1. We find two seemingly contradictory concepts emphasized regarding Rosh HaShanah. On one hand, the service of Rosh HaShanah centers on crowning G‑d as “King of Israel” and “King of the entire world.” A coronation (even on the earthly plane, how much more so when the concept is used as a metaphor) involves the ultimate of bittul (self-negation). The people give themselves over to the king entirely to the extent that they no longer feel their own desires at all. Rather, they concentrate on the king alone. This bittul awakens the king’s desire to accept the coronation and reign over the people.

On the other hand, we also see an emphasis on Rosh HaShanah as the “day of judgment for man.” Furthermore, as mentioned by the Hagahos Ma’imonis, this judgment centers primarily on our material concerns. Accordingly, in our Rosh HaShanah prayers, we ask G‑d to “Inscribe us in the book of good life,” “Inscribe us in the book of livelihood and sustenance” and recite many other prayers that involve worldly concerns.

On the surface, these two concepts are contradictory. When a Jew stands in complete and utter bittul to G‑d, it is impossible for him to think about his individual desires and needs. We must understand: How is it possible for a Jew to consider such thoughts when he should be involved with crowning G‑d as King?

A similar difficulty can be raised in regard to the name Rosh HaShanah, literally, the “head of the year.”1 The head includes within it the life force for all the limbs of the body and controls the functioning of those limbs. Similarly, Rosh HaShanah includes within itself and controls the functioning of all the days of the year.

A question, however, can be raised: The reason it is possible for Rosh HaShanah to include all the days of the year is because its level transcends the particular divisions that exist between the various different days of the year. Since Rosh HaShanah is higher than all the different days of the year, it is difficult to understand how it can control the particular functioning of each individual day.

These difficulties can be resolved as follows: A Jew does not ask G‑d for material blessings for his own sake. Instead, his desire is afford himself the possibility of serving G‑d better.

On a deeper level, the potential the Jews have to crown G‑d as King originates in the essential bond they share with G‑d. This bond connects them with G‑dliness on a level which transcends any connection to the world as implied by the statement, “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” Because of this essential connection, the Jews are capable of evoking G‑d’s pleasure and desire to rule over the world.

G‑d’s essence transcends all our conceptions of existence. It stands above all particular levels. Indeed, stating that He transcends these levels is an improper statement which limits Him. Whenever one negates a connection with a lower level, one implies that a certain point of relation exists. Otherwise, such a negation would not be necessary. For example, in Tanya, the Alter Rebbe states that it is improper to state that a concept is so refined that it cannot be felt with one’s hands. Since thought is absolutely on a higher plane than physical touch, it is absurd to negate a connection between them. Indeed, anyone hears such a statement would laugh.

The same concept applies regarding G‑d’s Essence. It is improper to describe this level as “transcendent,” because it is above all connection to the point where referring to it in this manner would be a limitation. Accordingly, the revelation of Rosh HaShanah which relates to this level contains two contradictory aspects: a) Because G‑d’s Essence is above all particular levels, it evokes a complete and total bittul on behalf of the people; b) Simultaneously, because this level is above even the level of transcendence, this bittul permeates through to every particular level of existence.2

[We see a parallel to this concept in regard to Torah and mitzvos: On one hand, the Torah is divided into different disciplines to the extent where our Sages state, “Laws regarding monetary matters cannot be derived from laws regarding Torah prohibitions.” Simultaneously, our Torah is “one Torah” and various concepts do cross the lines differentiating between one discipline and another.3 Since “Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one,” the transcendental unity possessed by G‑d is reflected within the Torah.

Similarly, in regard to mitzvos: On one hand, each mitzvah has its particular nature and laws. Simultaneously, there is a fundamental oneness pervading all mitzvos as reflected in the law, “A person occupied in the performance of one mitzvah is free of obligation to perform others.” All the mitzvos reveal the will of G‑d who authored them. Accordingly, His oneness establishes a dimension of unity among them.]

On this basis, we can understand the nature of the acceptance of G‑d’s Kingship on Rosh HaShanah. Rosh HaShanah relates to G‑d’s ultimate goal and intent in the creation of the world. Therefore, it is celebrated on the anniversary of the sixth day of creation, the anniversary of the creation of man. This purpose is reflected in the actions of Adam directly after his creation when he proclaimed, “The L‑rd is king. He clothes Himself in pride,” and called to all the other creations, “Come let us bow down, prostrate ourselves, and bend the knee before the L‑rd, our Maker,” revealing G‑d’s sovereignty over the entire world and over each particular creation.

Each year on Rosh HaShanah, the Jews4 repeat this service and crown G‑d as “the King of Israel” and “the King of the entire world.” In doing so, they do not negate the existence of the world — for doing so would not represent any new advance over the level of existence before creation — but rather, relate G‑d’s sovereignty and oneness to the particular existence of each creation on its own level.

The potential to accomplish this service is possessed by the Jews. Since “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one,” i.e., the Jews are characterized by G‑d’s transcendental oneness, they are able to draw down this oneness into all the different dimensions of existence within our world.

Thus, each Jew also represents a fusion of two opposites. He — even as he exists within the context of our physical world — transcends the entire creation. He, however, also includes the entire creation within himself as the verse relates, “The world was placed within your hearts.”

In particular, these two opposites can be seen in our bodies which G‑d formed from “the dust of the earth” and “the living soul” which G‑d “blew into our nostrils.” Only when these both were combined did man become “a living being.”

