Standing With The Power Of A King
Sichos in English
Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-VaYeilech; 25th Day of Elul, 5750
1. Parshas Nitzavim is always read before Rosh HaShana. This
year, this reading is enhanced by the addition of Parshas VaYeilech.
The Rebbe Rayatz communicated a unique teaching reflecting
the uniqueness of this Shabbos, explaining why, despite the fact that this is
the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana, we do not bless the month of Tishrei, in
contrast to all the other months of the year, which are blessed on the Shabbos
The Alter Rebbe related: "When I was in Mezeritch, I
heard from my teacher and master, the Maggid, who heard from his teacher and
master, the Baal Shem Tov: ‘The seventh month is the first of the months of
the year. The Holy One, blessed be He, Himself blesses it on the Shabbos of
Blessing (Shabbos Mevarchim)...and with the power of this blessing, the
Jews bless the other eleven months of the year.’"
Why does this passage mention the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid,
and the Alter Rebbe? We find that although most of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings
were based on the teachings of the Maggid and the Baal Shem, he generally did
not mention them explicitly when relating these teachings. We find a similar
incident in the Talmud. Rabbi Eliezer the Great explained that he did not
mention the name of his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan, when relating a teaching
because "he never related anything he did not hear from his
teacher." Why then did the Alter Rebbe mention the Maggid and the Baal Shem
when relating this particular teaching?
It is possible to resolve this difficulty based on another
Talmudic passage. Our Sages say that, in the Beis HaMikdash, the priests
would announce that the time for the morning sacrifices had arrived by
proclaiming, "In the east, it is shining until Chevron." Why did they
mention Chevron every day? To allude to the Patriarchs who are buried there.
We find a similar concept in our prayer service (which was
instituted in place of the sacrifices). Every day during the week, on Shabbos
and even on Yom Kippur, we follow a similar pattern and begin the Sh’moneh
Esrei by praising G-d as "the G-d of Avrohom, the G-d of Yitzchok, the
G-d of Yaakov."
Similarly, in regard to the teaching mentioned by the Alter
Rebbe, which also contains an aspect of prayer that G-d grant abundant blessings
in the new year, the Patriarchs of the Chassidic movement are mentioned.
Mentioning their names brings about a more powerful revelation than merely
having them in mind.
There is a further connection to the morning sacrifice. On
the one hand, the morning sacrifice was the same each day. Every day of the
year, the same rites were observed. But each day the intention of the sacrifice
was different, appropriate to the uniqueness of that day. (For this reason, it
was necessary to offer a new sacrifice each day.)
A similar concept applies in regard to each new year. The
Hebrew word for year, "shana," is also related to the words
meaning change and repetition. Thus, our Sages have explained that each year is
a complete cycle which includes the entire series of changes and developments
that transpire. The year that follows is merely a repetition.
Nevertheless, each year is also a new development. As the
Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, "Each year a new light that has never
shone before descends and shines." A higher light than that which shone
during the period of the Beis HaMikdash and even in Gan Eden is revealed
The Alter Rebbe’s teaching continues:
The blessing is contained in the Torah reading: "You are
standing all together today." The word "today" refers to Rosh
HaShana, the Day of Judgment... You are standing victorious in judgment.
Therefore, on the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana we read the parsha Atem Nitzavim.
This is G-d’s blessing [conveyed] on the Shabbos that blesses the seventh
month, which is a month of abundance and the source of abundant blessings for
all of Israel for the entire year to come.
"You" refers to each and every Jew. "Are
standing" implies a powerful and firm stance. Indeed, we find the root of
the Hebrew word for standing, "nitzav," used in relation to a
king. This implies that a Jew stands with the power of a king. Our Sages
declare: "When the king speaks, mountains are moved." Mountains refer
to our material concerns. They are not destroyed, but rather moved, transformed
The portion continues, "today," the day of Rosh
HaShana, "the day of great judgment." Although from one perspective,
judgment is associated with limitation, from a deeper view, it is through
judgment that "overwhelming energy" is conveyed. This energy will be
expressed in the service of the Jewish people in Torah and mitzvos, which
will ultimately permeate through and affect the material nature of the world,
unifying existence in this material world with its source in G-dliness.
The passage continues, "all together" – the
Jewish people stand as a single communal entity. This brings them "before
the L-rd, your G-d," and causes them to be "victorious in
The above is enhanced by the influence of Parshas VaYeilech,
which indicates that from the powerful stance of Nitzavim, a Jew must
"proceed from strength to strength." This is further enhanced by the mitzva
of hakhel mentioned in this portion. In hakhel, the Jewish people
come together in union and are inspired by the king’s reading of the Torah.
