1. Parshas Nitzavim is always read before Rosh HaShanah. This year, this reading is enhanced by the addition of Parshas Vayeilech and thus, the two are fused together into a single Torah portion.

The Previous Rebbe communicated a unique teaching which reflects the uniqueness of this Shabbos and explains why although this is the Shabbos before Rosh HaShanah, we do not bless the month of Tishrei in contrast to all the other months of the year which are blessed on the Shabbos preceding them:

The Alter Rebbe related: When I was in Mezritch,1 I heard from my teacher and master, the Maggid, who heard from his teacher and master, the Baal Shem Tov: The seventh month is the first of the months of the year. The Holy One, blessed be He, blesses it on the Shabbos of blessing (Shabbos Mevarchim) ... and with the power of this blessing, the Jews bless the other eleven months of the year.

There is a problematic element regarding this teaching. Why does it mention the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, and the Alter Rebbe? We find that generally, although most of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings were based on the teachings of the Maggid and the Baal Shem,2 he did not mention them explicitly when relating those teachings. We find a similar incident in the Talmud. Rabbi Eliezar the Great explained that he did not mention the name of his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan, when relating a teaching because, “he never related anything which he did not hear from his teacher.” Thus, we must understand: Why did the Alter Rebbe mention the Maggid and the Baal Shem when relating this particular teaching?

It is possible to resolve this difficulty based on another Talmudic passage. Our Sages relate that, in the Beis HaMikdash, the priests would announce that the time for the morning sacrifices had arrived by proclaiming: “In the east, it is shining until Chebron.”3 Why did they mention Chebron each and every day? To allude to the Patriarchs who are buried there.

We find a similar concept in our prayer service (which was instituted in place of the sacrifices). Every day, during the week, on Shabbos, and even on Yom Kippur, we follow a similar pattern and begin the Shemoneh Esreh by praising G‑d, as “the G‑d of Avraham, the G‑d of Yitzchok, the G‑d of Yaakov.”4

Similarly, in regard to the teaching mentioned by the Alter Rebbe — which also contains an aspect of prayer, that G‑d grants abundant blessings in the new year which comes — the “patriarchs” of the Chassidic movement are mentioned. Mentioning their names brings about a more powerful revelation than merely having them in mind on the level of thought.

There is a further connection to the morning sacrifice. On one hand, the morning sacrifice was the same each day. Every day of the year, the same rites were observed. Conversely, however, each day the intention of the sacrifice was different, appropriate to the uniqueness of that day. (For this reason, it was necessary to offer a new sacrifice each day.)

A similar concept applies in regard to each new year. The root of the Hebrew word for year, שנה, is also related to the words meaning “change” and “repetition.” Thus, our Sages have explained that each year is a complete cycle which includes the entire series of changes and developments which transpire and the year that follows is merely a repetition.

Nevertheless, each year is also a new development. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, “each year a new light which has never shone before descends and shines.” A higher light than shone during the period of the Beis HaMikdash and even in Gan Eden is revealed this year.

The Alter Rebbe’s teaching continues:

The blessing is contained in the Torah reading: “You are standing all together today.” The word “today” refers to Rosh HaShanah, the day of judgment... You are standing, victorious in judgment. Therefore, on the Shabbos before Rosh HaShanah we read5 the parshah: Atem Nitzavim. This is G‑d’s blessing [conveyed] on the Shabbos which blesses the seventh month which is a month of abundance and the source of abundant blessings for all of Israel for the entire year to come.

“You” refers to each and every Jew. “Are standing” implies a powerful and firm stance. Indeed, we find the root of the Hebrew word for “standing,” nitzav used in relation to a king. This implies that a Jew stands with the power of a king. Our Sages declare: “When the king speaks, mountains are moved.” “Mountains” refer to our material concerns. They are not destroyed, but rather “moved,” transferred and transformed into holiness.

The portion continues, “today,” the day of Rosh HaShanah, “the day of great judgment.” Although from one perspective, judgment is associated with limitation, from a deeper view, it is through judgment that “overwhelming energy”6 is conveyed. This energy will be expressed in the service of the Jews in Torah and mitzvos and which will ultimately permeate through and effect the material nature of the world, unifying existence in this material world with its source in G‑d’s True Existence.

Afterwards, the portion continues, “all together,” that the Jews stand as a single communal entity. This brings them, “before the L‑rd, your G‑d,” and causes them to be “victorious in judgment.”

