1. The Shabbos in which we read the Torah portion Noach is always the first Shabbos of the month of MarCheshvan. In a way, this signals the real beginning of the year, since Tishrei is a “general” month, i.e. a month of preparation for the year. MarCheshvan therefore has a unique status, since it is the first of the “regular” months of the year. For this reason, today is the proper time to set the pattern for G‑dly service throughout the year — especially for the Shabbosim of the year.

The Torah gives clear directions regarding conduct on Shabbos in parshas Vayakhel. The opening words of the parshah (“Vayakhel Moshe”/”Moshe gathered”) are explained in Midrash: “In the entire Torah from beginning to end, the only parshah which begins with the word Vayakhel is this one...in order that all future generations should learn to gather congregations every single Shabbos; to enter the houses of learning to study and to teach the Jewish people words of Torah.”

From that time on, Shabbos was established as the proper occasion (in the words of the Alter Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch), “To teach the people G‑d’s laws and to expound upon words of aggadah, in order to put yiras shamayim in their hearts.”

Now is therefore the time to stress this practice which was instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu: that wherever in the world Jews might live, they should gather together on Shabbos to learn Torah and help each other advance in Torah and mitzvos.

Since today is the sixth of MarCheshvan, the lesson is all the more appropriate. Those in Eretz Yisrael would normally pray for rain immediately after Sukkos, but they delay doing so until the seventh of MarCheshvan. The reason for this is that only on this day did those who made pilgrimage to the Beis HaMikdash for Sukkos finally return home. Rain was therefore not requested, since this would inconvenience the travelers in their journey.

From this we see that up to (and including) the sixth of MarCheshvan, the Jewish people are still connected with the service of Tishrei. The real service of a Jew in the world first begins on the seventh of MarCheshvan. The sixth of MarCheshvan therefore denotes the turning point from the holy service of Tishrei to the regular service of the rest of the year.

The sixth of MarCheshvan (in the yearly cycle) therefore bears strong resemblance to Shabbos (in the weekly cycle). In Tishrei (and until the sixth of MarCheshvan) and on Shabbos, a Jew is immersed in mitzvos and an atmosphere of holiness. The goal of this infusion of holiness is to bring it into one’s regular everyday conduct and affairs in the days and months that follow.

The idea of gathering Jews together is also similar in content to that of Tishrei and Shabbos. Jews are spread apart in order for them to fulfill their mission in purifying the world; each in his particular portion (chel’ko ba’olam). When Jews gather together, on the other hand, it is usually for something involving Torah or mitzvos. We see this clearly in Tishrei, when Jews gather in synagogues and houses of study in much greater numbers than during the rest of the year. By 1) gathering together and 2) doing so on Shabbos, an even stronger influence of holiness is drawn into the rest of the week.

It might seem that this stress on the group tends to nullify in a certain way the importance of the individual. In reality, though, the opposite is true. The group is only complete when each individual is fulfilling his personal objectives.

We can see this clearly by taking group prayer as an example. The primary mitzvah of prayer is for each individual to ask for his own person needs. Only when each one is stressing his “individuality” does the congregation become a true group.

In this way, the true essence of the individual — the level of yechidah of his soul — becomes revealed. On the other hand, yechidah is equal by each and every one. We therefore see that the revelation of yechidah simultaneously stresses both the individual and the group.

This revelation of yechidah is directly connected with Tishrei, which contains Yom Kippur, the day of five prayers (including Neilah) on which the fifth level of the soul (yechidah) is revealed. A similar revelation is present every Shabbos, as we see from the fact that Yom Kippur is called “Shabbos Shabboson.”

According to this, we see that even an individual who is all alone can accomplish an internal “gathering” on Shabbos. By “gathering together” and revealing all the qualities of his soul, he will eventually be able to reveal the level of yechidah, which, as mentioned above, is the point of these gatherings. And since Divine Providence has placed him in a situation where it is impossible for him to actually gather together groups of Jews, it must be that G‑d has given him the ability to accomplish this on his own.

