1. In the book of Yeshayahu (55:6) it is written, “Seek the L‑rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is close.” Our Sages say that this verse refers to “the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur,” which is the special time when G‑d is “found” and is “close.” For this reason, the prayers of an individual are as effective during this time as those of a congregation are during the rest of the year; and congregational prayers during these ten days are even higher than that.

We can understand why G‑d is “found” and “close” specifically at this time by more closely examining this phrase, “the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.” These days could have been described in some other way, such as “the ten days between the first and tenth of Tishrei.” Why are Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur singled out?

The reason is that Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur share a common theme, and this theme is the central idea which permeates the entire ten day period. The Sages therefore said that these are “the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur,” in order to stress that these two holidays express the essence of the ten day period, which in turn explains why G‑d is “found” and “close” specifically during this time.

The principal theme of Rosh HaShanah is the crowning of G‑d as our King. This coronation is completed on Yom Kippur, which Scripture also calls a “Rosh HaShanah” (Yechezkel 40:1). It is this very acceptance of Him as King which brings about the atonement of Yom Kippur, as explained in Chassidic philosophy.

This same theme characterizes the entire ten day period. We see this clearly from the special prayers said during this period: “Blessed are You L‑rd, the holy King” (instead of “the holy G‑d”), and “Our Father, our King” (Avinu Malkeinu), which begins, “We have no King but You.” Kabbalah and Chassidus also stresses the theme of coronation during these ten days, since these are the days of binyan haMalchus, the completion of all ten subcategories of the sefirah of malchus (“Kingship”).

It is this revelation of G‑d’s Kingship which makes Him “found” and “close” during these ten days. The very existence of a king indicates that there is a closeness between him and the people he rules over. They are, in fact, totally dependent on each other.

Without a people to rule over, the king is not a king — ein melech b’lo am. Conversely, in order for the people to exist in peace, they must have a king to lead them. In addition, one who rebels against the king is punishable by execution; therefore his very life is dependent on his connection and submission to the king. The unity between the king and his people is therefore so complete that may be considered to be a single united existence.

On an even deeper level, the people themselves may be viewed in two ways: as a single group of people, and as a conglomerate of unique individuals. The king’s connection with them is in both aspects: he leads the nation as a whole as well as every single individual in each detail of his or her life.

From this example we can understand the closeness of G‑d to the Jewish people during these ten days. Since we accept G‑d as our King and He agrees to rule over us, a powerful connection is formed. These days therefore become the days when G‑d is “found” and “close.” Furthermore, this connection does not imply that we lose our existence, so too speak, in the face of this tremendous revelation of His presence. Just as a human king cares for the needs of the individual, G‑d’s closeness to the Jewish people is to every single individual in even the most minute details of life.

This same idea is stressed at the beginning of parshas Nitzavim, which is always read before Rosh HaShanah. The first verse (Devarim 29:9) reads, “Today you are all standing before G‑d your L‑rd — your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforcers, every Israelite man, your children, your women, and the proselytes in your camp — even your wood-cutters and water drawers.” “Today” refers to Rosh HaShanah, and the verse mentions both the nation as a whole and the individuality of its members. The phrase “you are all standing” indicates that the Jewish people stand equal as a single existence before G‑d. At the same time, ten different categories of individuals are mentioned separately (“your leaders... — even your wood-cutters and water drawers”).

The reason for this is the same as was mentioned above. Since they were “brought into the covenant of G‑d your L‑rd, and ... He is establishing you as His nation” (ibid. 29:11-12), the closeness of the King to His people was revealed. This closeness is expressed both to the nation as a whole (“all standing”) and to all individuals from the highest to the lowest.

In light of the above, we can more clearly understand the saying of the sages mentioned above. The verse, “Seek the L‑rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is close,” teaches us the strength of the prayers of an individual during these ten days. This is because G‑d’s closeness is not just to the nation as a whole, but to every single individual. The verse simultaneously conveys the closeness to the entire nation, since the words “Seek” (dirshu) and “Call upon Him” (k’ra’uhu) are in plural form.

G‑d’s closeness continuously increases from day to day during this period, just as there is constant increase in all holy matters. And once we have gone through six days, more than half of the period has past, and the closeness is that much stronger. In addition, halachah considers seven to be a “recognizable majority” of ten, and after seven days, the closeness is even more intense. The culmination occurs on Yom Kippur, when the essence of the Jewish soul and its complete unity with the essence of G‑d is revealed.

The ultimate closeness will be in the days of Mashiach, when G‑d’s Kingship will be recognized throughout the world. At that time we will experience G‑dliness without any concealment; and not only will we be able to maintain our existence (rather than being engulfed and nullified by the revelation), but we will exist firmly and strongly, with physical bodies and fully revealed souls.

This precise moment is also closely connected with the Messianic Age. Shabbos in general resembles the days of Mashiach, as we pray in Birchas HaMazon for, “that day which will be all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.” This is especially true on Shabbos Shuvah, which includes all Shabbosim of the year, and even moreso in the time of Minchah, rava d’ravin. The eighth day of the month also alludes to Mashiach, since his harp will have eight strings rather than seven. And all of this receives added emphasis in Shnas Nissim, the year of miracles, which refers primarily to the miracle of the final redemption.

2. The idea of G‑d being “close” is also connected with the weekly parshah, Haazinu. In the opening verse of the parshah (Devarim 32:1), Moshe says, “Listen (haazinu) heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear (v’sishma) the words of my mouth!” Our Sages explain that the word haazinu is used for something close, whereas v’sishma is used for something far. Moshe, who was close to the heavenly realms, therefore said haazinu in regard to the heavens and v’sishma regarding the earth.

