1. The name “Shabbos Shuva” comes from the Haftorah for this Shabbos which begins “Shuva Yisrael — Return O’ Israel.” The general conception of Teshuvah is that it is a return, a coming back to one’s true self. Many interpret “Teshuvah” as regret; a change from one’s behavior. This interpretation is completely erroneous. When one sins he turns away from his true behavior. A Jew is essentially good, even when he sins. When a Jew does Teshuvah he is returning to his true self.
Teshuvah is connected to Shabbos. In fact, when rearranged the letters of the word Shabbos spell Teshuvah. This connection is easily understood: On Shabbos a Jew is free from work and is free from involvement in material affairs; this is his true nature. Our true nature is to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The phrase “a kingdom of priests,” refers to the soul; a “holy nation,” to the body. The Hebrew word for “holy,” Kadosh, means separate, set aside. Even a Jew’s body, which appears to be similar to that of the non-Jew, is in fact holy — separate from their bodies and set aside from them. By nature a Jew is above work and above material affairs. when he works during the weekdays, he does so against his nature, and he does so only because he has been charged with the mission to draw holiness down into the realm of mundane affairs. Hence, on Shabbos, when these activities cease, a Jew returns to his true self. From this we see that Shabbos and Teshuvah emphasize the same concept: the return of the Jew to his essential nature — that of “a holy nation.” It is possible for a Jew’s true nature to be obscured by foreign objects. Nevertheless, as the Rambam declares, the true desire of every Jew — even one who has to be forced to obey Torah law — is to follow Torah and Mitzvos. With Teshuvah a Jew openly reveals that this is his true nature.
Just as every Jew is connected with Shabbos, also every Jew has a connection with the Torah. Our name, Yisrael, is an acronym for the phrase “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah” — this is also the number of Jewish souls. Every Jew has his letter in the Torah. This letter is the source of his life; it is the force which actualizes his existence. The prophet Isaiah (54:13) declares that “all your children shall be learners of the [Torah of the] L-rd.” Without exception every Jew has a connection with Torah.
This connection with Torah is brought out in actuality through the Mitzvah of Hakhel which involves the gathering together of the entire Jewish people — “men, women, and children... that they may hear, and that they may learn... all the words of the Torah.”
From this context we learn that there are three preparations for a Hakhel year. First, Hakhel follows a Shemitah year; a year that is “a Shabbos unto G-d.” On the Shabbos day a Jew returns to his true self — the aspect of his nature connected with Torah. Similarly, in the Shemitah year a Jew rises to his true state, i.e., he is above mundane affairs and he establishes his connection with Torah. We see from this that it is necessary to prepare for a year in which the entire Jewish people gather together to hear the Torah. Hakhel must also be preceded by Shabbos and Teshuvah, both of which stress the return of the Jew to his/her true nature.
To return to the original concept: True, Shabbos and Teshuvah have a fundamental similarity in that they both return a Jew to his true state of existence. However, there is a difference between them. Shabbos is one of the seven days of the week; it is connected, with time. Teshuvah is above time. In “one moment and with one turn” it is possible to atone for one’s entire past and to transform one’s sins into merits. Furthermore, since “every man is an entire world,” and “each man is obligated to say: I the world was created for me,” it follows a when one atones for his past, he effects the totality of existence. Thus, Shabbos Shuva represents a fusion of two types of service — Shabbos and Teshuvah. This concept is related to the Zohar’s statement that Mashiach will bring Tzaddikim to do Teshuvah. We can compare Shabbos to the service of the Tzaddikim since both represent the service of G-d within the natural order. In contrast, Teshuvah is above the natural order; it is able to transform sins into merits. Shabbos Shuva shows us that these two types of service can be fused together and that every Jew has the potential to reach these levels of service; furthermore, G-d will help him achieve this goal. The very nature of Shabbos influences our behavior, lifting it to a higher level.
