1. This Shabbos is called “Shabbos Shuvah,” adapted from the verse “Shuvah Yisrael” in the Haftorah. It is also called “Shabbos Teshuvah,” because it is the Shabbos in the Ten Days of Repentance.

It would appear that both names carry the same theme. One refers to the Divine service of repentance that must be exercised by the Jewish people (Shuvah Yisrael), and the other emphasizes that the day is one that is uniquely suited for repentance (Shabbos Teshuvah).

Yet, the different names would indicate that each has a distinct and independent meaning, and the fact that both have been transmitted by Jewish custom indicates each has a separate message.

At first glance we will recognize that “teshuvah” is the noun form, the concept of “repentance,” while “shuvah” is the verb, in this case, the imperative, as expressed in the verse, “Shuvah Yisrael — Return O Israel!” This indicates that the concept of repentance must be applied by a person!

It would further appear that the concept of “teshuvah” had to exist before it could be applied by a person, hence we may attribute a higher quality to “teshuvah.”

The Talmud also mentions that: “Seven things were created before the creation of the world ... Teshuvah, etc.” (Pesachim 54a) Hence we see that teshuvah even preceded the creation of man, who would later be told to do teshuvah.

Yet, on the other hand, since the goal of creation is the Divine service of man, therefore the existence of teshuvah is solely for the purpose of man’s repentance and return. Thus in purpose and intention the “shuvah” is moreimportant, hence loftier than the teshuvah itself, for the purpose of teshuvah is “Shuvah Yisrael.”

Once we have established the true importance of something, and we show that it is truly primary, we may say that it takes precedence over, and actually comes before, the secondary matters, even though chronologically the order may have been reversed. We see this regarding Rosh Hashanah itself — and as Shabbos Shuvah is part of the entity of the Ten Days of Teshuvah — we will be able to apply the same rule to Shabbos Shuvah. Rosh Hashanah is called:

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

In fact, of course, the creation began on Sunday, the first day of creation corresponding to the 25th of Elul. Rosh Hashanah is actually the anniversary of the creation of man — which took place on the sixth day. Nevertheless, each year when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah we call it the day of the start of creation, because man is the ultimate purpose of creation. The higher worlds and the lower worlds and the immensity of the universe were created for the sake of man: “For the sake of Torah and for the sake of Israel” was the world created. For it is through man’s Divine service that a dwelling place is provided for the Shechinah in the lower worlds.

Consequently, after man was created, the anniversary of his creation became the anniversary of all creation, which is why we say: “This is the day which is the beginning of Your work.”

We may therefore deduce that that which effects the ultimate goal is truly preeminent, and it is also transposed to be in the first position, not only figuratively, but actually — Rosh Hashanah becomes the day of the start of creation for each year.

Now in the case of Shabbos “Teshuvah” and “Shuvah”: While the concept “teshuvah” was in fact created before the world, and only later applied to the Jewish people, since the goal of teshuvah is to be used by man — “Shuvah Yisrael” — it reaches its true raison d’etre only when applied by man. So, in a sense, the “shuvah” (action) precedes the “teshuvah” (concept). For in fact, in the original plan the ultimate result came before the created concepts or aspects. When teshuvah is practiced by Jews it then becomes the beneficiary of shuvah (Yisrael); so shuvah is really first.

Another point should be made. Just as we recognized the predominance of man because, “The world was created for the sake of Israel and for the sake of the Torah,” so too in the case of teshuvah. “Shuvah Yisrael” is a verse in Torah directed to the Jewishpeople, as such it is the projection of the essential purpose of the creation of teshuvah.

Hence, just as man, who was created last, rises to be first through Torah, so too, shuvah rises to a loftier level, and teshuvah becomes the recipient from shuvah.

We may now isolate the unique aspects and qualities of “Shabbos Shuvah” and “Shabbos Teshuvah” individually. “Shabbos Teshuvah” has the quality of coming before shuvah, while “Shabbos Shuvah” has the quality of being the goal of teshuvah.

Chassidus explains the aphorism: “The beginning is bound up in the end and the end in the beginning.” Since in matters of holiness, the goal has certain qualities not found in the initial stages, and vice versa, therefore each is bound up in the other.

Another facet should also be illuminated here. “Shuvah Yisrael” is a verse in the Written Torah. The Ten Days of Repentance is a concept originating in the Oral Torah. What is the symbolic relationship between the Oral and Written Torahs?

