Parshiot Nitzavim & Vayeilech - United we stand
Seven - pommegranates
SHALOM U'VRACHA MI'YERUSHALAYIM!
Dear friends "ad 120 b'simcha"
We wish you and all of Israel a great last Shabbos of this year and a wonderful New Year in all matters both mundane and spiritual.
Every year, as Rosh Hashana approached closer Reb Shlomo zt"l used to implore us again and again, that when we bless one another to be inscribed in the Book of Life, it should be the highest and deepest moments of Rosh Hashanah. He used to say that our blessings can keep one another alive.
As we are about to begin our last Shabbos of the year 5774, we pray that it should be a most special and joyous Shabbos. It is good to take a moment to thank Hashem for the wonderful opportunities we have been blessed with to receive the gift of Shabbos, and to look forward to a New Year of ever more enlightening and beautiful Shabbatot.
We wish you all to be inscribed in the Book of the Living, with abundant material and spiritual livelihood in the best of health and simcha tamid,
"You are all standing today before Hashem your G-d, all of you, your leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Yisrael; your children, your wives and the convert that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water. To pass you through [to enter] in the covenant of Hashem your G-d, and His oath, that Hashem your G-d is cutting with you today. In order that He establish you today unto Himself as a nation, and He will be unto you a G-d, as He has spoken to you and as He has sworn to your ancestors, to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov. [Devarim 29:9-12]
"All of you", that is everyone of us, from our greatest leaders to our most simple, holy simple heart warming wood choppers and thirst quenching water carriers. All of us are standing together, not only those of you who are present here today, but also whoever is not here yet today.
"Today", our holy Rebbes teach us, refers to Rosh Hashanah, the "day of judgment." All of us, whatever state we are in, in a state of "mochin de'gadlus" higher consciousness or in a state of "mochin de'katnus" small mindedness; in our creative states and in our simple labour states, as leaders, as followers, as woodchoppers, as water carriers, all of us are standing before G-d, TODAY!
"All of you", that is every one of us, from our greatest leaders to our most simple, holy simple heart warming wood choppers and thirst quenching water carriers. All of us are standing together, entering the covenant. But וְלֹא אִתְּכֶם לְבַדְּכֶם--אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת אֶת-הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת, וְאֶת-הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת it is not with you alone am I cutting this covenant - כִּי אֶת-אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנוֹ פֹּה, עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיּוֹם לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ הַיּוֹם. This covenant is being made with those of you who are present here today and also with whoever is not here today.
All of us, individually and collectively, whatever state we are in, in a state of "mochin de'gadlus" higher consciousness or in a state of "mochin de'katnus" small mindedness; in our creative states and in our simple labour states, as leaders, as followers, as woodchoppers, as water carriers, all of us are standing before G-d, TODAY!
"Today", our holy Rebbes teach us, also refers to Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah, all together, we re-experience standing before Hashem, as we did together with Moshe Rabbeinu on the last day of his life on earth. As Reb Shlomo would often say ‘let’s go higher and deeper’ to understand this better. What does it mean to stand before Hashem? Is this an individual or collective experience? What is the truth of such an experience?
The Alter Rebbe - Reb Scheur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Essence of Rosh Hashanah
There are many aspects to Rosha Hashanah. Among others, Rosh Hashanah is known as יום הדין – the day of judgment; it is the first of the ’10 days of Tshuvah’; it is the day of creation of Adam and Eve. But what is its essence?
All the Torah actually tells us about the holy day Rosh Hashanah is that it is יום זכרון תרועה – a day of rememberance of the sounding of the Shofar. מצוות היום בשופר – the essence mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to blow the shofar.
Chassidut explains- the essence of this mitzvah of blowing the shofar is to coronate Hashem as our King, and King of the entire Universe. To crown Hashem implies our acceptance of the ‘yoke of the Kingdom of heaven’ upon ourselves. On the superficial level this means that we accept the responsibility to live with and fulfil Hashem’s commandments as best as we can. Now let’s try to go deeper.