The above lesson is particularly appropriate in this generation. G-d has promised us that “no one will ever be banished from Him.” Every Jew will eventually do Teshuvah and return to G-d. However, before this age it was possible that this promise wasn’t fulfilled in the case of every individual (note Tanya Ch. 39, Hil. Talmud Torah 4:3). It was possible that an individual’s soul was destined to come to fulfillment in a later incarnation. Now all the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have past and all that is necessary is, in the Previous Rebbe’s words, “to polish the buttons.” There is no time to wait; every Jew must reach his state of fulfillment now.
May this come to be soon. Then, “immediately the redemption will come” and Mashiach will build the Temple in its place, and “there we will fulfill... the commands of Your will.” Among those commands will be the Mitzvah of Hakhel. The Melech HaMashiach, as the emissary of G-d, will read the Torah to the entire Jewish people on the holiday of Sukkos, and there will be great joy.
2. In a year such as this one, when Shabbos follows directly after Rosh Hashanah, Parshas Haazinu is always read on that Shabbos. This fact must surely contain a lesson in the service of G-d. Furthermore, since this lesson is derived from Torah, it must be clear and able to be understood by all.
The source for this lesson is the commentary of the Sifri on the opening verse of the Torah portion: “Give ear” O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” Noting that the expression “give ear” implies a state of close proximity, and the expression “let... hear,” implies a state of distance, the Sifri comments: “Since Moshe was close to the heavens he declared ‘give ear, O heavens;’ since he was far from the earth he declared, ‘let the earth hear’.”
This statement is difficult to understand: “The words of my (Moshe’s) mouth” were words of Torah. Seemingly, the state of being “close to the heavens” and “far from the earth,” contradicts the general principle that “Torah is not in the heavens” — it was given only on “the earth.”
This is the explanation: Although Torah was given on earth [and is close to us], its objective is to bring us to a level which is “close to the heavens,” i.e., involved with spiritual matters, and far from the earth, i.e., far from material concerns.
This state is connected to Shabbos. Shabbos represents a state of completion. Our ultimate state of completion exists when we become aware of the G-dly force that brings all of creation into existence. On Shabbos we approach this level; we draw closer to the heavens and move further away from the earth.
This level of service is also related to the unique nature of this Shabbos. This year we went from Rosh Hashanah into Shabbos without any separation between the two. The uniqueness of this progression is further emphasized by the fact that Havdalah, the prayer which separates Shabbos and festivals from the succeeding days, is not recited after Rosh Hashanah. Furthermore, we continue to wear our Yom Tov clothes. Thus, the service of Rosh Hashanah continues through Shabbos.
The central aspect of the service of Rosh Hashanah is Kabbalas Ol — acceptance of G-d’s yoke. Throughout the year Kabbalas Ol is “the core and root” of all service to G-d. However, then, it is merely the foundation upon which all of our service, which is expressed in other areas, is based. On Rosh Hashanah, Kabbalas Ol becomes the main service. The coronation of G-d as King of the world is the dominate aspect of the holiday. For this reason Havdalah is usually recited after Rosh Hashanah. Our normal weekday realm of experience is not on as high a level as the experience of Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, a distinction is made between them. However, when Shabbos follows Rosh Hashanah, Havdalah is not recited; for the same spiritual state of Rosh Hashanah is maintained during Shabbos.
This concept is accentuated by the fact that this year we do not change out of our Yom Tov clothing after Rosh Hashanah. The essence of the Jew is the same no matter what clothes he wears. However, for different types of service, different clothes are appropriate. The clothes worn on Shabbos are finer than those worn during the week. The clothes worn on Yom Tov are even more beautiful than those worn on Shabbos. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch (Admur HaZaken 529:7) declares that women fulfill the commandment Of “Rejoice in your holidays” by buying new clothes. Yom Tov is usually followed by weekday, in which case we remove our Yom Tov clothing at the holidays’ conclusion. However, in a year such as this one, when Rosh Hashanah is followed by Shabbos, we continue to wear our Yom Tov clothing. Furthermore, that clothing is enhanced by the influence of Shabbos.
This concept is related to the lesson from Parshas Haazinu mentioned above. When we proceed from Rosh Hashanah into Shabbos, we become closer to heaven and further from the earth. This lesson, though it is particularly emphasized this year, is relevant to the celebration of Rosh Hashanah in all years.