The Written Torah came first. The Oral Torah explains and elucidates the Written Torah. As the Rambam writes:

“The Law,” refers to the Written Law (Torah); “and the commandments,” to its interpretation.

From this vantage point Scripture came first and is preeminent.

However, being the explanation of Scripture, the Oral Torah not only illuminates, but also reveals additional aspects, not apparent on their own in Scripture. Sometimes they are only hinted at:

There is nothing to which allusion cannot be found in the Torah, (See Taanis 9a)

and they are illuminated to the point of “Torah is light” — a clear and luminous directive for actual application to real life — only after being dealt with in the oral tradition. As explained in Iggeres Hakodesh chapter 29, the Oral Torah reveals the supernal will which is clothed in the 613 commandments of the Written Torah in a hidden manner.

Project this idea to the two names of this Shabbos. “Shabbos Shuvah” is Scriptural and in that sense it precedes “Shabbos Teshuvah” which gets its name from the Oral Tradition. At the same time, however, just as the Oral Torah develops and perfects the Written Torah, so too, Shabbos Teshuvah perfects Shabbos Shuvah.

What is the general theme and Divine service of Shabbos Shuvah? The AriZal teaches that the seven days of the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent the seven days of the weeks of the year. These seven days influence all the weeks of the year.

This means that each day in the Ten Days of Repentance can effect a positive influence on the days of the past year and on the days of the coming year.

The theme of Shabbos bears this out even more strongly, for every Shabbos effects perfection in the preceding days of the week in the manner of:

Vayechulu — they were completed. (Bereishis 2:1)

Shabbos also provides the emanation of blessing to the coming days of the week, as the Zohar says:

For the six days receive blessing from the seventh. (Zohar II 63b)

Now, in our case, Shabbos Shuvah will bring perfection and ascent to all the Shabbosim of the past year and it will draw blessing and spiritual power into all the Shabbosim of the coming year.

Thus, while each day of the Ten Days of Repentance will influence its namesake in all the weeks of the previous and following years — a truly great phenomenon — the Shabbos of the Ten Days of Repentance will affect all the Shabbosim and, consequently, allthedays of both years! For it radiates to every Shabbos, which in turn radiates to all the days of the week.

And then there is the crowning quality of this Shabbos, that it includes in its perfection of “Vayechulu” also, Rosh Hashanah — which was in the past week, and in its emanation of future blessing it will include Yom Kippur, which invariably will fall in the coming week!

We can now begin to comprehend the astounding and amazing power of the Divine service of Shabbos Shuvah, for it balances the influence of all the days of the Ten Days of Repentance as well as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur! This august sublimity notwithstanding, the Divine service of Shabbos Shuvah is within the purview of every Jew!

Having fathomed the loftiness of this day one may don the cloak of humility and demure by saying, “Who am I, what am I, where do I come to such lofty Divine service?”

On several occasions we have discussed the concept that the unique and distinct lofty ascensions and elevations that are to be effected during a designated time span must find the proper “gate” through which they are to rise and ascend. The “gate” for all the ascensions of “Shabbos Shuvah” is the Shabbosday, the general theme of which is inherently bound up with the Jewish people. The Midrash relates:

The Shabbos pleaded with the Holy One, Blessed be He: “All (all the days of the week) have a partner (Sunday has Monday, etc.) while I have no partner!” G‑d answered: “The community of Israel is your partner!” (Bereishis Rabbah 11:8)

Thus, Shabbos is the intimate partner of every Jew! And when great things may be accomplished through a particular Shabbos, every Jew has the potential to do just that. Most important, the ability is ready and waiting; it depends only on your freewill to utilize the opportunity and to capitalize on the powers which are bestowed upon you from above, and get involved in all of the aspects of the Divine service of Shabbos Shuvah.

In applying the theme of Shabbos, we must also keep in mind certain ancillary attributes of the day such as: “There may be no sadness on Shabbos.” (Yerushalmi Berachos 2:7) Toil is negated, as Rashi brings: “All your work is done.” (Shmos 20:9) And all involvement on Shabbos must be in a manner of pleasure: “And you call the Shabbos delight.” (Yeshayahu 58:13)

When we superimpose this framework of Shabbos on the aspect of teshuvah we will find that we deal with the loftier state, of the higher teshuvah, which emanates from delight, not coercion.