In the synagogue the shofar is blown, before the Mussaf prayer, during the Mussaf prayer and again during the repetition of the Mussaf by the chazzan. This is based on Rabbah’s ruling found in the Talmud Bavli, Rosh Hashana 34b:
“Rabbah said: God proclaimed: Recite before Me on the New Year kingship, remembrance and shofar verses; kingship verses to declare Me king over you; remembrance verses, that the remembrance of you may come before Me for good; and through what? Through the shofar.”
To declare Hashem’s kingship, we recite the Biblical verses of kingship and the recitation must be accompanied with the blowing of the Shofar – for it is the blowing of the Shofar that accomplishes the Coronation of Hashem as our King.
How are we to understand this? What are the deeper lessons of this mitzvah in serving Hashem and how are we to apply them?
In the year 5562  the Alter Rebbe delivered a ma-amar [Chassidic discourse] entitled “Atem Nitzavim Hayom.” The essence of this discourse is encapsulated in the verse: לְךָ, אָמַר לִבִּי--בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי - אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ ה' אֲבַקֵּשׁ – On Your behalf, my heart said: Seek My face – Your face Hashem, I shall seek.” Psalms 27:8. As we have already learned, the word פנים – ‘panim’ which means face, can also be read as פנים – ‘pnim’ which means the inside – it is really the same word, just pronounced differently, for the face reveals the inside. Thus the deeper reading of this verse teaches us that on Rosh Hashanah every Jew needs to [dis-cover] reveal his innermost connection- in the deepest depths of his soul with the innermost essence of Hashem.
Reb Shlomo זצ"ל was a master in giving over the deepest Torah and Chassidut. He made their deepest teachings accessible to us, so that we could at least have a little taste of their beauty and depth. Reb Shlomo revealed depths of Yiddishkeit we had never before known or understood, he showed us how deep it is to be a Yid.
In לב השמים – חגי תשרי p. 87-89, Reb Shlomo discusses the meaning of the R. Kruspedai’s statement said in the name of R. Johanan: “Three books are opened [in heaven] on New Year, one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for the intermediate. צדיקים גמורים- the thoroughly righteous are immediately inscribed and sealed in the ‘book of life’; the thoroughly wicked are forthwith inscribed and sealed in the book of death; the fate of the intermediate is suspended from New Year till the Day of Atonement; if they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.” Rosh Hashana 16b.
Who are these צדיקים גמורים- the thoroughly righteous? They are the ones who believe with complete faith that everything that Hashem gives us is הסד חינם – free [altruistic] kindness! They do not think or believe that Hashem owes them anything. They trust with complete faith that Hashem is good and is always wanting to ‘do good’. They have complete trust and faith that Hashem wants to give a שנה טובה – a good year, just because he wants to give – chessed chinam – free kindness, it’s beyond whether we earned it or not.
The entire act of Creation is an act of חסד חינם – altruistic kindness, for before creation there was no one who could claim they earned Hashem’s kindness. Hashem’s ongoing Creation was and is pure altruistic kindness.
This will help us understand better the ‘face to face – inside to inside’ relationship. Your calling ‘seek My Face’ arouses me to seek my deepest soul essence, my חלק אלוקה ממעל ממש – my soul which is a veritable part of You from above. Yes Hashem, I seek and will always seek to connect with Your deepest essence – Your חסד חינם free altruistic kindness. I seek to realize true unity with You Hashem- unity that is beyond any and all degrees of separation, unity beyond all worldly understanding.
In discovering our deepest soul essence connection with Hashem, we reach beyond the familiar conditional and transactional relationship models, beyond ‘I deserve’ or ‘don’t deserve’. Such relationships are based on an inherent separation- between me and You, between you and I.
But when a Jew reaches the level of פנים אל פנים ‘pnim el pnim’ – inside to inside and discovers that Hashem is all about חסד חינם altruistic kindness, then he too wants to do exactly the same, he too wants to be altruistic. He wants to be a channel for Hashem’s kindness. He wants the whole world to know Hashem’s kindness, and he wants to share it with all. This is the level of the complete tzadddik, and it is natural that he is immediately inscribed and sealed in the ‘Book of Life’.