The practical lesson from the above is as follows: There is a great emphasis placed on our involvement in the Mivtzoim and on the concept of “deed is most essential.” Through these efforts we carry out the mission of transforming the world into a dwelling place for G-d. But even in the midst of these activities we must be “close to heaven” and far from the material aspects of the world. This can be achieved by adding to our study of Torah. Every Jew can make these additions. A businessman who has fixed times of Torah study should add to them. Someone whose “profession is Torah,” who only stops learning Torah to eat, sleep, and drink, etc. must take time off from these activities and devote it to Torah study.
The above is connected with the custom suggested by the Rebbeim (Rebbe Rashab and the Previous Rebbe) of accepting a new Hiddur (more careful performance of a Mitzvah) each Rosh Hashanah. This year it is appropriate to make a resolution to add to one’s observance of Torah and Mitzvos, in general, and study of Torah in particular. G-d will “unite” these “good thoughts to deed,” i.e., He will bring about a series of circumstances which will allow these resolutions to be carried out in the future.
This is connected with another custom of the Rebbeim. At the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah the Rebbeim would recite a Maamar. They would continue the recitation past the time for the evening prayer in order to connect Rosh Hashanah with the year to come. Each of the Rebbeim would add a minute to the time taken by his predecessor to give over the Maamar. In each succeeding generation an added blessing was necessary. That blessing was drawn down through the Torah.
By adding to our study of Torah (including the study of Chassidus) and by working to establish public Torah classes the result will be that the study of Torah will lead to deed, to an increase in our involvement in the Mivtzoim, and to an increase in G-d’s blessings. Then, we will have a year of light, a year of blessing, a year of greatness, a year of redemption, and a year of Torah. Including the ultimate blessing — the true and complete redemption led by Mashiach, speedily in our days.
3. It is customary each Shabbos to analyze passages from Rashi ‘ s commentary on the Torah. Usually it is necessary to announce in which chapter the verse is found. However Parshas Haazinu contains only one chapter, chapter 32. The number 32 is represented in Hebrew by the same letters that spell the word ‘Laiv,’ meaning heart. The fact that this chapter was chosen for Parshas Haazinu is significant. Parshas Haazinu is related to the entire Torah, as is evidenced by the fact that it is the last portion of the Torah which is read on a Shabbos. (Zos HaBrachah is the Parshah which actually concludes the Torah. This Parshah is read on Simchas Torah which cannot fall on Shabbos.) Thus, we see that the entire Torah is somehow connected with the idea of Laiv. This connection becomes even more apparent when we realize that the last letter of the Torah is a ‘Lamed’ and the first a ‘Beis;’ the two letters that spell the word Laiv. Similarly, the 32nd chapter of Tanya, Perek Laiv, deals with Ahavas Yisrael which is, in the words of Hillel, the entire Torah. Likewise, the Rambam (end of Hil. Chanukah) states that “the entire Torah was given for the purpose of establishing peace in the world,” peace and love between two Jews, and peace an4love between the Jews and G-d.
To return to Rashi’s commentary: On the verse, (43) “O nations, sing the praises of His people, for He will avenge the spilled blood of His servants, bring retribution upon His foes,” he comments: ‘O nations, sing the praise of His people’: at that time the nations will praise Israel: Behold how praiseworthy is this nation, for they cleaved to the Holy One blessed be He throughout all the misfortunes which passed over them, and they did not forsake Him; they knew of His goodness and of His excellency.” This explanation raises the following question: Rashi elaborates on the praise the nations will give the Jewish people. However, none of the points he mentions are stated in the verse. What is the source of his commentary? Furthermore, the verse itself states: ‘O nations, sing the praises... for He will avenge the spilled blood of His servants.’ Superficially it appears to be saying that this is the reason the Jewish people are to be praised.
