Whereas service to G‑d during the month of Tishrei pivots around its many festivals, that of the rest of the year deals primarily with everyday matters. The latter service, alluded to in the phrase “Yaakov went on his way,” is the realization of the Jew’s mission of making this physical world a dwelling place for G‑d.

Every month of the year is unique, with its own distinctive events and happenings. The month of Tishrei, however, occupies a preeminent position, for it is replete with festivals1Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. No other month can compare for its richness and variety of festivals, and their corresponding service to G‑d.

But spiritual service is not just on festivals. A Jew must serve his Creator the entire year, weekdays as well as holy days. And following Tishrei is the month of MarCheshvan, when regular service, different than that of Tishrei, begins.

The transition between the two is a radical one. Festivals are days of holiness, removed from the toil of everyday life. A Jew then stands on a plane higher than the mundane world, when work is prohibited and the entire day is given over to rejoicing with G‑d. The day is sacred, and the Jew sanctifies and is sanctified; G‑dliness is manifest.

On weekdays, the bond between Jew and Creator is not so easily seen. A person is involved in everyday life and, no longer automatically transcending the world, he is intimately involved in its mundane matters, working within its confines.

Service on weekdays

It is customary2 in some places to announce on motzoei Simchas Torah the words, “V’Yaakov holach l’darko” — “Yaakov went on his way.”3 Simchas Torah is the last of the festivals of Tishrei, and motzoei Simchas Torah therefore marks the start of the rest of the year. The announcement of “Yaakov went on his way” means that now the particular service of Tishrei has ended, service of the rest of the year must begin. In other words, after the special service of the festivals, one goes on the “way,” on to the service of the rest of the year. This type of service is not inferior to that of Tishrei and its festivals; it is merely different.

How then does a Jew serve G‑d on weekdays, when he is so involved in his own affairs? Our Sages have given us a clear directive: “I was created solely to serve my Maker.”4 There is no such thing as one’s “own” affairs, affairs which are divorced from G‑d. Everything a Jew does must be an act of service to his Maker.

A Jew serves G‑d by fulfilling G‑d’s will, including following the directives “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven”5 and “in all your ways you shall know Him.”6 Even when they are “your” ways and “your” deeds — one’s personal matters, business affairs, or any other facet of life — they must be for the “sake of heaven.” The purpose of a Jew’s existence is to make this world a fit dwelling place for G‑d, to make the physical a receptacle for the Divine. And this finds its ultimate expression when even one’s mundane actions, not just Torah and mitzvos, are dedicated to G‑d.

Spiritual nourishment

The ability to carry out such a mission comes from the month of Tishrei, for its festivals are the spiritual nourishment from which Jews derive strength for the service of the rest of the year. Each of the festivals emphasizes a different aspect of service, and their totality is the entire spectrum of the source whereby G‑dliness is made manifest. This is why the announcement “Yaakov went on his way” is made on motzoei Simchas Torah: At the conclusion of all the festivals of the month of Tishrei we are reminded that far from being the end of service, it marks the beginning of a new type of service, the strength for which comes from the festivals of Tishrei. That new service is to work with mundane, “weekday” things, to convert even them to holiness.

In further clarification, let us examine more closely the words “Yaakov went on his way.”


The Jewish people are called by two names, Yaakov and Yisroel, both names of the third of our forefathers. They differ greatly chronologically and in meaning. Yaakov was the name given at birth, because “his hand was clutching Esav’s heel”7 (eikev — heel). The name Yisroel was given at a later date, because “You have become great (sar) before G‑d and man, and you have prevailed.”8 The name Yisroel is far superior to Yaakov. The heel, from which the name Yaakov derives, is the lowest part of the body, where no differences between men can be discerned. Furthermore, he was called Yaakov because he was clutching Esav’s heel, Esav representing the corporeal world. Yisroel, on the other hand, is from the root sar,9 meaning greatness, and its letters form the words Li Rosh,10 Rosh meaning head. The head is the uppermost part of the body, and it is the head — voice, face and intellect — which distinguishes one man from another.11

Although Yaakov is of a lower level than Yisroel, it is the former which is used in the phrase “Yaakov went on his way.” This teaches us a valuable lesson in service to G‑d: Every Jew, without difference, has been given, from birth, while he is still on the level of “Yaakov” and at the beginning of service, a mission from G‑d. That mission is to take “Esav’s heel” — worldly, mundane matters — and make them “the inheritance of Yaakov”12 — to convert them to sanctity and thereby to make the world a dwelling place for G‑d.


The word “went” implies that not only must one perform the above service, but that a Jew must continually be moving, rising ever higher in that service; he cannot remain static. This is the difference between angels and men. Angels are called “those who stand,”13 for although they do their Creator’s bidding in awe and fear, they cannot radically rise above their present level. Only man is called “walker,” for his task is to rise ever higher.14 No matter how lofty his spiritual status, he must strive always to reach a level infinitely greater.

