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The Letter Sent Out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
25th Day of Elul, 5744

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech
25th Day of Elul, 5744

Nshei Ubnos Chabad
27th Day of Elul, 5744

Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5745

Sichos In English
Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Vol. 22 Tammuz-Elul, 5744


Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech
25th Day of Elul, 5744


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  The Letter Sent Out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
25th Day of Elul, 5744
Nshei Ubnos Chabad
27th Day of Elul, 5744
 

1. Shabbos parshas Nitzavim has a unique relationship to Rosh Hashanah, as noted in Likkutei Torah, at the beginning of parshas Nitzavim: You are all standing (nitzavim) this day, etc. This parshah is always read before Rosh Hashanah, and this is alluded to in the words this day, which refer to Rosh Hashanah, for This is the day which is the beginning of Your work, a remembrance of the first day.

The same idea is propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, from whom the Maggid heard it, from whom in turn the Alter Rebbe heard it, and which was transmitted from generation to generation until made public to all Jews by the previous Rebbe. The Baal Shem Tov taught: The seventh month ... G-d Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevarchim, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul. That blessing is: You are all standing this day this day referring to Rosh Hashanah, which is the Day of Judgment, as written, It was this day and the Targum renders this phrase as It was the great Day of Judgment. And you are standing existing and standing i.e., meritorious in judgment. And on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul, we then read You are standing for this is G-ds blessing.

The lofty nature of this Shabbos, then, is that on it we read You are all standing this day, which is G-ds blessing for the seventh month. Further, the Baal Shem Tov adds, With this strength (the strength of G-ds blessing for the seventh month) Israel blesses the months eleven times a year.

Shabbos Mevarchim blesses the coming month. The difference between Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei (the seventh month) and Shabbos Mevarchim of the other months is that on the latter, Israel blesses the month; i.e., the blessing from above is generated by the service of the Jews. On the former, it is G-d who blesses the month i.e., a blessing so lofty that it cannot be generated by the service of Jews, and in which Jews play absolutely no part and therefore do not even participate in blessing it.

This is in contrast to the situation where a blessing, although not generated by Jews, is transmitted through Jews. The priestly blessing, for example, is drawn down to Jews through the benediction pronounced by the priests. It is G-ds blessing; priests are but G-ds agents through which the blessing is transmitted. Thus, even a priest who is a sinner may and should bless the people, for the receiving of the blessing is not dependent on the priests, but on G-d, as it is said, And I shall bless them. Chassidus explains that the priestly blessing is of the loftiest of levels and yet, this blessing is transmitted through the utterance of flesh and blood people, the priests, and needs also the presence of the people to hear the blessing pronounced.

In contrast, G-ds blessing of the seventh month on Shabbos Mevarchim is not only not generated by Jews, but is not even transmitted through them. Jews play absolutely no part in this blessing; they do not even hear it. This blessing is Purely from G-d. through G-d.

Despite the lofty nature of this blessing, it penetrates to the lowest depths. G-ds blessing for the seventh month, we have noted, is that You are all standing this day, which means that Jews are meritorious in judgment. And it is explained in Likkutei Torah (based on Hagoas Maimonis) that a Person on Rosh Hashanah is judged only on matters of this world. In other words, G-ds blessing, a blessing that comes from above without mans service, a blessing of the loftiest level, affects material matters.

There is a further aspect to the blessing for the seventh month, which penetrates to the lowest levels: Despite it being a blessing from above, without Jews saying or even hearing anything (unlike the priestly blessing), it is nevertheless a matter known to all; we talk about it, and it is even written and printed, for this teaching of the Baal Shem Tovs was revealed by the previous Rebbe to this generation. Because we have been told about it, it must have some relevance to Jews service to G-d, for if not, why would it be necessary to know what G-d does on Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei?

We can understand the relevance of Jews service to a blessing from above in which Jews play no part, by analyzing the continuation of the verse You are all standing this day to bring you into the covenant. A covenant is the idea of two people who love each other who make a covenant between them so that their love should not cease ... for now that they have entered a covenant and bond, it is as if they have become one flesh. This is the idea of to bring you into the covenant in parshas Nitzavim it is a covenant and bond between G-d and Israel, to the extent that they become one entity.