Now the Alter Rebbe says further that when our souls return to our source and root ‘before Hashem’ and we stand all together before Hashem, we realize that the unity on the side of Kedusha- holiness is a complete and true unity. We realize that no one is complete without the other. If G-d forbid even one soul is missing from ‘knesset Yisrael’ – the community of souls of Israel, then not only is the community incomplete, every individual is incomplete; for we are all a part of the One and all together we make up the complete body of Israel, individually and collectively. Every individual has something that no one else has. Therefore, the Rabbis say: “Be humble before each person!” Without humility you cannot receive that vital part which you are lacking; you can get it only from the other. And you too have to contribute your special qualities to ‘knesset Yisrael’, you too have to be there ‘before Hashem’.
Thus Rabbi Akiva said: “ואהבת לרעך כמוך – love your fellow as yourself – this is the great principle of the Torah!” And Hillel said: “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others – this is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary, go and study!” G-d desires to have a dwelling place here on earth, the lowest of all worlds, and we are the ones who have been given the responsibility to manifest this. We do this by declaring that Hashem is our King and accepting the yoke of His kingship- the yoke of Torah and mitzvot upon ourselves.
Now Reb Shlomo goes further and explains why we do this with the sound of the shofar. Before Hashem uttered the first utterance of creation there was His breath. The sound of the shofar is the sound of His breath, it is the sound of His חסד חינם – free kindness. To listen to the sound of the shofar, is to hear this truth of Hashem, that His kindness and our relationship is beyond conditions – it is true unity, between us and Hashem, between us and all of Israel, between us and each other, between us and the Holy Land of Eretz Yisrael.
May we all be blessed to really be present before Hashem as we listen to the sound of the shofar. May we all be blessed to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet New Year.
Oh G-d, please embrace us, with a loving embrace, a healing embrace to remember that day when we were standing there all together; to remind us that TODAY too we are standing before You. Give us the strength to embrace You and Your love and truth. Give us please, the strength to return to You, to reaffirm our commitment to You, to our brothers and sisters, to our parents to our holy children and to Your Torah, in joy with strength and love. Please bless us with the quick arrival of Mashiach, in our days, and the rebuilding of Your Holy Temple. Amen Kein Yehi Ratzon.
The Secret for Standing Together as One! - in one word.....
Anavah- to be truly humble before every one!!!!
Reb Shlomo learning
From Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l:
SONGS OF THE HOLY TEMPLE
New York, Elul 5748 - Reprinted from Cong Kehilath Jacob News
So, how long ago was last Rosh Hashana? How long ago were we together for 24 hours and at the end heard the trumpet of the Messiah? How long ago did we kindle the lights of Chanuka? How many minutes ago were we drunk on Purim and ate matza on Pesach? The truth is, it was a second ago; and the truth of the truth is, all the holidays are with us all year long. A Jew always blows a shofar, a Jew fasts all year, a Jew sits in the Sukka all his life, a Jew dances with the Torah into all eternities.
So we are inviting each other again for an even deeper Rosh Hashana / Yom Kippur, a more heavenly Sukkos, and a more beyond heaven Simchas Torah. When I was a little boy, I always asked my father, "Where are the songs of the Holy Temple?" And I never got a good answer because I could not believe that Jews can live without at least our- song from the Holy Temple, a song of King David, a song of beyond time and space, a song that reminds us that we are part of G-d.
A few years ago, late at night, I saw a frail Jew by the Holy Wall who drew my attention. He really prayed. I waited until he finished and he began telling me he had arrived that day from Russia after ten years in Siberia. I asked him, "How did you survive Siberia?" He said, "I was singing all the time."
