, but the true "I" of the G-dly potential that exists equally in all of us.
Each of the above dimensions of unity has its own merits. At the first level, there are obvious differences between the various organs, i.e., between individual Jews; here the unity results not from an overshadowing of the parts, but from their interrelationship and interdependence. From this perspective, the unity of the second level, in which the body operates with a single consciousness, appears to be more complete.
The first level, however, is superior to the second in that it permits the possibility of unity even in a bodily sense. The unity of an overriding consciousness does not acknowledge the separateness of each part of the body. By contrast, the oneness which is a function of interrelationship and interdependence does not negate the individual part even while maintaining unity. By the same token, the Jewish people are united not only at the point in the soul which transcends each individual's existence. Our unity can be maintained even within the context of our separate identities. Even in the realm where we appear to be separate and distinct from one another - i.e., as we exist in the natural world - we are unified and share a commonalty.
The two dimensions of unity are related. Because we share a single essence - the "part" of our souls which is "part" of G-d - we can be joined by bonds of oneness even as we function within our individual identities. However, only our day-to-day awareness of our shared identity and common purpose makes it possible for us to appreciate this essential, spiritual bond that we share.
Rosh HaShanah is (literally) "the head of the year," a time when we focus on the core of our relationships, both with G-d and with our fellow man. For this reason, the second, transcendent type of unity is highlighted at this time. Just as the head controls the functioning of the diverse limbs of the body, focusing on our inner unity on Rosh HaShanah leads to cooperation and common efforts throughout the days of the coming year.
Rosh HaShanah is a day of judgment, the time at which G-d determines our future in the year to come. By standing unified, together as one people, we bring about a year of blessings. As we say in our prayers,
"Bless us, our Father, all as one."
The Baal Shem Tov explains this concept by likening G-d's relationship with the Jewish people to that of a father with many children. When is the father truly happy? - When he sees all of his children relating to one another lovingly. In the same way, the Baal Shem Tov explains, when G-d observes the unity of our people and perceives the bonds of genuine love that connect us together, His joy finds expression in abundant blessings for success in all our endeavors for the coming year. This, of course, includes the ultimate blessing, the coming of the Redemption. May it take place in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) See the above essay entitled "At One with the King."
- (Back to text) See the Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4; Likkutei Torah of the AriZal, Parshas Kedoshim, Taamei HaMitzvos; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Nitzavim.
- (Back to text) The daily liturgy. As explained in Tanya, ch. 32, the very fact of being joined "together as one" makes us worthy of Divine blessings.
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 157.