On his way

A way, a path, connects the furthermost reaches of the realm with the royal palace in the capital city.15 Although a Jew is leaving the festivals of Tishrei and entering the realm of worldly, weekday affairs, his work must nevertheless be such that it is “on his way” — the way which binds his weekday work with the palace of the Supreme King of kings: everything becomes a dwelling place for G‑d.

In slightly different terms: A Jew’s soul descends from above (the royal palace) to this physical world (the furthermost place of G‑d’s entire realm) to bind the two together through his service to G‑d. A Jew does this because it is “his way,” the way of a Jew, whose true desire is to fulfill G‑d’s will of making the world a fit place for His presence.

The meaning of “Yaakov went on his way”, then, is that after the festivals of Tishrei, a Jew must begin his task of converting the gross world into a receptacle for G‑dliness.

Unity between Jews despite differences

There is another meaning to “Yaakov went on his way.” “Yaakov” denotes the entire Jewish people. The phrase “Yaakov went on his way,” singular tense, emphasizes that although Jews perform their service as different individuals,16 they are still “one people.”

In this interpretation of “Yaakov went on his way” there are different stages, at each of which it is necessary to emphasize the unity which exists between Jews despite their individual paths.

The beginning is on motzoei Yom Kippur.17 On Rosh HaShanah the Jewish people are united, as stated,18 “You are standing steadfast today, all of you,” “today” referring to Rosh HaShanah,19 meaning that then all the ten categories of Jews enumerated in Torah are united as one.20 Likewise, in the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur the Jewish people are also united, particularly on Yom Kippur, which is “once a year,”21 when Jews are in total unity.

On motzoei Yom Kippur Jews begin to disperse, each occupied in preparing his own sukkah and his own lulav and esrog.22 Thus the service of “Yaakov went on his way” first begins on motzoei Yom Kippur.23

However, in the interval between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, “all Israel are engaged in mitzvos;”24 and since mitzvos are from the one G‑d, Jews are then still united. This is particularly so because the mitzvos in which Jews are then engaged are sukkah and the four kinds (lulav, esrog, hadas and arovah), which symbolize unity.25 The Talmud states that “all Israel are worthy to dwell in one sukkah;26 and the mitzvah of the four species is to bring them together, symbolizing the unity of the four different categories of Jews they represent.27

On the festival of Sukkos itself all Jews are likewise united, for, in addition to its mitzvos symbolizing unity (as above), G‑dliness is then manifest.28 After Sukkos, on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, unity is expressed by the offering of only one bullock, corresponding to Jews being “the one people.”29 Indeed, the joy of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah is expressed specifically through dancing with one’s feet,30 for in the feet all are equal. Thus, although Jews may be in different places, they are still manifestly “one people.”

Jews are “one people”

It is after Simchas Torah, when we depart from the realm of sanctity of the festivals to that of weekday, that we must show that Jews are still united. This is one of the reasons to announce on motzoei Simchas Torah, “Yaakov went on his way”: the singular tense stresses that even after Simchas Torah, when a Jew goes on “his way” in mundane matters (not as on motzoei Yom Kippur when “his way” is in mitzvos), he is still united with all other Jews.31

But there is a further step. The day after Simchas Torah is still not wholly a weekday, for it is called Isru Chag,” the day following the festival, and it still retains a connection to it. Indeed, even afterwards, until the very end of Tishrei, we do not say tachanun, the confessional prayer; and tachanun is associated with weekday matters. Thus the entire month of Tishrei has no real association with mundane matters — and therefore we still have not yet reached the ultimate in the idea of “Yaakov went on his way.”

The same applies to Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan: The first day of Rosh Chodesh is the thirtieth day of Tishrei, and the second day, although the first day of the month of MarCheshvan, has no relevance to weekday matters, for Rosh Chodesh is not a “workday.”

The true realization of “Yaakov went on his way,” therefore, starts after Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan, when weekday work, involving this physical world, begins. It is then that a Jew carries out his mission of making this world a dwelling place for G‑d.

A full week’s service

But although the service of “Yaakov went on his way” starts after Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan, it is not yet a complete service. Each day of the week has its own particular service — in the words of the Zohar, “each day has its own work”32 and a lack of even a day is a deficiency in the entire week. Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan is in the week following Shabbos Bereishis,33 and therefore the days following Shabbos Bereishis until Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan are still part of Tishrei. These days, and Rosh Chodesh itself which is not a “workday,” constitute a deficiency in the full week’s service of “Yaakov went on his way.”

A full week of workdays starts only on motzoei Shabbos Parshas Noach. The cycle of seven days of the week symbolizes and encompasses the entire spectrum of time,34 for in each week the cycle of time is repeated.35

This then is the difference between the service of “Yaakov went on his way” after motzoei Shabbos Bereishis36 and that after motzoei Shabbos parshas Noach. In the former, one can only resolve to fully undertake this service — and “Let not him that girds on his harness boast as he that takes it off.”37 In the latter, one actually does it — during the entire week. In other words, in the former one only has the potential; in the latter, it has come to realization. And although we can be sure that a Jew’s resolution will be carried out, mere potential cannot measure up to actual implementation.

