אתם “You are all standing today [before G‑d, your L‑rd…].” Devarim 29:9. This Torah portion is always read before Rosh HaShanah,1 as alluded to by the word “hayom,”[translated as “today” but which could also be interpreted as] “the day,” [i.e., the great day of judgment,] Rosh HaShanah.2

For on Rosh HaShanah, every individual and mankind as a whole are judged (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:3).

[Rosh HaShanah is singled out for distinction, as we say in our prayers:] 3 “This day is the beginning of Your deeds; a remembrance of the first day.”

“The first day” refers to the first day of Creation. On Rosh HaShanah, the life-energy for the entire world is renewed.

שכל On this day, all of the sparks of the souls “stand”

There are 600,000 general souls and each of these 600,000 subdivides into 600,000 individual sub-souls, referred to as “sparks” (see Tanya, ch. 37). On Rosh HaShanah, all of these souls unite and ascend to their original source in the higher spiritual realms.

and are elevated to their original source until they [come] before G‑d,

The expression “lifnei Havayah,”translated as “before G‑d,” can also be understood as “above Havayah,” i.e., on a higher level of G‑dliness than the name Havayah. For the name Havayah represents G‑dliness as it emerges into manifestation. On Rosh HaShanah, the souls ascend above that level, to the essential levels of G‑dliness.

[as the verse continues]: “Your heads, your tribal leaders,...

Our translation follows the understanding of the verse indicated by Zohar, Vol. II, p. 82b. Rashi and others understand the verse differently.

from your hewers of wood until your water drawers.” The verse thus lists ten levels. [For] just as there are ten levels in a person’s soul — i.e., three intellectual powers and seven emotional powers

As explained in Tanya, ch. 3, et al.

— the entire Jewish people are comparable to one complete body. As a collective, their souls are referred to as Kenesses Yisrael, “the congregation of Israel,” and are divided into ten levels.

I.e., just as every individual’s personality is a composite of ten different powers that reflect the ten sublime Sefiros, so, too, the Jewish people as a whole can be seen as a single organic collective, sub-dividing — in a more general sense — into ten levels that correspond to these ten Sefiros.

This conception derives from — among other sources — the AriZal’s conception of Adam’s soul as a composite of all the souls that will ever be brought into being. As stated in Taamei HaMitzvos, Parshas Kedoshim, “All Israel is mystically one body, [reflecting] the soul of Adam, the first man.... Every individual Jew is like a particular limb or organ. This inner unity that permeates the Jewish people is the source for the concept of mutual responsibility (areivus).”

ובראש On Rosh HaShanah, all of these levels, even “your hewers of wood until your water drawers,” i.e., [the souls] that are on the lowest rungs,i ascend and rise above to the source from which they were hewn.

I.e., the essential source of the souls, the level “before G‑d,” above the name Havayah, asmentioned above.

וזהו This is implied by the verse: 4 “There will be a king in Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gather; [when] all the tribes of Israel [come] together.”ii The explanation [of the verse is that on Rosh HaShanah, the day when G‑d’s Kingship is renewed], 5

As our Sages state (Rosh HaShanah 16a), on that day, G‑d, as it were, asks mankind, “Make Me King over you.”

all [the Jewish souls] gather together to be united as one.

Just as on the mortal plane, the entire nation gathers together to pay homage to a king at his coronation, so, too, in the spiritual parallel, on Rosh HaShanah, the Jews are united together when they accept G‑d’s Kingship.

This is implied by the name Yeshurun,which has the root shir, meaning “ring” (see the Tzemach Tzedek’s notes to sec. V of the maamar). Just as a ring is circular, having no beginning or end, so too, the Jewish people are united in a manner where no one is higher or greater than his fellow.

For this is a comprehensive general principle: Anything that has its source in the realm of holiness follows the paradigm: “the end is rooted in the beginning”; 6

Among the implications of this statement is that every level has a dimension in which it can be considered a head, i.e., higher than all other levels, for every soul stands out in its own unique way. To refer back to the analogy of the human body, every limb and organ in the body has a special quality that none of the other limbs or organs possesses. For example, the head, heart, hands, and feet each possess an advantage over the other, for without any particular one of them, the body would not be complete or able to function in an optimum manner. Although with regard to other levels it is a recipient, from this perspective, it is the source of influence. From this perspective, there is no sense of hierarchy within the soul’s powers; there is no level which is higher or lower than another. For this reason, the Alter Rebbe proceeds to speak of iggulim and sovev kol almin, i.e., patterns of revelation that use spherical analogies, for in a circle there is no beginning or end.

[indeed,] it has no beginning or end. This [reflects] the [light that emanates on the] level of iggulim

In Kabbalah, it is explained that there are two basic patterns of emanation of Divine light that operate simultaneously:

a) a series of concentric spheres (iggulim), each one emanating independently. Such light follows the motif of an or makkif, an encompassing light in which no level is higher than another;

b) a second series in which the light emanates in a linear pattern (yosher) in which the sequence of emanation determines the gradation and level of Divine light, each level being higher than that which follows it.

which is drawn down from [the dimension of G‑d’s light that] is sovev kol almin.iii

Lit., “encompassing all the worlds.” This light has no definition whatsoever, but instead is infinite, transcending all recognizable frames of reference. Since the light is, by nature, infinite, there is no fundamental advantage of one particular quality over another. Similarly, as the Alter Rebbe proceeds to explain in reference to the personal realm, no one individual can be considered fundamentally higher than another.