Suddenly I had this flash and I asked, "Did you sing the songs of the Holy Temple?" And he was quiet for a long time. Tears of ten years of Siberia and maybe two thousand years of exile came out from his holy eyes. And he said, "My whole family are Chassidim from the time of the Baal Shem Tov, and my holy grandfather told me in the name of the holy Baal Shem Toy, that the way we chant prayers on the High Holidays is the way they were singing them in the Holy Temple - the way King David composed them."
That evening changed my life. Whenever I give a concert, I always include the prayers of the High Holidays. The melodies reach, like the Shofar, to the deepest chambers of our souls.
Just imagine Baron Rothschild, suffering from amnesia, standing on it street corner, dirty and filthy, begging for dimes. The first thing he needs is to remember is that he is Rothschild and then to wash up and change his clothes, and then to go back to his home.
All year long everyone in his own way is suffering from amnesia. We forgot what a Jew is, we forgot what a human being is, and we forgot who G-d is. Rosh Hashana when we blow the Shofar, we remember everything. On Yom Kippur, we wash up and on Sukkot we move back into our heavenly abode -- to the palace we are meant to live in.
There is war in the world and hatred because the world has amnesia and his forgotten what it is to be human. There is so much trouble in Israel because the whole world refuses to remember that G-d gave us the land. Let this Rosh Hashana wake up the world. Let this Yom Kippur clean us and the whole world. Let this Sukkos, when we bring sacrifices for all the seventy nations in the Holy Temple, restore dignity all the nations of the world.
There were never so many homeless people in New York as today and this phenomenon is actually all over the world. It is as if G-d is reminding us that if true humanity, true belief in G-d has no home in the world yet. Sukkos we are building a new home for G-d, for all of Israel and via Israel for the whole world. Let the New Year be the year we have been waiting for.
A ROSH HASHANAH LETTER from Reb Shlomo ztz"l:
"So friends in these few days we still have left before Rosh Hashanah & on Rosh Hashanah itself, I bless you and me, I'm begging you and I'm begging myself -- let's get all the anger out of our hearts... all the jealousy...all the pettiness. You know if I'm petty with other people, G-d forbid, then G-d is petty with me.
But if I'm big enough, the more I open my heart for other people, the more I open the gates for myself. Friends, the blessing people give each other on Rosh Hashanah is so deep, so forceful, so very awesome. On Rosh Hashanah every person can open gates for another person if you really mean it. I want to bless you & me that we should open gates for our husbands, wives, children & the entire world this Rosh Hashanah.
Friends, I'm begging you, I'm begging you, don't be angry, not even with yourself. Just lets cleanse our hearts, lets cleanse our thoughts... our holy rabbis tell us, the greatest joy in the world is when you "forging", you rejoice when something good happens for another person. On Rosh Hashanah, the acid test is, how much are you praying for someone else? In the Rosh Hashanah prayers, it's never singular, always plural. Because I'm standing before G-d & I'm saying unless you give life to the entire world, please don't give it to me. Unless you make everyone rich, please I don't want to be the only rich man. Unless you give peace to the whole world, don't give me anything, unless you give it to my husband, my wife, my children, unless you give it to Yerushalayim.
Friends! Let this year be a real beginning not the same beginning we go through every year. Let's not begin the old record over again -- let there be a new record. New teachings. New words. New thoughts. Let every breath we take feel like we never breathed before. The holy Sochachover says when we blow shofar, G-d absolutely blows a new soul into us. Lets keep this new soul so holy & so beautiful & let's inscribe each other into the book of life. GOOD YOM TOV!!!
The Sound Of The Shofar – Arousing Pleasure In Hashem
The Alter Rebbe, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the author of the Tanya, Reb Schneur Zalman zt"l, teaches in a 'ma-amar' on the mitzvah of the Blowing of the Shofar, that one of the aspects of this mitzvah is to arouse 'ta-anug' – pleasure in the Essence of Hashem. And it is not sufficient to do this just with one's speech; it has to be done specifically by simple sound - the simple sound of breath, blown through the Shofar.
