It is customary to speak words of “mild admonition” (divrei kivushin) on a fast day, the purpose being to effect positive results, as it says:

He will suppress (yichbosh) our iniquities. (Michah 7:19)

The words of chastisement should engender good resolutions, so that from now on there will be no need for words of admonition! The Holy One, Blessed be He, will certainly assist us in carrying out these good resolutions.

This theme of positive admonition is actually connected to the general theme of a fast day.

The term “taanis” — fast — comes from the root “inui” (suffering) which has a negative connotation, yet, the fast day is also really a “desirable day.” Thus the fast day indicates the conversion of the day of suffering to a desirable day.

Taanis also has the meaning of “maaneh” (an answer) for on the fast day G‑d responds to our pleas and requests. This includes the very basic supplication:

Give Him no rest till He establishes and makes Yerushalayim a praise in the earth, (Yeshayahu 62:7)


O G‑d Who sits in judgment, silence does not become You, You cannot hold Your peace and be still O’ Almighty One. (Tehillim 83:2)

The Jewish people must “kick up a storm” and give no rest to the Holy One, Blessed be He (as it were), for G‑d is happy with such conduct and will fulfill their request and bring the true and complete redemption.

Then all the fast days will be suspended — in fact they will be transformed to days of happiness, rejoicing and holidays, the true expression of “desirable.”

This theme being common to all fast days, we must find the special theme of Tzom Gedaliah. Tzom Gedaliah follows Rosh Hashanah, the day referred to as:

This is the day which is the beginning of Your work. (Siddur)

When G‑d created the world He combined the attribute of mercy together with the attribute of severity, giving precedence to mercy. Every year the same process repeats itself again, especially after the Divine service of shofar-blowing which engenders the preponderance of mercy and the sweetening of severity.

Consequently, all negative aspects are converted to good — so that the words of admonishment turn out to be positive words of encouragement, as the darkness is changed to light. Similarly, the fast is transformed to grace and delight.

The shofar itself indicates the state of delight, for the Midrash attributes the saying “Shipru (shofar) ma’aseichem — beautify your deeds” — to the shofar which evokes the state of beauty and delight.

Chassidus explains that the shofar of Rosh Hashanah reaches the inner essence of the desire of the Essential Essence and draws it into the attributes of kingship. This devolves into the simple pleasure which people enjoy on Rosh Hashanah:

Eat sumptuously, and drink sweet beverages. (Nechemiah 81:10)

All this is carried into the rest of the year to make it a “good and sweet year,” starting from the next day. Consequently, Tzom Gedaliah has the potential for a greater transformation of taanis to delight, relative to the other fasts of the year.

Actually, the ultimate case of transformation of suffering to desire takes place on Yom Kippur, when we must fulfill the commandment:

You shall afflict your souls. (Vayikra 16:31)

At the same time, Chassidus explains that the purpose of the fast day is to:

Keep them alive in famine, (Tehillim 33:19)

meaning that the fast day engenders life from a level even higher than regular food, the supernal source of life.

Moreover, Yom Kippur is the time of the revelation of the Yechidah soul of the Jewish people which unites with the “Oneness” of G‑d.

Since Yom Kippur is the concluding day of the cycle of the Ten Days of Repentance it also influences Tzom Gedaliah to be more intense in this area of changing the suffering to delight.

* * *

Every fast day carries aspects of the redemption and on Tzom Gedaliah these aspects are more prominent. Gedaliah was appointed by Nevuchadnetzer, after the destruction, as governor of Eretz Yisrael in order to continue the rule of the house of Dovid over the Jewish people. (For this reason his brutal murder was so tragic.) Thus, the period of Gedaliah’s rule introduced another phase of continuity to the times of Mashiach who will be from the house of Dovid, and who will usher in the true and complete redemption.

The name Gedaliah also alludes to the greatness of G‑d: “Great is the L‑rd” (Tehillim 48:2). Since Gedaliah’s name includes the letters “Yud” and “Hay” from G‑d’s Name, it again shows a connection to the time of redemption when G‑d’s greatness will be revealed.

The Haftorah of Tzom Gedaliah which is common to all fast days, nevertheless, accentuates the special qualities of Tzom Gedaliah.

Seek the L‑rd while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. (Yeshayahu 55:6)

On this verse the Talmud states:

Seek the L‑rd...these are the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Rosh Hashanah 18a)

On Tzom Gedaliah, the fast day in the Ten Days of Repentance, this theme is certainly accentuated. This “closeness” also applies to the prayers which we say (anytime), in which we ask for simple, down to earth things.

This extra closeness to G‑d on Tzom Gedaliah will even be evident relative to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are also part of the Ten Days of Repentance.

A — Compared to Rosh Hashanah: first of all it is a fast day, and secondly, since it follows Rosh Hashanah it rises to a higher level;

B — In relation to Yom Kippur, which is also a fast day and comes after Tzom Gedaliah, we may also note a quality in Tzom Gedaliah above Yom Kippur. Firstly — Yom Kippur is a fast day by Biblical injunction — from “above” — while Tzom Gedaliah is by rabbinic law — from “below.” This emphasizes the quality of human striving and Divine service. Secondly — Tzom Gedaliah is a day which commemorates the death of a tzaddik and as such it carries very significant power.