On the contrary: for some people, it is easier to dig down deeper into the soul and reveal one’s yechidah when there is nobody else around to disturb. And since he has been placed in a situation where it is impossible to gather together a group, he must have the abilities to reveal this yechidah on his own.

2. The abovementioned is also closely connected with this week’s parshah, parshas Noach. As the Alter Rebbe explains in Torah Or, Noach corresponds to the idea of Shabbos. This is readily seen from the Targum on the verse, “And He rested (vayishbos) [on the seventh day]” — “V’Nach.” We see the same idea regarding the ark of Noach, in which all the animals were gathered together. Furthermore, the peaceful coexistence which took place on the ark resembled the Messianic Age, which results from the manifestation of the level of yechidah.

And just as with the gathering which we do every Shabbos, the ark was just a preparation for the service of G‑d which is to follow, as Noach was commanded, “Go out from the ark.” This corresponds to the individual service which takes place after Shabbos, after Tishrei, and after the gathering has dispersed. This idea is also expressed in the parshah which we begin reading at Minchah, parshas Lech Lecha.

G‑d’s commandment to Avram to leave his homeland (Lech Lecha) really applied to his entire family and all who accompanied him. It was nevertheless expressed in singular form (Lech Lecha), in order to stress the tremendous importance of service by the individual.

With all this in mind, we can clearly understand why the seventh of MarCheshvan is the proper time to request rain. Rain comes about through the prayers of man, as we see from the verse (Gen. 2:5), “...and all the wild plants had not yet sprouted, because G‑d had not brought rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground.” As Rashi explains, the reason there was no rain was because “there was no man,” and therefore nobody to pray for rain. Once Adam did so, then, “A mist rose up from the earth, and it watered the entire surface of the ground.”

In this (“rose up from the earth”) we also see the idea of man’s service, an “arousal from below,” in contrast with G‑dly revelation, an “arousal from Above.” This is indeed the difference between rain, which requires human prayer, and dew, which comes “from Above” without human request. Our request for rain (which, as we have explained, is an “arousal from below”) therefore begins on the seventh of MarCheshvan, which marks the beginning of man’s individual service of G‑d throughout the year.

This also explains the difference between the mention of rain on Shemini Atzeres (mashiv ha’ruach u’morid hageshem) and the request for rain on the seventh of MarCheshvan (v’sein tal u’matar).

Shemini Atzeres is still in the month of Tishrei, and the idea of transforming the world through our individual service has not yet begun in full force. For this same reason, our mention of rain on Shemini Atzeres is done with the congregation, in the Mussaf prayer.

This gives the strength for our personal, individual service in the world beginning with the seventh of MarCheshvan. At that point we begin, in our own individual prayers, to begin to actually request rain.

3. The practical lesson from the abovementioned is as follows. Since today we stand on the threshold of the “regular” months of the year, we should make strong resolutions to institute and strengthen the gathering of groups on Shabbos wherever possible. This should be publicized as widely as possible.

As many people as possible should be involved, and the effects should be visible during the days of the week which follow. Nigleh and Chassidus should be learned, especially in areas pertaining to the particular time of the year. Resolutions should be made regarding shiurim during the week, regarding the meticulous practice of mitzvos (kiyum mitzvos b’hiddur), and in Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim in general.

And this should not end with the group gathering, but continue individualized care directed towards each man, woman and child. The responsibility for this individualized attention lies both on the one who has gathered everyone together (the Rav, etc.) and even more so on the people who have participated in the gathering.

This should all be done in the spirit of “Noach,” which is translated “pleasantness.” Things should be approached in a peaceful way and in a way that people are drawn close. This can be done effectively through farbrengens, which bring the tremendous joy and the ability to break through all boundaries.

And all this should bring about the fulfillment of G‑d’s promise to Avram to give his descendants the land of all 10 nations, including Keini, Kenizi, and Kadmoni, with the immediate arrival of Mashiach.