To explain, using the analogy of the human body employed above: 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 mobility and, as a result, the senses are exposed to a greater range of stimuli. These factors enable the brain to collect and process information more effectively.

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, it is not only his foot that 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 united entity to which our differences contribute. And when an individual sees himself and others as joined in a mutually beneficial collective, he can appreciate the differentiating characteristics as resources to be shared by all, not as sources of competition and strife.

ולכן Therefore our Sages state: 7 “Be humble of spirit before every man,”

See Tanya, ch. 30, which explains that these feelings of humility should be genuinely felt. One should not merely conduct himself in a humble manner before every other person, but he should honestly feel humble because of his recognition of the distinctive quality that the other person possesses.

because every person possesses a quality and an attribute that his colleague does not possess. Each one needs the other. Thus every individual possesses a unique distinction and positive quality that, [in its own particular way,] surpasses [the qualities possessed by] his fellow, [causing] his fellow to need him [for his own fulfillment].

Even though the perspective of intellect could dictate a hierarchy, giving precedence to certain individuals over others, our emotions would suggest a different hierarchy, as would our powers of deed, etc.

וכמשל For example, a person possesses a body that is comprised of a head, feet, [and other organs]. The feet are on the lowest level — the bottom [of the body’s hierarchy, as it were] — and the head is the highest and most lofty. Nevertheless, the feet possess an advantage and a higher quality, for they are required for mobility. Moreover, it is [the feet] that support the trunk and the head. Also, when the head feels heavy, it is healed by drawing blood from the feet and [in this way, the head] receives vitality.

Were the feet and the head not united — with the feet possessing a certain dimension that the head lacks — an activity performed with the feet could not generate health for the head. See also Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas Ahavas Yisrael, sec. I (translated in Selections From Derech Mitzvosecha, p. 4ff.) where similar concepts are described.

Thus the head lacks fulfillment unless [it joins] with the feet.

כך Similarly, the entire Jewish people are like one body. Thus, even one who thinks that he is comparable to a head in relation to his fellow

The Alter Rebbe is not only speaking of a person whose haughtiness causes him to exaggerate his conception of his virtues, but even one who truly possesses qualities that are lofty and above those of most others. Even such a person must appreciate the positive dimensions present in others that he himself does not possess.

[must realize] that he cannot attain fulfillment without his colleague and must find something lacking within his soul to which his colleague can contribute perfection. This will cause him to submit to that colleague and humble himself before him, [creating a state of unity among the people] so that a beginning or an end cannot be found [among them].

וע"יAs a result of this bittul (self-nullification), the Jewish people will come together as one, enabling the oneness of G‑d, [which stems] from the realm of holiness, to rest [among them].

Likkutei Torah, Vayikra, p. 38a, which explains the phrase from the Amidah prayers: “Bless us our Father all as one,” as implying that when we are united “all as one,” we are a fit medium for G‑d’s blessing. For “the Holy One, blessed be He, will only rest in a perfect place” (see Zohar, Vol. III, p. 90b). By establishing unity among ourselves, we draw down His presence.

[That oneness is perfect,] without beginning or end. In contrast, [when] one considers his level to be distinct from that of his colleague, he creates a division between the “head” and the “foot.” [Through this,] he falls into the realm of separation [that is rooted in] the sitra achra.

Lit., “the other side”; one of the kabbalisticterms for the unholy side of the spiritual realms.

והנה On Rosh HaShanah, the quality of teshuvah is highlighted; i.e., the Jewish people as a collective return to their source and root.

I.e., although teshuvah is generally translated as “repentance,” its true meaning is “return,” i.e., one’s return to his soul’s source. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, Shabbos Shuvah.

This is what is meant by the phrase: “When the heads of the nation gather.” The “head” refers to the dimension of thought. “The heads of the nation” refer to the thoughts of the Jewish people as a whole who “gather” together from the realm of separation where their thoughts fell, this one turning here [and the other there...].

I.e., during the year, as the Jewish people involve themselves in their individual concerns, they lose sight of their fundamental G‑dly source. On Rosh HaShanah, by contrast, the souls are naturally drawn to their source. The spiritual motif of the day inspires teshuvah.

They [thus create] a private domain

The halachic term used, reshus hayachid, generally translated as “a private domain,” literally means “a domain of one.” The Alter Rebbe is borrowing the term to indicate that, as a result of their unity, the diverse entities become permeated by G‑d’s oneness.

[where] G‑d’s oneness [can rest].iv

וזהו [The above] reflects the concept [of the Divine service of Rosh HaShanah] in general terms.


[On Rosh HaShanah, all the Jewish souls are elevated to their root and source in the spiritual realms. This is alluded to in the verse: “You] are all standing today [before G‑d, your L‑rd.” The verse mentions ten categories, parallel to the ten Sefiros.]

[The souls join together in unity, as implied by the verse: “There will be a king in Yeshurun] when the heads of the nation gather…, together....” [Implied is that although the souls of the Jewish people divide into ten different categories,] they are all fundamentally one. [This oneness is revealed on Rosh HaShanah when the souls ascend to their transcendent spiritual source.]

[The Jews are a single collective;] no [level can be considered] as the top or the bottom. [For each person possesses a distinctive quality that his colleague does not possess. As such, every person can genuinely feel humble in the presence of a colleague because he understands that each completes the other. This unity among the Jewish people makes them a fit medium to draw down G‑d’s presence.]