Chassidus relates the levels of higher teshuvah to the state of Shabbos all year round; how much more so, to Shabbos Shuvah. So much so, that we must say that the Shabbos introduces the ability to rise steadily higher in the service of teshuvah and at the same time reach more intense spiritual pleasure. All of this is possible without dropping the simple meaning of delight on Shabbos: eating, drinking and sleeping!

“The Shabbos has already been sanctified and so continues.” This tells us that when the first moments of Shabbos Shuvah arrive we already have the lofty potential to attain all the spiritual goals associated with the essence of this day. And when the powers are utilized through the different stages of Shabbos (eve, night, day, afternoon) and they are effectuated, then the success will be monumental.

The spiritual emanation of Rosh Hashanah from the “essence of delight” will find consonance on Shabbos Shuvah at the time of “greatest delight,” and Shabbos will help disseminate that spiritual force throughout the year in time and space.

May we burst through the limitations and boundaries of the diaspora, and in a split second may we merit the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

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2. Today is the sixth of Tishrei, the Yahrzeit of my mother.

Although this might be my personal observance, yet since many people are participating in this farbrengen and we are discussing words of Torah it thereby becomes a communal matter.

On the day of a Yahrzeit it is customary to talk about the conduct of the person who is remembered so that we may take instruction from their lives. The incident which I shall relate was connected to a communal matter and therefore it is relevant to everyone.

In speaking of a righteous woman who did so many important and good actions in her lifetime it is difficult to choose one incident to relate. The fact that she was in exile for so long a time increases the tale of her martyrdom so much more, as we know that the suffering of exile is compared almost to the pain of death. (See Chinuch, Mitzvah 410)

The exile that they experienced (my father and mother) began when the old regime in Russia was replaced. At that time they were in a state of exile, or siege, in their own city. Of course it became incomparably more acute when they were actually driven from their home and exiled in a strange and distant land. Despite all the torture and extreme difficulties she remained strong, dedicated and firm in all matters concerning Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos. So there are many stories to tell.

First of all the fact that my mother actually joined my father in exile is in itself a lesson for us. My father was the one against whom the decree of banishment was issued by the authorities. My mother was really not obliged to leave her home, or her city and journey to the distant, forsaken land. She chose to do so out of her good will and with a severe determination, because she wanted to be close to, and give support to, her husband in his exile.

This sacrifice by itself may not sound so outstanding because there were other good, righteous women, (wives of Shluchim that had been exiled) who had made similar sacrifices and had joined their husbands in exile.

In that nefarious place and under external circumstances she did, however, undertake a painstaking practice which involved special sacrifice and was intended to facilitate the dissemination of my father’s teachings to the masses.

My father’s whole being and life was his Torah study; he labored in Torah, especially the esoteric teachings of Torah, the Kabbalah. For himself the mental activity and the words of Torah would have sufficed. But to disseminate his teachings to others — that needed transcription. It had to be recorded in ink on paper — but what to do? No such thing was available — there was no ink to be had in the lands of exile.

Here my mother came into the picture. In addition to helping my father in all his usual needs, she got involved in assuring the recording of my father’s Torah for posterity. She learned how to makeink, and she personally scavenged for the necessary grasses and herbs, which shepainstakinglygathered with great difficulty. To these she added some special chemicals from which she concocted home-made ink. It was with that ink that my father was able to record his teachings in ink on paper.

As a result of this, she created the possibility that today we are able to disseminate my father’s teachings in print, so that still today, in 5746, many Jews may study his teachings and commentaries on the esoteric aspects of Torah as illuminated through the understanding of Chassidus Chabad. For this we pay homage to the woman whose yahrzeit we observe today — for she made the ink that made it all possible.

This story must engender great wonder and awe, for we speak of action completely out of the ordinary. The Torah gives guidelines for the role of a woman and what is expected of her — the Oral Torah also expresses certain responsibilities of a Jewish wife — but nowhere do we find that a Jewish woman must manufacture ink for her husband! My mother was raised in the cradle of Jewish Tradition and Chassidic lifestyle and was properly prepared to take on the role as wife of a Chassidic leader but she was nottaughttomakeink. Yet when she realized the importance of spreading Torah, she volunteered to do something very difficult, and well beyond her training. All for the purpose of spreading Torah and bringing closer the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

This teaches each and every one of us, man or woman, how strong our dedication must be for all matters of Torah study and the dissemination of Torah to the masses; it must reach the degree of martyrdom.