[N.B. Please note that the following is my simple understanding of this teaching. I hope that Hashem has helped me understand it correctly, and I hope that what I am about to say is true to the Alter Rebbe's teaching.]
The simple sound of breath. What is the sound of our breath? It is the primary sound of any letter or word that you enunciate, it is the sound of the letter 'aleph' – 'aah'; it is the sound of pleasure.
This made me think of the Midrash that discusses what exactly did we hear directly from Hashem when He gave us the Torah. I remember three opinions. One says that we heard the entire first two commandments, "Anochi" – I Am H' your G-d, who took you out from the land of Mitzrayim, from the house of bondage" and "Lo yiheye l'cha" – you shall not have any other gods before Me. Another Rabbi says that we only heard the first word, "Anochi" – I Am. Another Rabbi says that we only heard the first letter of the first word, the "aleph" of "Anochi". We heard the sound of the "aleph" – aaahh, the sound of Hashem's pleasure in giving us the Torah.
How did Hashem create us? It says in the Torah that Hashem made Adam's body from the earth and then "He breathed into his nostrils a breath of soul-life." Hashem breathed soul-life into us. He breathed His pleasure into our beings.
Every time we inhale, Hashem is breathing soul-life into us. He breathed His "aleph" into us and shared this sound with us and even gave it to us as a gift. At Mount Sinai, He breathed His Essence into us as He gave us His Torah. He gave it to us with pleasure, with joy. [Maybe this is why we can experience pleasure, both physically and spiritually.]
It is taught that since we cannot say anything without the sound of the "aleph", this should make us think of Hashem with each word we speak, for it is the "aleph" of "Anochi" that we heard from Hashem.
Words alone are dry. It is your deepest sound, the sound of your "aleph" that puts flavor into your words. As we blow the Shofar we are proclaiming that Hashem is our King with our deepest sound, the sound we make with the breath that Hashem gave us. And just as Hashem shared His pleasure and joy with us as He let us hear the sound of His "aleph", we seek to go deep within ourselves, to the deepest place within- where our soul-life breath and sound emanate together with pleasure- to express our pleasure in crowning Hashem as our King- to share our breath of pleasure with Him.
By doing this from the depth of our depths, by finding that place within, the place of our deepest pleasure, our pleasure that Hashem is our Melech-King and we undertake to serve Hashem sincerely and with pleasure, we arouse pleasure in Hashem. We arouse His desire to give us a "shanah tovah u'metukah" a good and sweet year.
In his commentary on the Tanya (Ch. 25) Rav Steinsaltz explains that it has been said that the difference between the righteous and the one who is not yet righteous can be portrayed as follows: both say "Wait, I'll attend to you soon." The righteous one says this to his 'yetzer hara' – his evil inclination, whereas the one who is not yet righteous in his behaviour says this to his 'yetzer hatov' – his righteous inclination. Every Jew is innately righteous and can learn to access and utilize his and her embedded and innate love for Hashem to live and act righteously each day at all times.
The Sfas Emes explains that "the mitzvah is not concealed from you … rather, it is very near to you, in your mouth and heart" teaches us that Hashem has given us the ability to relate to both the revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah. The Torah is accessible to us and near to us both in our speech [intellectual understanding] and in our hearts [emotional understanding]. New aspects of the Torah are revealed to us each day via the wisdom of the mind and the understanding of the heart.
The key for unlocking the wisdom of the Torah and its secrets is found in the performance of the mitzvot – "For the mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light." Through our doing of the mitzvot we acquire the needed light to learn and understand both the revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah.
To acquire the light of the Torah and to see clearly in its light we further need to make a blessing both before and after the reading and the study of the Torah – beforehand so that the gateways should be opened for us, and after so that we should have a correct and true understanding of what was revealed to us. (Based on 5664.)
WE REMEMBER YOU AND YOUR MESIRUT NEFESH FOR ALL OF ISRAEL. PLEASE PRAY FOR US AND MAY YOUR NESHAMOT ALWAYS RISE HIGHER AND HIGHER. WE NEED AND WANT MOSHAICH AND THE GEULAH SHLEIMAH NOW!
some more parsha lessons from previous years
[The following teachings are culled from various 'sefarim'. I apologize for not providing the exact sources at this time.]
