1. Sharing one’s Gifts. On the first Rosh HaShanah that the Alter Rebbe spent in Mezritch, he greeted his colleagues with the festive blessing that is traditionally exchanged: A gut Yom-Tov, pronouncing the adjective gut (“good”) as it is written with a vav.1

They asked him, “How do you know that it should be pronounced this way?”

“Where I come from,” he replied, “that is how it is said on every Yom-Tov.”

They told him: “The custom of the Baal Shem Tov was to pronounce it that way on Rosh HaShanah and on Motzaei Yom Kippur – because the gematria of 2 גוט is ח"י (chai), and thus expresses a blessing that one draw down chayus (‘vitality’) into all the days and years and festivals. On the other festivals, the custom of the Baal Shem Tov was to say A git Yom-Tov, pronouncing the adjective as it is written with a chirik, because the Yiddish word git also means ‘giving,’ which suggests that whatever spiritual gifts the Yom-Tov has given us, we in turn should give to others.”

2. The Soul and the Veil. [At this point there appears an involved and untranslatable Kabbalistic exposition of the strivings of a self-effacing soul to connect with the various levels of Divinity that are revealed on Rosh HaShanah.]

3. The Soul and the Veil. [As above.]

4. Principles and Practice. Our forefathers, the Rebbeim, have given us – in their teachings of Chassidus – a limitless heritage.

If only our spiritual lives would keep pace with what we know,3 then…

Sure, we know a great deal, but…

5. Pregnant Minutes. My grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, once told [my father, the Rebbe Rashab,] that the Rosh HaShanah of his own father, the Tzemach Tzedek, was one minute longer than the Rosh HaShanah of his grandfather, the Mitteler Rebbe.

The Rebbe Maharash devoted considerable attention to numbers. (He was once asked by the well-known chassid, R. Abba Persohn, how many times one beats one’s chest in the course of the confessions on Yom Kippur. From the answer received, R. Abba was able to deduce whether this should also be done while saying each line beginning Ve’al chata’im and while saying Slach lanu, m’chal lanu, and so on.)

As we were saying, the Rebbe Maharash went on to say how many minutes there were in Rosh HaShanah, and added that the Rosh HaShanah of his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, was four minutes longer than the Rosh HaShanah of the Baal Shem Tov; the Rosh HaShanah of his grandfather, the Mitteler Rebbe, was three minutes longer than the Rosh HaShanah of the Baal Shem Tov; the Rosh HaShanah of the Alter Rebbe was two minutes longer than the Rosh HaShanah of the Baal Shem Tov; and the Rosh HaShanah of the Maggid of Mezritch was one minute longer than the Rosh HaShanah of the Baal Shem Tov.

At this point my father asked his father, the Rebbe Maharash: “And beyond that?”

The Rebbe Maharash answered: “Each generation adds a minute – in order to draw down [the blessings and spiritual energy of Rosh HaShanah] into the festivals and throughout the years.”

6. The Power of Speech. My grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, used to deliver a maamar of Chassidus4 in the morning of erev Rosh HaShanah, and again on the second day of Rosh HaShanah,after Minchah. (Sometimes he did so on the first day as well.)

One year people observed that he said Tehillim throughout the second night of Rosh HaShanah, his tears running freely, and also read Tehillim before the maamar.

My father used to deliver a maamar after Minchah on the second day of Rosh HaShanah and extend it until nighttime. He explained that he did this in order to start off the newly-begun year by harnessing the power of speech in the concepts of Chassidus.5

7. Sounding the Shofar. On the second day of Rosh HaShanah, 5648 (1887), my father took charge of the tekios; on the first day this had been done by my uncle, the Raza.6 R. Chaim was the baal tokeia.7 My father assumed that role only after the year 5660 (1899). In the years 5658, 5659 and 5660, I was the baal tokeia.

8. The World of Truth. [The chassidim who were present recall that at this point there was a brief remark about Olam HaEmes, the World of Truth, but no precise record of it is extant.]

9. Hitching an Easy Ride. If, at an auspicious time, someone jumps up onto the wagon, he won’t be thrown off. That said, one shouldn’t remain a passive clod.8

10. Seeking Truth. [Many chassidim wanted to be admitted and made their way in, but the Rebbe was not pleased by this and remarked:] During this time, millions of words [of Tehillim] could have been added to the Sefirah of Malchus.9

[When they left the room and were heard saying Tehillim aloud, someone commented: “They mean it truthfully.” To this the Rebbe responded:] “If they mean it truthfully, what they have in mind is Truth.”

11. Sharing a Watermelon. A boy remains a boy. On Rosh HaShanah, 5648 (1887), a few months after I turned seven, I visited my grandmother,10 who treated me to a watermelon. Going out to the courtyard, I sat down with my friends on a bench that was exactly opposite the window of my father’s study, and shared the watermelon with them.

My father called me in and said: “I noticed that you did share with your friends – but not wholeheartedly,” and he went on at length to distinguish between a person with a generous eye and a person with a grudging eye.

I took his words to heart so ardently that for half an hour I couldn’t stop crying, and threw up what I had eaten.

My mother asked my father: “What do you want of the child?”

My father answered: “It’s fine this way. Let this become part of him.”

* * *

That’s what is called chinuch, education.

12. Teaching by Example. The Midrash asks:11 “By virtue of what was Elkanah blessed with a son like Shmuel?”

And it goes on to answer that when Elkanah would pass through each township with all his relatives on his way [from his home in Ramah to the Mishkan in Shiloh] for the pilgrim festivals, they would lie down to spend the night in the local marketplace. The townsmen would ask, “Where are you heading for?” – and so on, until eventually they, too, would go up and make the pilgrimage.

As we now know, the distance from Ramah to Shiloh is not so great, perhaps because Eretz Yisrael shrank.”12 Indeed, it is known as Eretz HaTzvi,13 the land that resembles a deer, [whose skin shrinks]. Nevertheless, Elkanah made a point of taking a different route every year, thereby bringing merit upon many people and educating them to observe mitzvos.