In our days and in these lands, of course, there is no need for such extreme sacrifice, and our goals may be accomplished in pleasure and comfort. The increase that is needed on our part can be done with happiness and joy.

Being that we are learning from the example of a Jewish woman, it is only natural that the lesson should be especially pertinent to Jewish women. The normal Torah-life conduct of Jewish women is nothing new. The extra piety of a Chassidic lifestyle is also no great innovation. Even the Divine service of going “beyond the requirement of law,” is also not amazing for those who were raised in the Chassidic lifestyle.

What is the most impressive aspect of the story for us to emulate? Her actions teach us that there must be an increase, even in those activities of Torah study and dissemination which are not in the normal order of things. We must remember of course that now this aspect is no longer so difficult, because the path has already been trodden and is now a well-paved road for all to follow.

The improvement and increase in Torah and all holy matters must be in an immeasurable manner, rising and leaping higher and completely leaving the earlier degree, so that it is not just a relative increase but a quantumleap. By learning from, and emulating her example, this will bring satisfaction and fulfillment to her saintly soul in the “world of truth.” Since in this world of darkness we are increasing our activities and “transforming darkness into light.”

And through our actions we will speed the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach and all together we will proceed to our Holy Land, to Yerushalayim the Holy City and to the Third Bais HaMikdash.

When Mashiach comes we will see the fulfillment of the promise “Arise and sing, ye that dwell in the dust,” (Yeshayahu, 26:19) which will include my mother, whose yahrzeit we are observing, as well as my father.

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3. Most years Shabbos Shuvah coincides with the reading of Haazinu. This year the portion we read today is Vayeilech.

“Haazinu — listen” would seem to indicate a stationary condition. If you must pay careful attention you cannot be moving about. In contrast, Vayeilech connotes moving and rising to very great heights.

There is a particular aspect that is common to the theme of Shabbos, Shabbos Shuvah and Yahrzeit: The emphasis on rising to the source and root.

Chassidus explains that during the days of the week we deal with the world of speech and action, for all existence was created by the “word” of G‑d and by the “act” of G‑d. On Shabbos we strive to raise ourselves and the spiritual essence of the days of the week to the loftier level of thought — the source of the speech and action.

The theme of ShabbosShuvah is teshuvah:

To return his soul to its source and root, to cleave to Him, may He be blessed, ... and the essence of teshuvah is in his innermost heart, as it is written: “In Your behalf my heart says, ‘Seek My countenance etc.’“ (Likkutei Torah 66c)

Whereas generally, all aspects of Torah and mitzvos apply in speech and deed, the purpose and goal of teshuvah is to raise the past actions to the state of thought and there to purify everything — for the “essence of teshuvah is in the heart,” the realm of thought.

In the theme of yahrzeit we find the same transposition taking place, the ascent from the physical world of action, the bodily world — to the realm of the souls. Here, too, you have the ascent from corporeal action and words to spiritual thought. The concept of Vayeilech — to move higher — now takes on a clear association with Shabbos Shuvah and the yahrzeit.

Teshuvah means moving away from the previous situation and location to a loftier and purer position. It infers a complete disassociation with the past and absolute transposition to a new unrelated state. This applies for those who actually lived a life of sin and misdeeds as well as for those who were on a relatively lofty level. They too must “return their soul to its source ... and cleave to Him....” “And the spirit returns to G‑d who gave it.” (Koheles 12:7)

We speak of advancing in an immeasurable way, rising to a level that it truly incomparable to the previous position. Even the Tzaddik needs teshuvah and it brings him to an infinitely higher plane. Thus Tzaddikim can also become BaaleiTeshuvah and attain the added aspect that:

Where penitents stand, the completely righteous cannot stand. (Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 7:4)

A “yahrzeit” is the observance of the anniversary the day of death. The departure of a person from the world of the living is not a slow relative deterioration in one’s state of health, it is an absolute, drastic, incomparable and ultimatechange from life to death. A moment ago the person was alive, the soul dwelled in the body, and now the soul has departed and risen to the world of the souls — an infinite ascent.

There is a profound lesson in all this for us. Shabbos Vayeilech incorporates many aspects of moving and advancing, as just explained. As such, on Shabbos Vayeilech there is an emanation of the special powers needed to move, advance and rise in great strides. For when all these aspects coalesce the resultant effect is overwhelming. Thus we must recognize the call of the hour and absorb these powers and advance in all areas of our Divine service.

