1. As has been customary in previous years, we meet together in the final days of the year in preparation for the new year to come. This is appropriate in the month of Elul which is the month set aside to take account of one’s behavior in the previous year. In particular, this applies in the last days of the year, beginning Chai Elul when each day has the potential to correct each of the months of the previous year.

Chai Elul marks the birthdays of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus in general, and the Alter Rebbe who founded the Chabad Chassidic approach. Thus, it follows that the process of making an account for the previous year and preparing for the new year should be permeated by the approach of Chassidus.

Chassidus implies not only behaving as required in the realms of thought, speech, and action, but going beyond the measure of the law and acting in a pious manner.

When G‑d chose the Jews, He designated them as “a kingdom of priests,” i.e., servants. Thus, in a Jew’s daily behavior, not only on special occasions, it will be revealed how he is a servant of G‑d. Furthermore, as a member of a “kingdom,” he also will reveal a certain dimension of royalty. Thus, in all things that are connected to the service of G‑d, he will be like a king. Therefore, nothing will phase him for he will know that the potential to rule is in his hands.

In particular, every Jew, whether man, woman, or child, is a priest serving G‑d, and, conversely, possesses a king’s power. The two are interrelated. Because the Jews are involved in the service of G‑d, G‑d gives them the potential to fulfill this service for “the servant of a king is, himself, a king.” Thus, every Jew knows that from his birth, he has been chosen be the Creator of the world, by Divine Providence to ensure that every element of the world will be as desired.

G‑d is not only the Creator of the world, but controls each individual aspect of it. Therefore, it is understandable that if He chose each Jew as His servant, He has surely granted him the potential to carry out that service within the context of his everyday life. In doing so, he will become a king over his surroundings. Furthermore, when he decides to carry out the mission with which G‑d has charged him, G‑d assists him in these efforts.

The latter statement implies two points:

a) G‑d grants the person the potential to fulfill his mission; but

b) G‑d only “assists” him, and thus, the entire merit, honor, and energy involved with fulfilling the mission belongs to the individual who performs it.

Surely, as we conclude the previous year and prepare for the coming year, we must continue to increase our service and efforts in fulfilling G‑d’s mission. This tendency to grow is a sign of life. Thus, we see that even the plant kingdom is characterized by growth. In animals, there is a greater manifestation of the life force and thus, they can move from place to place. In humans, life is manifest to an even greater degree and therefore, they have the potential to communicate and thus, step beyond themselves.

Similarly, the Jews have the potential to “proceed from strength to strength” and increase the breadth and depth of their service. G‑d gives each individual the potential to fulfill the good resolutions he has made to increase his service and do so with happiness that stems from one’s awareness that one is fulfilling G‑d’s will.

In particular, the above concept is relevant to the kindling of the Shabbos and festival candles by Jewish women and girls. When a Jewish woman, even a young girl, lights a candle on the eve of Rosh Hashanah or the Sabbath eve, she generates a light that is visible to the human eye. Though it is a mitzvah of G‑d, the actual kindling is performed by a Jewish woman or girl. This is implied by the blessing recited before kindling the candles which emphasizes how G‑d has “sanctified us with His commandments” and given us the potential to fulfill His commandments.

This year, there is a unique aspect connected with the kindling of the candles on Rosh Hashanah, when:

a) the blessing, Shehecheyanu, is recited;

b) the Shabbos coincides with Rosh Hashanah and thus, the same blessing includes both days.

Through lighting these candles on Rosh Hashanah, we usher in the new year with light and thus, ensure that the entire year will be a year of light for just as the Shabbos candles illuminate the entire week to come, the candles of Rosh Hashanah illuminate the entire year to come.

This is accomplished through the deed of a little girl. Her actions bring light to the entire community. Furthermore, this light is generated before the father returns home from the synagogue and even before he recites the first prayers of the new year.

To return to the concept of preparing for the new year: In order to elevate oneself to a higher rung of service, it is necessary to make a careful accounting of one’s service in the previous year. Just as a person makes a reckoning of his own finances in order to know how to use his money in the proper way, a person must make an account of his spiritual progress. This enables the person to resolve to carry out even greater activities in the future, generating greater light in his own home, in his surrounding environment and in the world at large.

Kindling one’s own particular light must be done with happiness and joy. By doing so, one draws down joy into the world at large, something which is very necessary at present in view of the world’s very tenuous situation and the difficulty people have had in finding a way to live happy, settled lives. Even though a portion of the populace follows proper paths of life, many follow crooked ways.

Therefore, G‑d gave the Jews the Torah, a Torah of light, to illuminate the world and endow the world with a settled nature, so that people can live at peace with each other, and help each other.

In this regard, the Jews have been given a special mission to teach the gentiles the Seven Noachide Laws which are intended to spread peace and equilibrium throughout the world. Furthermore, a Jew is always conscious of the existence of G‑d, who controls every aspect of the world and watches each deed performed by a Jewish person. Therefore, before he does anything to benefit from the world, he recites a blessing that can be heard by all those around him, even gentiles. When a gentile hears a Jew make a blessing this makes an impression on him as well; for example, it will prevent him from stealing for he will always remember that there is a G‑d watching every aspect of his behavior. In this manner, our acts can add to the proliferation of peace and justice in the world.