Man’s body represents his connection to worldly existence and his soul, “truly a part of G‑d from above,” transcends all aspects of limitation. The two are combined together through G‑d’s wondrous powers. This level of G‑dliness is reflected in the essence of the soul which is higher than the levels of soul5 that are revealed within the body.6 Since such a fusion of opposites exists within each Jew’s being, he has the potential to create a fusion of opposites within the world at large.

This same concept applies in regard to Rosh HaShanah. Rosh HaShanah possesses the two seemingly contradictory functions of a head; including all the limbs of the body and controlling them as they exist in their particular states. Since Rosh HaShanah has its source in a level that transcends both the concept of simplicity (its inclusion of all the days of the year) and division (the manner in which it controls all the days of the year), it fuses these opposite tendencies together.

Based on the above, we can understand why a Jew’s service on Rosh HaShanah also involves the fusion of two opposites, the coronation of G‑d as King and requests for his own individual needs. Since a Jew relates to a level of G‑dliness above both individual existence and transcendence, his service also fuses together two opposite tendencies. Thus, his crowning of G‑d as King does not negate his individual identity. On the contrary, it permeates through that identity entirely to the extent that he requests — and is granted — an inscription for a good year in regard to his material concerns, his health, children, and earning of a livelihood.

These ideas are also reflected in the Torah readings of the holiday which concern the birth and the Akeidah (binding) of Yitzchok. The Akeidah represents the ultimate expression of self- sacrifice. Our Sages explain that although Yitzchok was not actually sacrificed, he is considered as a perfect burnt offering and the “ashes of Yitzchok” are a constant reminder of the merit of the Jews.

Ashes represent the utter nullification of individual existence. Yitzchak’s ashes, nevertheless, also reflect an example of the opposite pole, powerful personal existence, for they remain as a reminder of merit for all time. From the description of Yitzchak’s service, we each derive the potential to carry out the service of Rosh HaShanah, the fusion of utter self-nullification (the coronation of G‑d) with our own identity (the request for material blessings).

2. The above concepts receive greater influence this year when Rosh HaShanah is celebrated on Shabbos. Shabbos also combines two opposite tendencies. On one hand, it is the source of blessing for the entire week (like Rosh HaShanah which serves as the source of energy for all the days of the year to come). Nevertheless, Shabbos is also above time, higher than the days of the week.7

Though both Shabbos and Rosh HaShanah combine opposite tendencies, being above time and yet, influencing time, in particular, however, there is a difference between them. Shabbos represents an ascent above connection to worldliness, standing fundamentally above time. Thus, we do not find it referred to as “the head of week.” Rosh HaShanah, in contrast, is “the head of the year,” implying that its essential function is to serve as the source of influence for all the days of the year to come. Thus, this year when Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbos, there is an added emphasis to the fusion of transcendence and worldliness described above. Shabbos adds a dimension to the influence of Rosh HaShanah as is manifest by the fact that the shofar is not sounded and the influence of this mitzvah is generated by the Shabbos itself.

Furthermore, the fusion of Shabbos and Rosh HaShanah reveals the influence of a level which transcends them both and, therefore, has the power to join them together. The influence of this level does not negate the individual identities of Shabbos and Rosh HaShanah. Rather, their particular existence remains and is enhanced by this higher quality. The ultimate manifestation of this concept can be seen in the Beis HaMikdash where the shofar was sounded (the influence of Rosh HaShanah) even when Rosh HaShanah was celebrated on Shabbos. The transcendence of Shabbos was drawn down through the sounding of the shofar.8

All of the above is enhanced by the unique nature of the present year, תש"נ, a “year of miracles.”9 נס, the Hebrew for “miracle,” also has the connotation, “uplifted,” i.e., it refers to a level that is elevated above the natural order. The intent, however, is not merely that the miracle is itself above nature, but rather, that the miracle lifts up the natural order to the extent that the natural order reflects the supernatural. This relates to the concept explained above, the influence of Shabbos (which is above nature) on Rosh HaShanah (the natural order).

The concept of miracles also relates to the custom (quoted by the Previous Rebbe) of mentioning the Nesi’im, the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rebbe Maharash, the Rebbe Rashab, and the Previous Rebbe on Rosh HaShanah.

The word, Nasi, also means “uplifted” and is used regarding an individual who is elevated above the people as a whole as we find in regard to King Shaul who was described as being so tall that his shoulders were higher than the heads of the people.

Our Sages, however, explain that “a Nasi is the entire people” and that each member of the people has a spark of the Nasi’s soul within his soul. Therefore, all the physical and spiritual necessities required by the people are drawn down to them by the Nasi. Furthermore, the Nasi lifts the people up to a higher level. For this reason, it is appropriate to mention the Nesi’im on Rosh HaShanah.

Our Sages teach that G‑d relates to us in a manner of “measure for measure.” Thus, in order to merit the present “year of miracles,” each Jew must begin a miraculous order of behavior, i.e., take on good resolutions regarding his service of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness which totally surpass that would could be expected of him based on his behavior in previous years.10

This will serve as a vessel to contain the blessings of the present year, a “year of miracles.” Surely, this will include the greatest miracle, the Messianic redemption, when “as in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” G‑d will “sound the great shofar for our freedom,” bringing Mashiach. His coming is associated with the revelation of the yechidah, the essence of the soul of every Jew. Then, it will be revealed how “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are all one.”