But this is somewhat surprising. How is it possible for a person — whose soul has come down to this world in a physical body — to be far from earthly matters and close to the heavenly? In addition, it is well known that the purpose of the soul’s descent is to make a dirah b’tachtonim, a dwelling place for G‑d in the lower realms. Being close to heavenly matters and far from earthly ones seems to contradict this mission!

The answer is provided later in the parshah (ibid. 32:9): “But His nation remained G‑d’s portion.” The phrase “G‑d’s portion” (chelek Havayah) refers to the essence of the Jewish soul, which is “literally a portion of G‑d” (chelek Eloka mima’al mamash). A Jew is therefore constantly bound to heavenly matters, to the extent that he really has no connection with earthly things altogether. This is stressed right at the beginning of the day, even before the regular daily service of G‑d has begun. Even before washing the hands one says, “I offer thanks before You, living and eternal King.” The word “before You” (l’fonecho) also can be translated, “to Your innermost aspect.” A Jew is constantly connected with the deepest level of G‑dliness.

It is for this very reason that even when he is in the middle of transforming the physical world into a G‑dly dwelling, his connection with G‑d still shows through. And during the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, when G‑d is particularly “close,” the closeness to heavenly matters (haazinu) is even more pronounced.

3. In light of the above, we can better understand the widespread Jewish custom of asking for lekach (honeycake) on Erev Yom Kippur. The Previous Rebbe observed this custom by distributing lekach and giving a blessing for a “good and sweet year.”

Among the reasons for this custom is to avoid any possible heavenly decree that the person would have to ask another for his food. Once one asks for lekach, the decree has been fulfilled and there will be no further need to ask; all one’s needs will be provided for by G‑d.

On a deeper level, we can say even more. Since the purpose of the custom is to avoid having to receive food from a person, it is logical to say that even the lekach is not really being received from a person.

The explanation of this is as follows: In reality, all food comes from G‑d, and therefore a poor person who receives food from a person thanks G‑d, Who “provides nourishment and sustenance for all.” This is because the person is only an intermediary for delivering G‑d’s blessings.

However, both parties still feel that a transaction has taken place between two human beings. The poor person naturally feels some sense of shame, as seen from the fact that we all ask in birchas hamazon, “please do not make us dependent upon the gifts of mortal men.” The giver also feels that he is the giver; and the Torah therefore must stress to him that he must give generously, etc.

The giving of lekach on Erev Yom Kippur is not like this, however. Since these are the days when G‑d is “close,” all parties involved feel that G‑d Himself is doing the giving, and the giver is no more than a messenger. Even moreso, the giver is not even seen as a messenger, but just a link enabling G‑d’s gift to come to the person.

For this reason, the giver needs no warning, since he naturally gives generously, as G‑d Himself gives. Similarly, the recipient feels no shame, and takes the lekach not out of need, but in order to fulfill the custom.

On a yet deeper level, one can assume that everyone has already been signed and inscribed for a good year on Rosh HaShanah. One need not take special measures to avoid a possible decree, since we are confident that there is no such decree. What, then, is the purpose of taking lekach? Perhaps the explanation is that in the past year either the giver or the taker did not have the proper awareness that everything really comes from G‑d. By requesting (and giving) lekach, this realization is reinforced, and the shortcoming of the past year corrected.

In order to further strengthen the realization that really G‑d is the giver, lekach was distributed this year together with a Chassidic discourse [“U’shavtem mayim,” 5621, from the Tzemach Tzedek]. Torah is also called lekach, as in the verse (Proverbs 4:2), Lekach tov nasati lachem. In addition, pnimiyus haTorah is compared to honey. And since “G‑d and His Torah are one,” giving the lekach together with Torah helps strengthen the bond between the Jew and G‑d. This in turn helps one realize that G‑d is really the giver, not man. The inner part of Torah (pnimiyus haTorah), which bonds the innermost part of the Jewish soul to the innermost levels of G‑dliness, accomplishes this to an even greater extent.

This particular discourse places special stress on the bond between G‑d and the Jews. The discourse discusses the verse (Yeshayahu 12:3), “You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of deliverance.” The Jerusalem Talmud says that the water drawing in the Bais HaMikdash was associated with Divine inspiration (ruach hakodesh); the prophet Yonah was imbued with ruach hakodesh when drawing water. Ruach hakodesh represents the open revelation of G‑d’s bond with the Jews.

The discourse was distributed to all — men, women, and children. This is because every Jew inherits the entire Torah, including pnimiyus haTorah. In addition, women must fulfill the six “constant” mitzvos, such as belief in G‑d, love, awe, etc. These are fulfilled primarily through the study of Chassidus. These mitzvos must also be stressed in the education of children, and in this way their study of Chassidus later on will be greatly enhanced. In addition — and this is the main point — through this we will even further hasten the redemption, at which time G‑d said, “I will spill My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will utter prophecy.”

This is the proper time to remind everyone and encourage them to make the proper preparations for Simchas Beis HaShoeivah, the rejoicing of Sukkos. In case of the eventuality that Mashiach hasn’t come by then, G‑d forbid, celebrations must be arranged in all places. Included in this is preparing for the rejoicing in the Bais HaMikdash by adding in our service of G‑d, and thereby hasten its construction. This can be accomplished especially by adding in joy, which shatters all boundaries; particularly by making farbrengens on Shabbos, Motzaei Shabbos, and on erev Yom Kippur. The service of Yom Kippur should also be permeated with joy, since the higher level of teshuvah (teshuvah ila’ah) is characterized by joy. This is because Yom Kippur brings the greatest unity between G‑d and the Jewish people, and we farbreng, so to speak, with G‑d Himself.