1 1. Grandchildren. In one of his private notes,2 my revered grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash,3 records that [the last day of 5607/1847,] the eve of Rosh HaShanah, 5608, was a cheerful erev Rosh HaShanah.

The spiritual mood of the Tzemach Tzedek4 on this day varied from year to year, sometimes cheerful and sometimes the opposite. That erev Rosh HaShanah he was cheerful, for a few reasons. The chassidim at the time said that the reason was that in the upcoming year, Likkutei Torah was to be published for the first time,5 which was why they used to call that year “the luminous year.”

A second reason was that in that year, the minyan6 in the Tzemach Tzedek’s family became complete. He had seven sons and two sons-in-law, and since his eldest granddaughter married that year, her husband completed the minyan. As is well known, the status of a father is fully attained when he is blessed with grandchildren, regardless of whether they are the sons or the daughters of his sons or of his daughters. And the Tzemach Tzedek had once been told by his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, that he would attain full intellectual perception7 when his family reached a minyan.

There is much more to be said on this subject, but this is not the occasion to speak about it at length.

2. A Clean Heart and a Sweet Year. In the same notes the Rebbe Maharash records that every erev Rosh HaShanah, the Tzemach Tzedek used to deliver a maamar of Chassidus, followed by a teaching that would arouse his listeners spiritually. On that erev Rosh HaShanah, he delivered a maamar that expounded three teachings of the Sages, each of which begins with the word hakol – which means “everything,” or “in all cases.” The first teaching was the halachic principle that “everything is determined according to its conclusion.”8 The second teaching was the principle that “everything is determined according to the maamid.9 The third teaching was the principle that “everything is determined according to its main component.”10

After that maamar, the Tzemach Tzedek said: “Today we have to prepare ourselves to face our Father, our King. A father likes a clean heart; a king likes a clean garment.11 Copper can become corroded; silver and gold cannot become corroded, but they can become soiled. Copper corresponds to a person’s character traits, for even positive character traits can become corroded, and cleansing them requires hard work. Silver and gold correspond to love and awe,12 which cannot become corroded, but they can become soiled. That dirt needs to be removed, and this is the avodah of Rosh HaShanah – to make a clean heart and a clean garment.

“Every individual is accompanied by two angels.13 After Maariv on the [first] night of Rosh HaShanah, they hear how everyone, out of the cleanness of his heart, wishes his fellow, Leshanah tovah tikaseiv veseichaseim – ‘May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!’ Those angels then ascend on high and serve as advocates who intercede and secure them a good and a sweet year, for a father likes a clean heart, and a king likes a clean garment. As a result, the King accepts His [renewed] coronation [by His people on Rosh HaShanah].”

In conclusion, the Tzemach Tzedek gave his blessing to all those present: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!” And in fact, as the Rebbe Maharash records in his notes, it was in fact a cheerful year.

3. Hearing the Waves. This was the first erev Rosh HaShanah after the bar-mitzvah of the Rebbe Maharash,14 and he heard the pleasure aroused Above by the tumultuous blessings of Leshanah tovah! that were exchanged after Maariv on that Rosh HaShanah – in “the little minyan,” which held a few hundred daveners, as well as in the overcrowded “big hall,” and in the temporary outdoor structure that had been built to accommodate the overflow.

Hearing such things Above, as the Kabbalah explains, is quite different before the age of bar-mitzvah to hearing them after that age. For the Rebbe Maharash, this was the first Rosh HaShanah after his bar-mitzvah – and he heard the pleasure aroused Above by the tumultuous blessings of Leshanah tovah!

4. The Tears of Soldiers. [At this point in the farbrengen, a group of elder chassidim handed the Rebbe Rayatz, according to the tradition, a pidyon nefesh15 with requests intended for the Rebbe himself. After he had read it, as well as the names of its signatories, he said:]

Our Rebbeim used to respond to such blessings with either of two phrases: Amen, kein yehi ratzon (“Amen, may this be His Will!”) or Amen, netzach, selah, vaed (“Amen, for ever and evermore!”). May G‑d grant the fulfillment of the former wish: Amen, kein yehi ratzon (“Amen, may this be His Will!”).

[The chassidim then handed the Rebbe the pan haklali – the comprehensive pidyon nefesh – with requests for our fellow Jews and Anash overseas.16 As soon as he began to read it he sighed quietly, his eyes flowing with tears. Having read it, together with the names of its signatories, he related the following:]

The vintage chassid, R. Chanoch Hendel [Kurnitzer],17 first arrived in Lubavitch in Elul, 5603 (1843), but only later, a short while before Rosh HaShanah, did the Tzemach Tzedek return from his visit to Petersburg.18 That erev Rosh HaShanah, the Tzemach Tzedek was in a grave state of mind, because there he had become fully aware of the opposition of the czarist regime to Kabbalah in general, to Chassidus in particular, and in fact to Yiddishkeit altogether. It was at that time that they prohibited the publication of sifrei kodesh, and works of Chassidus in particular.

On that erev Rosh HaShanah, he related that while he was in Petersburg, he visited nearby Kronstadt, at the request of the numerous Jewish soldiers who were serving there. At the parade that they organized in his honor, they appealed to him: “Rebbe! We’ve worked hard for you, polishing the buttons of our uniforms. Now, Rebbe, you work for us! Scour our souls that have become coarsened!” And they broke into tears.

(Many of those soldiers knew the Book of Tehillim by heart, and while they were polishing their buttons, they would repeat its verses from memory.)

In response to their appeal, the Tzemach Tzedek addressed them with a maamar in Yiddish on the verse,19 Machisi cha’av pshaecha – “I have erased your sins like a cloud.” He then added: “Buttons are scoured with sand and water. Your ‘sand’ is the words of Tehillim, and your ‘water’ is – tears.”

After describing the above encounter with the soldiers, the Tzemach Tzedek went on to address the chassidim who had awaited his arrival in Lubavitch: “Today is erev Rosh HaShanah, so we must all scour ourselves with the words of Tehillim, from the depths of one’s heart, and with tears – but also with a joyful soul. As the soldiers said, ‘An army doesn’t conquer a city with tears, but with a march!’ ”

(By the way, there is a particular reason as to why the Tzemach Tzedek spoke so much about soldiers.)

The Tzemach Tzedek concluded his talk with the words, Leshanah tovah tikaseivu veseichaseimu – “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!”

From that time there began a happier mood, which he wanted to extend into the years 5607-5608 (1847-1848), when the government again allowed the publication of holy texts. In 5608 (1848) Likkutei Torah was first published – and it was then a cheerful year.

May the One Above grant everyone a good and sweet year.

5. Rosh HaShanah Schedule. [At the evening and daytime meals of the first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Rebbe Rayatz did not utter a word. Birkas HaMazon was said without a goblet of wine. For the Torah Reading, and for the Sounding of the Shofar, he left his study and joined the minyan that was held in a nearby room. On both days he was called to the Torah for Maftir and personally conducted the tekios: he read the kapitl beginning LaMenatzeiach aloud, and likewise the psukim and the berachos that precede the tekios, which he monitored by pointing to their names in the Siddur. He also said aloud the three psukim that follow the tekios, but not the pasuk that begins Ashrei yoshvei….]