1. The Alter Rebbe declares that one should “Open with a blessing.” Thus, it is appropriate that whenever Jews meet, they begin by blessing each other. This expresses the love which each Jew has for his colleague. Blessing each other in this fashion will increase the blessings which G‑d conveys upon the Jewish people.

These blessings are intensified by the place, a synagogue and a house of study, and the time, the month of Elul and, in particular, the days of Selichos, when this gathering is being held.

Elul is a month where the king (G‑d, the true King) is in the field, i.e., He makes Himself accessible to every Jew even those whose service is not confined to a synagogue, a house of study, or even a Jew’s private home (a “sanctuary in microcosm”), but involves being “in the field.”

In particular, the days of Selichos are characterized by the quality of tzedakah as emphasized by the opening verse of the Selichos, tzedakah, O L‑rd, is Yours,” i.e., G‑d bestows tzedakah upon the Jews, as individuals, how much more, as they join together as a community and forgives and grants atonement for their sins. This, in turn, adds to the blessings which G‑d will convey upon each individual.

We may rest assured that we will receive these blessings. Therefore, on Rosh HaShanah, we dress in white, make kiddush, and indulge in other practices which express happiness confident that we will receive a kesivah vachasimah tovah for a good year in regard to both spiritual and material affairs. (Note the Hagahos Maimoni which states that the judgment of Rosh HaShanah is primarily concerned with material affairs.)

The above also shares a connection to this week’s Torah portion which contains the verse, “For the L‑rd’s portion is His nation, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance,” emphasizing how each Jew is connected with G‑d. This is also emphasized by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya which states that each Jew is “truly a part of G‑d.” Because of this essential G‑dly nature, each Jew is granted an abundance of material and spiritual blessings.

This gathering is unique because it is attended by Jewish woman. A woman is the akeres habayis, the mainstay of the home. She develops the atmosphere of the home, causing it to be a “sanctuary in microcosm.” This role is emphasized by the three mitzvos whose fulfillment is given over to Jewish women.

These include the lighting of Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles.1 Just as Sarah’s candles would shine from one Shabbos until the next, the candles lit by every Jewish woman grant light to her home in the entire week that follow. Similarly, every Jewish girl has the potential to add light to the home. This light is reflected in the light of appreciation on the faces of even the youngest children when they light Shabbos candles. (Accordingly, candles should be lit by girls at even the youngest ages, at three, at two, or even at the age of one if they appreciate what they are doing.)

There are two unique dimensions to the present occasion:

a) This year, Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbos. This teaches that the entire year must be permeated by a Shabbos-like atmosphere.

b) This Erev Rosh HaShanah marks the 200th anniversary of the Tzemach Tzedek’s birth. A birthday is a day on which the spiritual source of a person’s soul shines powerfully.2

Tzemach means “grow” and Tzedek means “righteousness.” Tzemach Tzedek means that a person should constantly grow in Torah (and in the practical expressions of the Torah’s teachings in deed) which is called “righteousness.”

{The Rebbe distributed money to be given to the women to give to tzedakah. Afterwards, he stated:} During these days, it is customary to bless each other, L’Shanah Tovah Tikasaivu. May you and your entire families receive this blessing and may G‑d “sound the great shofar for our freedom” and then, we will be “Next year, in Jerusalem.”