More than likely this question is not going to be answered by teachers (of young children). Parshas Haazinu is always read in the middle of the holidays, and it contains a number of long and difficult portions of Rashi’s commentary. Hence, more than likely teachers have never explained this passage which is towards the end of the Parshah to their students. Even those who follow the custom of studying the weekly portion “Shnayim Mikra V’Echod Targum” (twice in its original and once in the Aramaic translation), and add Rashi’s commentary (as the Rebbeim were accustomed to do), do so hurriedly at this time and would not necessarily notice these points.
(Parenthetically, this idea of studying Torah in a hurried manner brings to mind a story. Once a Chassid was asked why he prayed so fast. He answered that the words were sweet, so he “grabbed them” quickly. The other Chassid asked him: “If so, why doesn’t your Rebbe also pray quickly?” He replied: “The Rebbe’s prayers are hot, so they cannot be grabbed so fast. His own prayers were not hot, but they were sweet — hence be grabbed them.”)
The above question can be answered as follows: The basis of Rashi’s commentary is a very basic question. Parshas Haazinu begins with a critique of the Jewish people by Moshe Rabbeinu: “Do you thus requite the L-rd, O foolish people and unwise...” If Moshe would speak of the Jewish people in these terms, why should the gentiles praise them? Rashi resolves this question by establishing three stages of time each of which encompass a different type of behavior on the part of the Jewish people. one period is when the Jews acted as described by Moshe 2) a second period not mentioned in the song of Haazinu is when they were punished for their behavior. During this stage “they cleaved to the Holy One blessed be He throughout all the misfortunes which passed over them.” The verse at hand describes a third period; one in which the nations would praise the Jews. When the nations will see that in spite of all the difficulties we have experienced, the Jews still cleave to G-d, “at that time...” they will appreciate them and give them praise.
4. Rashi’s commentary raises another question. On the verse (48) “And the L-rd spoke to Moshe on that selfsame day,” Rashi comments: “In three passages it is stated, ‘On that selfsame day.’” Rashi lists examples, one regarding Noach, one regarding the exodus from Egypt, and one regarding the verse at hand. He omits the verse (Bereishis 17:23), “And Avraham... circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on the selfsame day,” although this passage also contains the expression “on that selfsame day.” Furthermore, Rashi’s commentary on the verse regarding Avraham resembles his commentary on this verse. In both cases he explains how the use of the term “selfsame day” implies. that even though there would be resistance and opposition, the act would be accomplished.
One possible explanation of this dilemma is that the verse concerning Avraham describes his individual qualities and his individual strength and resolve, while in the other three cases the subject is G-d. This explanation is rather weak, however, because the aim of Rashi’s commentary is to explain the expression “on that selfsame day” which is the same expression in all four places.
The question can be resolved as follows: In Parshas Haazinu Rashi stressed that “on that selfsame day” is connected to “midday.” Avraham’s bris did not necessarily happen at midday. Avraham’s service to G-d was characterized by tremendous eagerness, as the commentaries emphasize in their comments on the verse “and Avraham arose in the morning.” It follows that Avraham would have fulfilled G-d’s command as soon as he received it, without waiting till midday; or after midday if he received the commandment then.
5. At the conclusion of the farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita distributed Kos Shel Brachah (from the farbrengen of the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah). After all those who desired to take had received, the Rebbe Shlita declared: “If there are (still) fools who try to convince people that they are doing me a favor by not taking Kos Shel Brachah, they should know that they are the very, very foolish people... All those who have not received Kos Shel Brachah should come up and take now. They should not be affected by the fools.
Furthermore, may the fools themselves not be affected by their foolishness and also come and take Kos Shel Berachah...”
- (Back to text) In general, there is a difference between Torah and Mitzvos. Within our obligation to perform mitzvos, many categories exist. For example, women are not obligated to put on Tefillin; also some people are obligated to give more Tzedakah than others. However, in regard to the study of Torah, every Jew is equally obligated to study — even one who does not understand what he is saying and they all make the blessing “Who gave us His Torah.”
- (Back to text) The above is also related to Shabbos. The Zohar (3, p 29a) states that a Torah Sage is called Shabbos. And since “all your children... of the L-rd,” every Jew is a Torah Sage — thus called Shabbos.