How are we aroused to do Tshuvah and how do we do we do REAL tshuvah? Many would say that the tshuvah process begins when we come to recognize that we have been on the wrong path, or that there is a better path. What would arouse us to think so? Sometimes we may be aroused by words of rebuke, sometimes by a tragedy arouses us, and sometimes it may even be an event of great joy that arouses and awakens us. Sometimes Hashem opens our hearts, by presenting us with the unexpected, good or bad.
Whether we are aroused by the blessing or by the curse, the real tshuvah begins when we return to our hearts, as it says "v'ha'sheyvotah el levavecha", and you shall return to your heart. [Devarim 30:1]. In other words real tshuvah is returning; returning to Hashem, to the truth that is already present in your heart. To be sure, the integral components of Tshuvah as taught in the Rambam are, turning away from the transgression, feeling regret over the past, making a verbal confession and making a sincere commitment to follow the mitzvot in the future. But ultimately, Tshuvah is returning: returning to the truth that is already present in your heart, returning to the natural state of the Neshamah, to being close and attached to Hashem, and to one another.
In this world we have a hard time being in touch with the truth that is in our heart. We are encrusted with layers upon layers of 'klipot', shells that obscure and hide G-d's light. Can we actually get through all these barriers? Moshe Rabbeinu is teaching us, that as long as we sincerely want to find and attain the truth of our heart and soul, Hashem will circumcise our hearts [30:3]. We have to begin by circumcising our hearts, by removing the outer layers, and Hashem will help us to do the rest. It is a mistake to think that we can do it all by ourselves, we need to daaven for Hashem's help all along the way. On the other hand it is a great mistake to think that it is all beyond us.
A JEW NEVER GIVES UP ON TSHUVAH
The holy Kubriner Rebbe zt"l said, that one who thinks that he cannot come back and be very close to Hashem after having faltered and having given in to temptation, has not yet stepped over the doorstep of Chassidut. Later he added, that he hasn't even stepped over the doorstep of Yiddishkeit! Pray that we never give up on ourselves that we never give up on each other. Pray for the wholeness and peace in Am Yisrael. Shalom al Yisrael v'al kol ha-olam! May we merit to welcome Moshiach quickly...Amen.
TO HEAR HASHEM'S VOICE
"V'sha'mattah b'kol Hashem Elokecha... - and you will listen to voice of Hashem." If we listen carefully we can hear Hashem's voice in each mitzvah. Our souls can hear Hashem saying, "Please keep Shabbos holy, please don't embarrass anyone, please study the Torah, please give tzedakkah, please love one another and live a life of sanctity".
It is not enough to just hear Hashem's words, we need to hear His voice. Similarly, on Rosh Hashanah we Sound the Shofar, to emit our cries and voices to Hashem; simple sounds that are meant to express what words cannot express. It is the sound that contains and expresses the truth!
THE INGATHERING OF THE EXILES
To get out of our exiles is seldom easy and it can actually be extremely difficult. However, we must always remember that Hashem is always with us everywhere and is promising us His help.
"And Hashem will return your returnees, [lit. come back with your returnees]". Devarim 30:3 I found the following amazing teaching in Rashi's commentary:
"The verse should have said, "Hashem will BRING BACK your returnees." The Rabbis derive from here, that the Divine Presence, with all due reverence, resides with Yisrael, in the suffering of their exile, so that when they are redeemed, He ascribes redemption to Himself [as well]; He shall return with them.
One may also explain: The day of the ingathering of the exiles is so momentous and difficult, [it is] as if He, Himself, needs to carry, literally in His grasp, every individual from his place, as it says: "You shall be plucked, one at a time, B'nai Yisrael". And even with regard to the exiles of other nations we find this, "I shall bring back [lit. I will come back with] the returnees [amongst] the children of Amon ".