This leads to the conclusion of the portion, "And Moshe
spoke the words of this song so that all the community of Israel would hear
until its end." The Hebrew for "until its end," can also be
interpreted "until they became perfect." This prepares them for
Parshas Haazinu, which, as our Sages explain, reflects a situation when one is
"close to heaven and far removed from the earth." Although this level
was achieved by Moshe alone, each Jew has a spark of Moshe within him. Hence,
this teaching is relevant to him, as well. This prepares us to enter the year
5751, a year when "I will show you wonders," including the greatest
wonder, the Messianic Redemption, which will be considered wondrous even in
comparison to the miracles of the exodus from Egypt.
2. This is the final Shabbos of the "Seven Shabbasos of
Consolation," which begin with a two-fold measure of comfort, "Comfort
you, comfort you, My people." Based on the principle, "advance in holy
matters," we can assume that from Shabbos to Shabbos, particularly on this,
the final and concluding Shabbos, this consolation increases and grows.
Following Shabbos begins the Ten Days of Repentance. These
ten days can be seen as a summation of the Seven Shabbasos of Consolation and
the three Shabbasos that preceded them.
This Shabbos is also the last Shabbos of the month of Elul,
the month of mercy, when "the King is in the field." This is reflected
in the fact that although usually on the Shabbos when a new month is blessed,
the passage "Av HaRachamim" (All-Merciful Father) is not
recited, on this Shabbos, when G-d blesses the coming month, it is said,
reflecting the all-encompassing influence of Divine mercy.
This leads to the prayer, "Happy are those who dwell in
Your House," in the Beis HaMikdash, and then to the conclusion of
the prayers, "The upright will dwell in Your presence." The word
"Your presence" can also mean "Your inner dimension," for G-d’s
inner dimension is related to the inner dimension of the Jewish people.
This, in turn, gives the Jewish people the power to declare,
"Give ear heavens...listen earth," i.e., a Jew reveals how he has
control over the heavens and the earth.
3. It is customary to conclude with directives for action. As
mentioned several times this year, efforts should be made to gather Jews
together on Shabbos in synagogues to study Torah and discuss directives for
action. When a Jew enters a synagogue, he feels he is "in the presence of
the King." If many Jews come together, then "Among the multitude of
people is the glory of the King." Even a child who enters a synagogue sees
the ark and the Torah scrolls and is impressed.
At present, it is important to concentrate on efforts to
provide all the needy with their holiday needs so they can "eat succulent
foods and drink sweet beverages" on Rosh HaShana. This need is further
emphasized by the fact that Shabbos follows directly after Rosh HaShana and thus
there are three consecutive days where holiday meals must be served. This
applies in both Eretz Yisroel and in the Diaspora.
There is another unique aspect to the present year. Since
Shabbos follows Rosh HaShana, the Fast of Gedalia is pushed off another day.
This is significant because, at the outset, the Fast of Gedalia is not held on
the day of Gedalia’s murder. He was slain on the second day of Rosh HaShana,
but because of the festive nature of the day, the fast was postponed. This year
it is postponed still another day, giving the potential for it to be pushed off
completely and indeed, turned into a day of celebration with the coming of the
Messianic age when the fast days will be transformed into festivals.
The fact that the Shabbos after Rosh HaShana is being held on
a date that normally would be a fast is a further indication of the need to
provide people with the potential to celebrate it in a full manner. This will
lead to the holidays of Sukkos and Sh’mini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, when (in
the Diaspora) there will also be three consecutive festive days.
4. According to the Chabad custom of studying Pirkei Avos
throughout the entire summer, on this Shabbos we study the fifth and sixth
Both of these chapters are connected with the present date,
the 25th of Elul, the day on which the world was created. The fifth chapter
begins, "The world was created with ten utterances," and the sixth
chapter concludes, "Everything the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His
world, He created only for His glory." This reflects the state of Creation
on the first day. Then, the entire host of the heavens and earth were brought
into being, but they were still united with G-d. This is implied by the Torah’s
description of the first day of Creation as "one day." Structurally,
the expression "the first day" would have been more appropriate. The
Torah, however, calls it "one day" to imply that it was a day of
oneness. "G-d was one with His world." It was openly evident on that
day how "everything was created for His glory."
May we be able to stand with the power and firmness of "Atem
Nitzavim," the power of a king, and as implied by Parshas VaYeilech,
"proceed from strength to strength" until "we appear before G-d