1. We are in the midst of a unique period of time. It is the month of Elul, the month of stocktaking in which we review our conduct over the course of the entire previous year and prepare for our divine service in the year to come. Moreover, more than half of this special month has already passed.

In particular, the previous week marked the commemoration of unique days: the thirteenth of Elul, the Previous Rebbe’s wedding anniversary; and the eleventh of Elul, the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe Rashab; and the fifteenth of Elul, the founding of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim — the Lubavitcher Yeshivah — by the Rebbe Rashab.1 Similarly, this Shabbos provides the blessing for the coming week which includes the eighteenth of Elul, the birthday of the two great luminaries, the Baal Shem Tov, and the Alter Rebbe. All of the above concepts and also the weekly Torah portion, Parshas Ki Savo, share a connecting factor as will be explained.

This connecting factor can be realized by focusing more closely on the nature of our divine service in the month of Elul. As is well-known, the letters of the name Elul (אלול) serve as an acronym for the verse, אני לדודי ודודי לי, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” For during Elul, the purpose of the totality of divine service, the intense bond of love shared by G‑d and the Jewish people comes to the surface.

More precisely, this verse reflects two dimensions of this relationship: “I am My beloved’s,” the inspired arousal of the Jewish people who make a commitment of love to G‑d through their divine service of the Torah and its mitzvos, and “My Beloved is mine,” G‑d’s loving response and the blessings which He showers upon the Jewish people.

This relationship is begun through the efforts of the Jewish people. For that reason, the verse begins “I am my Beloved’s.”2 There is an arousal from above, the revelation of G‑d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, to refer to the parable of the Alter Rebbe, the king goes out to the field. Nevertheless, this is merely a preparatory step for the Jews to take the initiative and turn to G‑d in love.

The unique dimension of the month of Elul can be clarified through contrasting the verse cited above with a similar verse: “My Beloved is mine and I am His.” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that the two verses reflect two different patterns in the expression of this love relationship.

The verse beginning, “My Beloved is mine,” implies that the relationship begins with Divine revelation which, in turn, evokes the response of man. Conversely, “I am my Beloved’s,” implies that it is man who initiates the relationship with G‑d and it is man’s loving approach which motivates Him to respond.

The verse beginning, “My Beloved is mine,” reflects the pattern of the month of Nissan, the month of redemption in which G‑d extends Himself to His people first. “I am my Beloved’s,” by contrast, is associated with Elul, when, as stated above, the initiative is taken by man.

To explain the difference: Both Nissan and Tishrei are referred to as the beginning of the year, for each reflect the beginning of a different cycle. Nissan is associated with the miraculous dimension of redemption, and Tishrei — and hence, Elul — with the natural order of existence. Within the context of that natural order, the ultimate goal — and hence, the conclusion of our divine service of that year — is service on man’s own initiative, the awakening to G‑d undertaken by man in the month of Elul.

Although the name Elul refers to five different modes of divine service: prayer, Torah study, deeds of kindness, teshuvah, and redemption.3 The point of all these five4 services, however, is “I am my Beloved’s,” that a love relationship be established between the Jewish people and G‑d.

The Alter Rebbe describes the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people in the month of Elul with the parable of a king who meets his people in the field. This highlights the concept that it is in our lowly material world — the field, a place removed from the king’s palace — that the love relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people is expressed.

Moreover, the fact that the field serves as the setting for this bond, elevates the nature of the field and allows it to express G‑d’s oneness and glory.5 As the Mishnah states, “Everything which the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.”

Through this service, the Jews ensure themselves — as is customary to bless one another during the month of Elul — a kesivah vachasimah tovah, that we be inscribed for a good year, a year of spiritual and material prosperity.6 And these blessings will be enhanced by the influence of Shabbos, for Shabbos is a day of happiness and pleasure. Indeed, this pleasure is extended into the material realm, including fine foods and beverages and other physical delights.7

2. The above concepts are paralleled by the opening passage in this week’s Torah reading which begins, “When you come to the land that G‑d your L‑rd is giving you as an inheritance, and you will take possession of it and dwell within.” As in the month of Elul when “the king goes out into the field,” in this instance as well, G‑d grants the potential for the service of the Jewish people. He gives them the land as an inheritance. Nevertheless, as in Elul, when the fundamental initiative is taken by the Jewish people, in this instance, it is they who take possession of the land8 and dwell in it.

This service involves, as the passage continues, taking the first fruits of the land and bringing them as an offering to G‑d. These fruits must be “placed in a basket.” The Hebrew word for basket, טנא, serves as an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “cantillation notes, vowel sounds, and letters,” i.e., the symbols that enable a Jew to pronounce the words of the Torah. This indicates how this service involves revealing how everything that transpires in the world is associated with and reflects the Torah.

The first fruits are then taken to the Beis HaMikdash, where they become sanctified as an offering. This reflects the potential a Jew has to make the worldly dimensions of existence holy. This includes also the transformation of the undesirable aspects of the world into good.9 The result is that blessing is drawn down for the Jewish people as the passage concludes, “Look down from Your holy habitation... and bless Your people Israel.”

Why is it the Jews who perform this service? Because they are the first fruits of G‑d as it were, as it is written “Israel is sanctified unto G‑d, they are the first flowering of His crop.” Indeed, the existence of the Jewish people precedes even that of the Torah.10 Therefore, the Jews have the power to sanctify the produce of the earth and endow it with the holiness of first fruits.