Since Israel and G-d are one, even a blessing which comes only from above without any input from Jews is relevant to their service. Hence, the previous Rebbes enactments for Shabbos Mevarchim (to recite Tehillim and to hold a farbrengen) apply also to Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei, although this month is blessed by G-d Himself.

In the light of the above, we can understand the lofty nature of the farbrengen held on Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei. Any farbrengen of Jews, at any time, is an extremely lofty thing, for a farbrengen can effect more than can Michoel, the angel of Israel. But the farbrengen of Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei is not just between Jews, but a farbrengen of Jews together with G-d. In this, too, there are the two extremes discussed above: On the one hand, it is a farbrengen together with G-d, the ultimate in loftiness. On the other hand, Jews input is also present, for a farbrengen literally means appointment or meeting implying that in addition to G-d being present, Jews too are necessary. Also, the farbrengen is associated with physical things wine through which closeness between the participants is engendered, as our sages say, Great is a mouthful [of drink] org draws close.

That G-ds blessing of the seventh month is relevant to Jews service, is emphasized by the continuation of the Baal Shem Tovs teaching, that With this strength, Israel blesses the months eleven times a year. Although it is a blessing solely from above, with Jews playing no part in it, it is their task to extend this blessing to the eleven months of the year i.e., to translate the general nature of this blessing into the particular blessings for each of the other eleven months.

There are various steps in this process. First, Jews must take the general blessing, as it stands on Rosh Hashanah, when there is no discernible differentiation into months, and break it down into months. Then they must further break it down from months in general into eleven months of the year. Even after its differentiation into the eleven months of the year. it is the same blessing as it is on Rosh Hashanah G-ds blessing, transcending all limits. For although all the blessings for the months are potentially in G-ds blessing for the seventh month, the ultimate goal is for the potential to be translated into actuality.

This helps explain a puzzling point: We said above that the words this day refer to Rosh Hashanah. This directly contradicts its plain meaning, which is that it refers to the day on which Moshe spoke to the Jews, the seventh of Adar an ordinary day, not necessarily Shabbos, and certainly not a festival or Rosh Hashanah.

But according to what we have said above, that the blessing for Rosh Hashanah You are all standing this day should be extended by Jews throughout the year, this contradiction is resolved. Even an ordinary day (the plain meaning of this day) should be special, to the extent that it reaches the heights of This is the day which is the beginning of Your work, the great Day of Judgment i.e., every day becomes like Rosh Hashanah.

The above explanations of the lofty nature of this Shabbos should be expressed in the service of every Jew. Learning and knowing these matters is not enough; one must follow our sages directive (Avos 1:17), Not study, but practice is the essential thing. And the lesson for actual practice is that every Jew should increase in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos, for this is the concept of to bring you into the covenant the covenant concerning the observance of Torah and mitzvos. Likewise, one should increase in efforts to disseminate Judaism, to convince other Jews to also express within themselves the covenant to observe Torah and mitzvos, as written: You are all standing this day all as one, with love and unity.

* * *
2. We noted above that there are two extremes in Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei. On the one hand, it is the loftiest of blessings, stemming solely from above. On the other hand, it penetrates and affects the lowest regions. This is emphasized by the fact that this blessing is given on Shabbos Mevarchim of the seventh month ... which is the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah (although the actual blessing You are all standing this day refers to Rosh Hashanah itself).

The very institution of Shabbos Mevarchim, that on the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh an announcement is made concerning when will be Rosh Hashanah, is something that is connected with exile and within the exile, the most intense part. When the months were sanctified by visual testimony in the times of the Beis HaMikdash the concept of Shabbos Mevarchim could not exist, for they did not know what day would be Rosh Chodesh until witnesses came and testified that they saw the birth of the moon. Thus the institution of Shabbos Mevarchim did not exist in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. Moreover, even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, there was a period of time when they still sanctified the moon by visual testimony (as long as there were remnants of the times of the Beis HaMikdash). Hence the concept of Shabbos Mevarchim was not instituted until the darkness of exile intensified to the degree that they could no longer sanctify the months by visual testimony, but by a fixed calendar, when they knew in advance when would be Rosh Chodesh. It thus transpires that the institution of Shabbos Mevarchim resulted from the descent into exile.