- (Back to text) The service of Teshuvah is relevant throughout the year. During the ten days of Teshuvah, however, “ it is more beautiful and accepted immediately.” This is particularly true of Yom Kippur. The Mitzvah of Teshuvah dominates our service for the entire day.
- (Back to text) The service of Tzaddikim possesses an advantage which the service of Teshuvah lacks. Tzaddikim make the world “a dwelling place for G-d.” The service of Teshuvah, on the other hand, transcends the natural order and cannot elevate it.
- (Back to text) The Talmud Yerushalmi (Demai Ch. 4) declares that when a person who during the week might be suspected of lying tells you something on Shabbos, you can believe him; for he will not lie on Shabbos. Thus, showing how Shabbos elevates every Jew to a higher level.
- (Back to text) The Talmud states that one’s emissary is considered as the person himself. Similarly, the king’s reading of the Torah affected the Jewish people, in the Rambam’s words (Hil. Chagigah 3:6), as if “they heard it from G-d’s mouth.”
- (Back to text) The holiday of Sukkos is related to the present occasion. This Shabbos follows Rosh Hashanah and thus elevates and completes all the matters connected with it. Rosh Hashanah is related to Sukkos, for, as Chassidus explains, all the matters which were hidden on Rosh Hashanah are revealed on Sukkos.
- (Back to text) If a sentence employed one of these expressions — “give ear,” or “let hear” — it would not necessarily imply a state of proximity or distance. However, when both expressions are used in the same sentence, the implication is as above.
- (Back to text) However, Kiddush, which denotes an elevation to a higher level of holiness, is recited.
- (Back to text) The ten days directly following Rosh Hashanah are also on a high spiritual level. They are “Days of Repentance” and, according to the AriZal, are similar to Chol HaMoed.. Nevertheless, in comparison to the holiness of Rosh Hashanah, these days are “mundane”; as all other weekdays.
This concept can be expounded as follows: A Jew is never truly involved in the mundane world. His involvement in worldly matters comes about only because he is charged by G-d to create “a dwelling place in the lower worlds.” His entire existence has one goal: “to serv6 his Creator.” In the midst of this service he finds himself in a “deep pit,” i.e., involved with the mundane world. [on Rosh Hashanah he is involved with the coronation of the King, an incomparably higher spiritual state.]
- (Back to text) The same concept applies, as it were, to G-d Himself. For example, during the time of Golus He wears Golus clothing as the verse declares (Isaiah 63:1) “Who is this that comes from Edam, with crimsoned clothing?” (The subject of the verse is G-d.)
- (Back to text) The advantage Yom Tov clothing has over Shabbos is in external appearance alone, i.e. they look finer. When we can pare the two on a d6eper level we find that there is an advantage to the clothing of Shabbos. These two types of clothing can be compared to the two types of garments worn by the High Priest — the golden garments and the garments 6f white linen. Golden garments bring out the qualities of “honor and beauty” which are essential to a high priest’s clothing. The white garments expressed the idea of unity. Similarly, our Yom Tov clothes are outwardly more beautiful and finer than our Shabbos garments. However, the Shabbos clothes reflect the atmosphere of Shabbos — the truth shines in the world and even a liar tells the truth on Shabbos.
- (Back to text) The eternal relevance of this concept is further emphasized by the fact that this year is a Hakhel year. Hakhel causes the Jewish people to, in the Torah’s words, “Fear the L-rd, as long as you live on the earth.” (This is a unique phenomenon. Chassidus (Likkutei Torah, Berachah 98b) explains that each festival had a continuing influence which lasted until the next festival, or more particularly till the original festival is celebrated again in the year to come. Hakhel is different. After seven years another Hakhel assembly will be held, however, the affects of the first assembly continued “all the days which you will live on the earth.”)
- (Back to text) The connection between this year and Torah is further emphasized by the fact that the central aspect of the Hakhel year consisted of the king reading passages of the Torah to the Jewish people.
- (Back to text) When one causes other people to learn, he shares in their merit.
- (Back to text) There have been questions raised concerning the manner in which the Chumash was divided into chapters. However, this division has been accepted throughout the Jewish world; thus allowing us to derive lessons from the division.