The above is enhanced by the influence of Parshas Vayeilech which indicates that, from the powerful stance of Nitzavim, a Jew must “proceed from strength to strength.” This is further enhanced by the mitzvah of Hakhel mentioned in this portion. In Hakhel, the Jews are fused together as a single entity and they are inspired by the king’s reading of the Torah.

This leads to the conclusion of the portion, “And Moshe spoke the words of this song so that all the community of Israel would hear until its end.” The Hebrew for “until its end” (on,), can also be interpreted “until they became perfect” (תמים).

This prepares them for Parshas Haazinu which, as our Sages explain, reflects a situation when one is “close to heaven and far removed from the earth.” Although this level was achieved by Moshe alone, each Jew has a spark of Moshe in his midst. Hence, this is relevant to him as well.

This prepares us to enter the year 5751, a year when “I will show you wonders,” including the greatest wonder, the Messianic redemption which will be considered wondrous even in comparison to the miracles of the exodus from Egypt.

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2. This is the final Shabbos of the “Seven Shabbasos of Consolation” which begin with a two-fold measure of comfort, “Comfort you, Comfort you, My people.” Based on the principle, “Advance in holy matters,” we can assume that from Shabbos to Shabbos, particularly on this, the final and concluding Shabbos, this consolation increases and grows.

This leads us to the Ten Days of Repentance. These ten days can be seen as a summation of the Seven Shabbasos of Consolation and the Three Shabbasos which preceded them.

This Shabbos is also the last Shabbos of the month of Elul, the “month of mercy,” when “the King is in the field.”7 This is reflected in the fact that, although usually on the Shabbos when a new month is blessed, the passage Av HaRachamim8 (“All-Merciful Father”) is not recited, on this Shabbos, when G‑d blesses the coming month, it is customarily said. This reflects the all-encompassing influence of Divine mercy.

This leads to the prayer, “Happy are those who dwell in Your House” (א שרי), in the Beis HaMikdash and then to the conclusion of the prayers, “The upright will dwell in Your presence.” The word “Your presence” can also mean “Your inner dimension,” for G‑d’s inner dimension is related to the inner dimension of the Jews.

This, in turn, gives the Jews the power to declare, “Give ear heavens...listen earth,” i.e., a Jew reveals how he has control over the heavens and the earth.

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3. It is customary to conclude with directives for action. As mentioned several times this year, efforts should be made to gather Jews together on Shabbos in synagogues to study Torah and discuss directives for action. When a Jew enters a synagogue, he feels he is “in the presence of the King.” If many Jews come together, then, “Among the multitude of people is the glory of the King.” Even a child who enters a synagogue sees the ark and the Torah scrolls and is impressed.

At present, it is important to concentrate on efforts to provide all the needy with their holiday needs and thus, “they can “eat succulent foods and drink sweet beverages” on Rosh HaShanah. This need is further emphasized by the fact that Shabbos follows directly after Rosh HaShanah and thus there are three consecutive days where holiday meals must be served. This applies in both Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora.9

There is another unique aspect to the present year. Since Shabbos follows Rosh HaShanah, the Fast of Gedaliah is pushed off another day. This is significant because, at the outset, the Fast of Gedaliah is not held on the day of Gedaliah’s murder. He was slain on the second day of Rosh HaShanah and because of the festive nature of the day, the fast was postponed. This year it is postponed still another day, giving the potential for it to be pushed off completely and, indeed, turned into a day of celebration with the coming of the Messianic age when the fast days will be transformed into festivals.

The fact that the Shabbos after Rosh HaShanah is being held on a date which normally would be a fast is a further indication of the need to provide people with the potential to celebrate it in a full matter. This will lead to the holidays of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah when (in the Diaspora), there will also be three consecutive festive days.

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4. According to the Chabad custom of studying Pirkei Avos throughout the entire summer, on this Shabbos, we study the fifth and sixth chapters.

Both these chapters are connected with the present date, the 25th of Elul, the day on which the world was created. The fifth chapter begins, “The world was created with ten utterances,” and the sixth chapter concludes, “Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created only for His glory.” This reflects the state of the creation on the first day. Then, the entire host of the heavens and earth were brought into being, but they were still united with G‑d. This is implied by the Torah’s description of the first day of creation as יום אחד, “one day.” Structurally, the expression יום ראשון, “the first day,” would have been more appropriate. The Torah, however, calls it יום אחד, to imply that it was a day of oneness. “G‑d was one with His world.” It was openly evident how “Everything was created for His glory.”

May we be able to stand with the power and firmness of Atem Nitzavim, the power of a king, and, as implied by Parshas Vayeilech, “proceed from strength to strength,” until “we appear before G‑d in Zion.”