Yet, G-ds blessing for the seventh month, a blessing of the highest magnitude, loftier even than the priestly blessing, is given (not on Rosh Hashanah, to which the contents of the blessing refers, but) on Shabbos Mevarchim, a time which reflects the lowest depths of exile! This is most puzzling: The blessing for the seventh month stems from above, where the exile has no place. What, then, is its connection to Shabbos Mevarchim, which epitomizes the idea of exile?

There is a general principle that the loftier a matter, the lower it falls. The priestly blessing, for example, is, as noted previously, a blessing that transcends the regular order of things and for this reason, its effect is felt in the lowest of regions, even in material matters: The L-rd bless you that your possession be blessed; and guard you from destroyers, implying that the blessing extends to the lowest regions, where there are destroyers.

G-ds blessing of You are all standing this day is loftier even than the priestly blessing, for it comes without any intermediary help of Jews (unlike the priestly blessing, which is transmitted through the priests uttering the blessing). That is why this blessing extends to the lowest of all places, lower even than that reached by the priestly blessing a time associated with the most intense descent of exile, the time of Shabbos Mevarchim.

What does this teach concerning service to G-d? When a Jew is told that he should spread Judaism and Chassidus to the outside, he may respond that he is ready to help Jews who are on a low level, but only on the condition that there be some relationship between their stations in life, albeit he is on a much higher spiritual plane than the one he is ready to help. But if the person is on such a low spiritual level that they are worlds apart he is unable, he claims, to help such a person.

Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei, on which G-d blesses the seventh month, teaches otherwise. Just as G-ds blessing, which is so lofty that it transcends the definitions of lower or upper, extends to the lowest regions to Shabbos Mevarchim which is connected to the lowest degree of exile so the ultimate goal in the dissemination of Judaism and Chassidus is that they should reach the lowest levels, even to a Jew who is on the lowest of spiritual planes.

This concept is expressed also in the priestly blessing, which is a most lofty blessing affecting material matters. But because G-ds blessing for the seventh month is loftier yet, it extends even lower. The priestly blessing can be given only in the presence of a congregation, which carries great distinction; simultaneously, it extends to the lowest levels, for the letters of the word in Hebrew for congregation tzibbur are the initial letters of tzaddikim (the righteous), benonim (average people), ureshoim (and the wicked). G-ds blessing for the seventh month, however, is not associated with a congregation, for it is on a level still loftier; therefore it extends to the lowest of levels not just to the level of a congregation, where the wicked have at least some connection to the others (ureshoim and the wicked implying the wicked are joined to the righteous and the average people), but to a level so low that it has absolutely no connection to higher levels.

Whence Jews have the strength to disseminate Judaism and Chassidus to all places, even the lowest, is explained in the latter part of the above quoted teaching of the Baal Shem Tov And with this strength Jews bless the month eleven times a year. As explained previously, this means that the task of Jews is to reveal and break down G-ds blessing from its general nature into the particular i.e., that the blessing should not remain the way it is on Rosh Hashanah, a general one, but should be revealed below, in each of the eleven months of the year.

The wherewithal to do so, the Baal Shem Tov says, comes from G-d With this strength, with the strength of G-d who blesses the seventh month. Since G-ds blessing for the seventh month is of the loftiest level, and therefore penetrates to the lowest depths, Jews, who have G-ds strength, can also bring the loftiest matters to the lowest levels. Moreover, not only do Jews have G-ds strength, but each Jew is G-ds emissary and the emissary of a person is as himself. In the words of our sages (Bereishis Rabbah 16:3): The kings servant is a king.

This is also the connection with the idea of to bring you into the covenant. As explained above, the covenant between Jews and G-d means that they become one entity, thereby giving Jews the power to draw down the loftiest matters into the lowest levels.

* * *
3. The first verse of parshas Nitzavim (Devarim 29:9) states: You are all standing this day before the L-rd your G-d. An obvious question is: What does it mean before the L-rd your G-d? R. Ibn Ezra and Ramban both address themselves to this question, and answer that before the L-rd your G-d means around (or before) the ark.