Further in the Haftorah we find:

Thus says the L‑rd: Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon My deliverance will come and My righteousness [to you] will be revealed. (Yeshayahu 56:1)

“Thus says the L‑rd.” Speech and words are the essence of Rosh Hashanah when we build the attribute of kingship, the world of speech.

“Keep justice.” Again, in essence Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment. This also includes the Ten Days of Repentance, when we say in the Amidah the phrase: “King of Justice.”

“And do righteousness.” It is a Jewish custom to increase charity during the preparatory period before Rosh Hashanah as well as on Rosh Hashanah (in the permitted way — such as sending food) and also on Tzom Gedaliah and the other days of the Ten Days of Repentance.

* * *

Today we study the second reading section of this week’s Torah portion. Here Scripture tells us:

For part of G‑d is His people.... (Devarim 32:9)

We know that this verse refers to the G‑dly soul in every Jew, as the Alter Rebbe tells us in Tanya:

“For part of G‑d is His people...,” a part of the Tetragrammaton, the Ineffable Name. We find, “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Bereishis 2:7), and we are told “he who exhales does so from within...” (Zohar). (Iggeres HaTeshuvah ch., 4)


..truly a part of G‑d above. (Tanya, ch. 2)

This connects Rosh Hashanah to these verses, for on Rosh Hashanah man was created and G‑d gave him his G‑dly soul.

Further in today’s Chumash section, Scripture states:

He brought them into being in a desert region...He encompassed them and granted them wisdom.... (Devarim 32:10)

The term “midbar” — desert — has two explanations:

A — it is similar to the concept of speech (dibbur-midbar) and;

B — “A land...where no man dwelt” (Yirmeyahu 2:6). This verse may be understood esoterically to refer to the loftier state above the level of man.

Both of these concepts apply to Rosh Hashanah.

Speech relates directly to the role of Rosh Hashanah as the day of building the attribute of kingship — the world of speech — in all its complexity and details, including “encompassed...and granted wisdom.”

On the other hand, the concept of supra-humanity relates to a level of Divine service divested of organized restrictions and intense with consummate self-nullification, yet “willingly accepting His sovereignty” (Siddur).

This is the order of Rosh Hashanah worship to make G‑d King and then draw this acceptance of the heavenly yoke into daily life during the rest of the year.

Today’s study section concludes with the verse:

There was no alien power with Him. (Devarim 32:12)

Not only the Jewish people, but also all the nations of the world will come to recognize G‑d, as the prophet said:

For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language that they may all call upon the Name of the L‑rd to serve Him with one consent. (Zephaniah 3:9)

The spirit of folly and tumah will be wiped from the face of the earth and G‑d will be acknowledged as ruler of the world till the time of the resurrection and the true redemption.

* * *

In the section of Rambam which we study today the Rambam explains that the rules of tumah (ritual impurity) apply only to Jewish persons and not to gentiles.

What is the reasoning for this rule? The phenomenon of tumah can only apply to something which is essentially tahor (ritually pure). Something which cannot be placed in the category of tahor can also not become tameh. Esoterically speaking “the spirit of tumah...wants to rest a holy place” (Shulchan Aruch HaRav), so that it will be able to absorb additional nurture and life-force. Among the gentiles, where there is no state of perfect and true taharah the spirit of tumah has no desire to abide there.

Lacking the state of perfect taharah they have no additional spiritual life-force to radiate to the forces of tumah, so the tumah has nothing to gain.

The gist of this rule expresses the qualitative distinction of the Jewish people who have the unique quality of true taharah, vis-à-vis the nations of the world, who do not.

This accentuates the connection to the Torah verse: “For part of G‑d is His people.”

This distinction also points to a special quality, that the Jewish people possess the ability to convert their shortcomings, missed opportunities and sins to be considered as positive good works, through the power of teshuvah. In fact, these converted good deeds are of a loftier quality and could not have been formed in a direct manner, but had to go the circuitous route. Even the perfect tzaddik longs for this condition of teshuvah, and he calls out with the heartfelt cry that Mashiach should come immediately and then the tzaddik will also do teshuvah and attain the lofty state of the baal teshuvah.

It is customary that we conclude with tzedakah, so that we will have the three pillars of Torah, Avodah (prayer) and charity.

Similarly, we should make good resolutions to increase all aspects of Torah and mitzvos at this propitious opportunity on a fast day, in addition to all the good resolutions of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and the second day of Rosh Hashanah and the morning of Tzom Gedaliah. For the concept of ascension in matters of holiness applies from day to day, hour to hour and moment to moment. Ultimately, this will lead to the greatest ascent of the redemption, when our youth and elders, sons and daughters, the entire nation, will be united.

And we have just crowned the Holy One, Blessed be He, as “King of the world,” through complete Torah and mitzvos.

And we will go to the Holy Land — the complete land — speedily and quickly; the redemption will come through the Holy One, Blessed be He, “the King of Israel and its Redeemer.” And then the world will be redeemed:

Reign over all the earth in Your splendor. (Siddur)

And kingship will be the L‑rd’s, (Ovadiah 1:21)

over all the 70 nations. May we see the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and in our times, and on the clouds of heaven we will dance to the Holy Land, Yerushalayim, the Holy City — to the Holy mountain and the Beis HaMikdash.

With gladness and happy hearts, speedily and truly in our days.