Thus, when one meditates on how the Jews must serve as an example to their entire environment, even gentiles, it is self-understood that being a Tzaddik, fulfilling one’s requirements according to law, is not sufficient and one must become a Chassid, one who goes beyond the measure of the law. Every mother or teacher knows that in order to influence others in a particular direction, one must exemplify those qualities in a complete way oneself, not only fulfilling the requirements, but going beyond the measure of the law.

This is the lesson we can take from the birthday of the founders of Chassidus and in doing so, make a proper account of our deeds in the previous year and make good resolutions for the year to come. When these resolutions are made with happiness, they have an effect on one’s entire environment and motivate G‑d to go “beyond the measure of the law” and grant the Jewish people a good and sweet year in all matters which they require.

2. As mentioned, the Torah is described as “the Torah of light.” Thus, it can shed light and provide guidance regarding our behavior. Nevertheless, Torah is infinite and unbounded. Therefore, in order to facilitate a Jew’s finding a lesson that is applicable to his behavior on a particular day, the Previous Rebbe taught us the advice given by the Alter Rebbe, to “live with the times,” i.e., to draw lessons from the weekly Torah portion.

This week’s portion, Haazinu, provides a fundamental lesson relevant to our service. Haazinu means “to listen.” This implies that a Jew cannot rely on his own intellect. In order to know what is required of him, he must look in the Shulchan Aruch and listen to what the Shulchan Aruch demands of him. If he does not understand what is written in the Shulchan Aruch, he should ask a Rav and listen to, i.e., apply in deed, what he says.

[This has a particular connection to the present gathering since, throughout the ages, it has been customary for most of the questions directed to Rabbanim to come from women.]

In addition to this general lesson, there is a particular lesson from the verses of this Torah portion. Among those verses is, “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elder and he will relate it to you,” teaching children to listen to their parents and grandparents.

This is particularly relevant at present when the world complains of a generation gap separating children from their parents and grandparents. The Torah teaches how the life experience of parents and grandparents, in holding fast to their Judaism despite the challenges they’ve faced, gives them the potential to influence the younger generation. Youth should seek out their advice and listen to the directives they are given. In this way, their lives will have more light, more calm, more peace, and more genuine Jewish content.

There is also a specific lesson connected with the Torah reading connected with the present day, the third day of the week — a day which is associated with both “good to the heavens” and “good to the creations.” The Torah reading contains the verse: “He let them ride high on the peaks of the earth...” implying that a Jew’s life is on “the earth,” within the context of our material existence so that “a dwelling place for G‑d can be made within the lower realms....”

Nevertheless, it is “on the peaks of the earth.” In a physical sense, when a person is on a high peak, he can see the entire surroundings easier and appreciate the directives that are necessary to follow. Similarly, in metaphoric terms, being “on the peaks of the earth” allows the Jews to attain a parallel position in their mission. However, they must always remember that their mission is within the context of our material existence.

In addition, the Jews “ride high on the peaks.” A rider is in control of the vehicle which is carrying him. Similarly, the Jews must be as kings, and their wishes, like those of a king, must be fulfilled immediately.

The above implies that service of each Jew must stand “on the peaks of the earth.” Since he must influence the world as required by the mission with which G‑d charged him, even when his directives are given in a pleasant and peaceful manner, they will be accepted and carried out by all his surroundings.

In clearer terms, there are those who feel that acting Jewishly in the presence of gentiles will lead to disrespect. This is entirely wrong. It is precisely through this course of behavior that the gentiles will honor and respect the Jews more. When the gentiles see how the Jews, despite all difficulties, follow the path which they were commanded by G‑d, they will grant greater assistance to the Jews in order to facilitate the completion of their mission.

Similarly, when the gentiles see the Jews making efforts to teach the gentiles the Seven Noachide Laws, they will grant the Jews greater respect. The efforts of the Jews in such activities, without any thought of recompense, only because this is one of the commandments they were given by G‑d, will motivate their neighbors to such feelings.

Even though the respect given by the gentiles will facilitate the service of the Jews, the Jews must realize how their service comes as a response to G‑d’s command. This is emphasized by the declaration every Jew — even the youngest child — makes as soon as he arises in the morning, “Modeh Ani” — “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King....” He acknowledges G‑d as his king and, therefore, structures his behavior accordingly during the day that follows.

A parallel exists in regard to Rosh Hashanah, whose service centers around the coronation of G‑d as king. The month of Elul, and in particular, the days of Selichos are intended to prepare for that service and lead to a behavior “beyond the measure of the law.” This in turn, arouses Divine blessings that are also “beyond the measure of the law.”

To increase those blessings, it is proper to use these final days of Selichos to increase all sorts of Jewish behavior and in particular, to increase one’s gifts to tzedakah. Our Sages have taught that “Tzedakah brings close the redemption” and thus, hastens the time when “the great shofar — the shofar of Mashiach — will be sounded” and all Jews will come together in Eretz Yisrael. Amen. So may it be G‑d’s will.

[The Rebbe Shlita concluded the gathering by giving out dollars for all the assembled.]