R. Ibn Ezras commentary on Scripture, while usually addressed to the plain interpretation of the verse, also includes some esoteric matters. Ramban has many homiletic and esoteric interpretations in his commentary. If these two commentators found it necessary to explain what the words before the L-rd your G-d mean, then certainly Rashi, whose entire commentary is based on the plain interpretation of the verse, should make some comment to inform us what before the L-rd your G-d means in the plain interpretation of Scripture.

Yet Rashi makes no comment. Moreover, in his interpretation of the earlier words of the verse, You are [all] standing, he seems to negate the interpretation offered by R. Ibn Ezra and Ramban. He writes: This teaches that Moshe assembled them before the Holy One, blessed be He on the day of his death to initiate them into the covenant. Rashis comment, This teaches that Moshe assembled them before the Holy One, blessed be He, is seemingly redundant, for the verse itself explicitly says, You are all standing this day before the L-rd your G-d.... We therefore conclude that Rashis intention in writing this is to emphasize that the words before the L-rd your G-d in this verse mean exactly that before the Holy One, blessed be He and do not mean before the ark or any other such interpretation (as Rashi himself has interpreted the words before the L-rd on various verses see Shmos 16:33, Vayikra 1:5, Bamidbar 5:18). Thus the question remains: According to Rashi, just what does before the L-rd your G-d mean?

On the other hand, what Rashi does write on this verse is puzzling. As noted above, he interprets the words You are [all] standing as This teaches us that Moshe assembled them before the Holy One, blessed be He, on the day of his death to initiate them into the covenant. This comment seems totally superfluous, for everything Rashi writes is explicitly recorded in Scripture. Moshe assembled them the verse states You are all standing this day; before the Holy One, blessed be He the verse states before the L-rd your G-d; on the day of his death the verse (Devarim 31:2 a continuation of the entire passage) states: I am a hundred and twenty years old today (i.e., on this day I was born and on this day I will die); to initiate them into the covenant the verse states to bring you into the covenant. Yet Rashi not only writes all these seemingly superfluous comments, but prefaces them with the words This teaches you as if there is something new to be learned here!

The Explanation

When one learns the verse You are all standing this day, a simple question arises. This verse follows the end of the previous parshah, Sovo, in which it states (Devarim 29:1): Moshe summoned all Israel, and said to them. If Moshe had already summoned the people and was speaking to them, why does he now say in the middle of his speech that You are standing?

Rashi answers by saying, This teaches that Moshe assembled them. The words You are standing are not superfluous; they are there to teach us that it was a special assembly, in addition to the one described earlier by the words Moshe summoned all Israel.

Why did they need a special assembly? Its purpose was not that Moshe should address the Jews (as earlier Moshe summoned all Israel, and he said to them), but, Rashi says, it was to initiate them into the covenant. When Moshe normally spoke to the Jews to tell them about a mitzvah, for example, not all Jews were necessarily present. Moshe could have addressed the Sanhedrin, who in turn would pass on his words to the rest of the people. Even when Moshe spoke to the community at large, the men only were present, not the women and children.

Initiating the Jews into the covenant, the covenant between Jewry and G-d, however, was something that applied to every single Jew, men, women, and child. Thus a special assembly was necessary, one in which all Jews would be present as explicitly recorded in Scripture: You are all standing this day before the L-rd your G-d ... all the men of Israel, your children and your women.

Now we can also understand why Rashi says this happened on the day of his death. There is no necessity that an ordinary communication from Moshe to the Jews should take place on the day of his death specifically. But to initiate them into the covenant is special, for the covenant would apply principally to the time after Moshes death. Thus Rashi must note that it took place on the day of his death for that was the last opportunity he would have to do so.

It is also clear now why Rashi does not interpret the words before the L-rd your G-d as meaning before the ark, and, indeed, specifically negates this interpretation by writing before the Holy One, blessed be He. Since this assembly comprised all Israel, men, women and children, it could not have taken place before the ark, because there simply would not have been enough room to accommodate all the people. Instead, since G-d is everywhere, the people could have been initiated anywhere in the camp, for they still would have been before the L-rd your G-d.


  The Letter Sent Out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
25th Day of Elul, 5744
Nshei Ubnos Chabad
27th Day of Elul, 5744
 
  
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