* * *

3. In connection with the weddings of the Rebbe Rashab and the Previous Rebbe: The service of “I am my Beloved’s...” shares an obvious connection to a wedding, for the marriage bond between a man and a woman on this earthly plane is representative of the bond of love shared by G‑d and the Jewish people as described in Shir HaShirim. The connection between weddings and Elul is also reflected in the fact that Elul is associated with the Zodiac sign of “the virgin,” and it is customary to hold weddings in the second half of the month as well.

There is also a relationship between the five services that characterize the month of Elul and a wedding. To explain: Our Sages teach that a woman can be acquired through three contractual acts. These three acts parallel the three services of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness. Teshuvah is also connected to a wedding as reflected in the fact that the day of a bride’s and groom’s wedding is considered as their personal Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur is the ultimate experience of teshuvah.

This also leads to the connection to redemption, for it is in the Era of the Redemption, that the wedding bound between G‑d and the Jewish people will be consummated. And to emphasize this concept, the wedding blessings conclude with mention of the redemption, when “speedily there will be heard in the cities of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem... the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride.”

There is also a connection between a wedding and the two chapters of Pirkei Avos studied this Shabbos, chapters 3 and 4. This connection is reflected in the Hebrew letters associated with these numbers d and s. Our Rabbis associate the sequence from d to s with the phrase gomel dallim, “showing kindness to the poor.” This reflects the flow from mashpia (source of influence) to mekabel (recipient) which is reflected in a marriage. Similarly, the Hebrew word גד is synonymous with the word mazal for they both mean “luck.” And at a wedding, the mazal of both the bride and the groom shine powerfully.

4. Directly after the Previous Rebbe’s wedding, the Rebbe Rashab founded Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim and appointed the Previous Rebbe as its director. This can be explained as follows: The ultimate goal of a marriage is to “be fruitful and multiply, populate the earth and conquer it,” to give birth to children. Just as there are physical children, so too, there are spiritual children. Indeed, in this context, our Sages taught that a person’s students are considered as his children.

The founding of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim injected new energy to all the five modes of service connected with Elul. In the realm of Torah study — It was in Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim, that Nigleh (the revealed teachings of Torah law) and Pnimiyus HaTorah (the Torah’s mystic dimensions) were first studied as a single unit. Study of this nature enables one’s appreciation of both of these realms of knowledge to flourish.

In the realm of prayer — In Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim, a unique emphasis was placed on prayer. For “knowing the G‑d of your father” enables one to “serve Him with a full heart.”11 This unique conception of prayer was revealed in the Rebbe Rashab’s texts, Kuntreis HaTefillah and Kuntreis HaAvodah.

In the realm of deeds of kindness — The students of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim were taught to serve as “candles to illuminate,” to spread light throughout the world. The students of the Yeshivah appreciate that their study should not be self-contained, but rather, they should be involved in spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward.

In the realm of teshuvah — Firstly, the ultimate rung of teshuvah is expressed through Torah study. Moreover, as the Rebbe Rashab emphasized in the classic sichah, Kol HaYotzei L’Milchemes Beis David,12 one of the goals of the Yeshivah’s students is to motivate Jews throughout the world to turn to G‑d in teshuvah.

In regard to redemption — The increase in the spread of the wellsprings of Chassidus brought about by Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim will hasten the coming of the Redemption.

In this context, we also see a connection to Chai Elul, for when founding the Yeshivah, the Rebbe Rashab stated, “With the beginning of study in the Yeshivah [on Chai Elul], I kindled the constant torch of the light which the Baal Shem Tov and the Rebbeim endowed me.”

Indeed, Chai Elul “adds vitality to the service of ‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.’ ” And the vitality contributed by Chai Elul surely inspires the students of the Yeshivah in all five modes of service mentioned above.

This year marks the 92nd anniversary of the founding of the Yeshivah and the 50th anniversary of its transfer to America, “the earth’s lower hemisphere.” Thus it is uniquely appropriate to commemorate this anniversary by holding chassidic farbrengens in every community in which a branch of the Yeshivah is found, beginning from the central branch here in New York.

These farbrengens should be well attended for “in the multitude of people is the glory of the king.” They should be attended by parents who send their children to the Yeshivah and by all the alumni of the Yeshivah — even those who attended only for a short time. For holiness does not depart from its place and even if one’s attendance at the Yeshivah was brief, the impression left on one’s life will be lasting.

The directorate of the Yeshivah should itself participate in these gatherings. For the directorate have the power which was vested in them by the Previous Rebbe who was the first director of the Yeshivah. Moreover, even after succeeding his father as Rebbe, when he gave over the functional dimensions of this position to his son-in-law,13 he stated that he was not giving up the position. Thus he remains the director of the Yeshivah until the present day and grants those serving on the directorate of the Yeshivah at present the potential to carry out their mission in a successful manner.14

For these celebrations, it is appropriate that the Yeshivah publish a chassidic text, In particular, it is appropriate that they publish the aforementioned discourse, Kol HaYotzei L’Milchemes Beis David, for it clearly spells out the task required of the Yeshivah’s students. These celebrations should be continued until Chai Elul and indeed, into the days that follow according to the particular situation prevailing within a given community.

Similarly, at the present time, efforts should be made to intensify our activities in all the five modes of service associated with the month of Elul. In particular, there should be an increase in the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah. In this context, and in connection with the anniversaries of the Rebbeim, it is proper to study the maamarim associated with weddings including the series of discourses Sameach Tisamach which was recited in connection with the Previous Rebbe’s wedding.

In connection with the above, it is also worthy to mention the printing of a new text of Chassidus, a collection of discourses of the Mitteler Rebbe. The first of these discourses mentions concepts that relate to a wedding.

May these activities herald the ultimate spread of knowledge that will come when “the knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth as the waters cover the ocean bed,” with the coming of Mashiach. And may this take place in the immediate future.