“Lech” — “Go”

But again, we can go further: Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha lends yet further emphasis to the idea of “Yaakov went on his way.” The proof for this is from the very name of the parshah, which has an intrinsic connection with it and expresses its overall content.38 “Lech” means “Go”, indicating that the general theme of this parshah is the idea of going, movement. This is its connection with “Yaakov went on his way”: both stress the idea of always rising higher in one’s service to G‑d.

But all is not clear: We explained previously that on motzoei Shabbos Parshas Noach the idea of “Yaakov went on his way” reaches its full realization in all seven days of the week. What, then, can Parshas Lech Lecha add?

“Yaakov My servant”

There are, however, two aspects stressed in the idea of “Yaakov went on his way”: All a person’s matters — “his way” — must always be in a state of movement, rising ever higher in sanctity; and the “going” on the way must be as Yaakov does so.

These two aspects are related. Yaakov is associated with the concept of a servant,39 as stated:40 “Do not fear, Yaakov My servant.” A Jew’s service to G‑d as a servant is different than when merely fulfilling G‑d’s mission as His agent, even though “the agent of a person is as himself.”41 In general, there are three levels in performing a mission as an agent:42

(i) Even when fulfilling the task placed upon him, the agent remains an independent entity, and the mission is associated with him. The meaning of “the agent of a person is as himself” on this level means that the performance of the mission is counted as if done by the sender of the agent.

(ii) A higher level is when the deed itself belongs to the sender. The agent does not perform the deed; the sender does so through the agent.

(iii) A yet higher level is when not only the deed belongs to the sender, but the agent himself is (as) the sender.

Performance of a Jew’s mission as a servant is loftier still. Since there are different levels in performing a task as an agent, it follows that even on the highest level there remains a difference between the sender and the agent; they are not identical. A servant’s entire existence, however, is the master’s,43 and therefore, “whatever a servant acquires, his master acquires.”44 And since a servant has no independent existence outside his master, there can be no differences for the servant between one service and another.

So, too, in the service of “Yaakov went on his way”: Since he is “Yaakov My servant,” his “going” is equal in all things. Normally, one’s ascension to a higher level of service need not necessarily be in all one’s powers (thought, speech, deed, will). One may rise infinitely higher in one area — performing “with all your might,” transcending limits — and not in another. This indicates that the essence of one’s existence has not changed, for one or more powers remain bound within limitations. It is therefore not the true expression of “with all your might.”

This is the distinction conferred on the idea of “Yaakov went on his way” by Parshas Lech Lecha. It openly emphasizes that one’s “going” — rising ever higher in service to G‑d — must be in all aspects, with all one’s powers. In other words, it openly emphasizes that the “Yaakov” who goes “on his way” must be “Yaakov My servant.”

Transcending one’s limits

Such an open emphasis was seen in Avraham, to whom the command “Go” was addressed. Avraham was “generous with his wealth, his body, and his soul.”45 Avraham’s service was principally46 in the realm of unlimited loving kindness,47 and this permeated his entire being, as expressed in the three aspects of wealth, body and soul. Accordingly, the command “Go” given to Avraham was addressed to all his abilities and powers.

The above expresses itself in the rest of the command given to Avraham: “Go from your land, and from your birth place, and from your father’s house.” Chassidus explains48 that “land” refers to a person’s will, “birth place” to his middos (soul characteristics), and “father’s house” to the intellect — the entire spectrum of a person’s powers. While Avraham’s soul-powers were very lofty by nature, his service to G‑d was to “Go,” to transcend his limits. It thus states, “Go from your land, and from your birth place, and from your father’s house”: One’s soul powers, however lofty in their natural state, cannot compare to those powers when they have been subjected to the service of “Go” — an infinitely high elevation.

Every Jew has been bequeathed the concepts of the forefathers.49 The command given to Avraham, “Go,” is also a command to every Jew, teaching that the concept of “Yaakov went on his way” must be expressed in every facet of service.

Divine help in service

In this task, a Jew receives the help of G‑d, as written, “Yaakov went on his way and the angels of G‑d met him.” 50 Moreover, this help is in two aspects, as it continues to state: “And he called the name of that place Machanaim,”51 which Rashi interprets to mean “two camps,” referring to angels from Eretz Yisroel and those from outside Eretz Yisroel. This corresponds to the two general aspects in man’s spiritual service: Torah and mitzvos, where holiness is evident, similar to Eretz Yisroel, “the land which...the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are continually upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year;”52 and the second aspect, the service of “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “in all your ways you shall know Him,” where holiness is not manifest, similar to outside Eretz Yisroel, where G‑d’s vigilance is not so openly revealed. The Torah thus tells us that a Jew has the help of “the angels of G‑d” in both types of service, thereby enabling him to fulfill his G‑d-given mission of making this world an abode for the Al-mighty.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, pp. 266-314; Vol. X, pp. 192-197