At Minchah we will start reading the portion Haazinu which begins:

Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth! (Devarim 32:1)

The Sifri explains that the term “Listen” applies to heaven because Moshe was closer to the heaven and the term “Hear” applies to the earth for he was farther away from the earth.

What does Haazinu tell us? That a Jew must raise himself to be closer to heaven and farther from earth! See how Vayeilech leads into Haazinu!? By utilizing the powers of ascension of Vayeilech you can reach the lofty plateaus of Haazinu. And may we all attain this in good health and in the physical condition of souls enclothed in bodies and may those who are presently in the world of the souls also return, as the promise assures us: “Awake and sing ye that dwell in the dust.” And all together, they should come to Yerushalayim and there to the Third Bais HaMikdash where the great multitude will stand “... crowded together, yet when they prostate themselves they will have ample space.” (See Avos 5:5)

So may we merit very speedily and truly in our days — the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

* * *

4. At the close of today’s portion we read:

Gather to me all the Elders of your tribes and your law enforcers and I will proclaim these words to them. (Devarim 31:28)

This immediately raises the question: Where do we find that Moshe gathered the Elders together with the policemen?

The five-year-old Chumash student has learned in the past that there were times when the entire Jewish people were called together by Moshe and there were times when Moshe called only the Elders, but there was never a time when he called the Elders with the policemen.

There were times when Scripture lists the lawenforcers separately, and in order of importance, immediately following the Elders, but here we are not speaking of “yichus,” here is a case where Moshe wishes to transmit a message to the Jewish people through the Elders. Why were the law enforcers also called? The role of the policemen was to carry out the orders of the Elders and to force the people to comply with the teachings and the rulings of the Elders and Judges; not to teach the people.

As Rashi does not explain this puzzle we must say that the explanation should be self-evident from the context, even for the five-year-old Chumash student.

Let us take a closer look. Moshe explicitly describes his reason for gathering the Elders:

I know that after I die, you will become corrupt and turn away from the path that I have prescribed for you ... In the end of the days. (Ibid.)

In order to forewarn and prevent the possibility of the occurrence of such evil, and the concomitant punishment, Moshe wants to speak to the Elders: “I will proclaim these words to them.”

Here we are faced with a bit of a paradox. In the previous verse Moshe prefaced the call to the Elders with this statement:

I am aware of your rebellions spirit and your stubbornness. Even while I am here alive with you, you are rebelling against G‑d. What will you do after I am dead? (Ibid.:27)

Now if Moshe admitted that in his presence the Jews were rebellious how could he hope for better conduct after he would die? What was he getting at when he gathered the Elders? Clearly, we see here the introduction of a new factor. During his lifetime he never gathered the police together with the Elders — now he did.

In order to guarantee that his words would be heeded after his (and Yehoshua’s) death, he indicated to the Elders that they must invoke the brute power of the law enforcers,

Who chastise the people ... with a stick and a whip until he accepts the judge’s sentence. (Rashi, Devarim 16:18)

When the people will see that next to the Elders stand the enforcers, who have the power to enforce the law, then they will be convinced to observe all the words of the Torah and they will not degenerate to the feared level of “become corrupt.”

This practice of joining forces of the Elders with the police was initiated on the day of Moshe’s death. It was not implemented before. In fact, in the past there might have been occasions where Moshe could have called the police to restrain the people from doing wrong, but it was not done, either because in most cases it was not necessary, or because he did not want to impede with the absolute free will of the Jews.

We may garner from this an important moral lesson in our Divine service. It is clear that fear of punishment is a very good guarantee for observance of Torah and mitzvos, so much so, that the force may never actually have to be applied — it is the absolute deterrent to rebelliousness. Not only do we dispense with the actual force, we can even dispense with the verbal threat of force — the knowledge that such a phenomenon exists is enough. In fact, the police don’t even have to exist — it will suffice that they are described in the Torah!

This brings us to the positive side. “The measure of good is greater than the measure of punishment....” (Rashi, Shmos 34:7) Now, if the warning of the existence of police (the concept of punishment) will encourage and guarantee the observance of Torah and mitzvos, how much more so will the promise of the reward for doing good work as an incentive. As the Torah assures us: “If you follow My laws ... I will provide you with rain ...,” (Vayikra 26) certainly this will influence and encourage everyone to observe Torah and mitzvos. As a result, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will increase the blessings for each and every Jew, which will enhance our ability in all areas of our Divine service to fulfill the Torah and its commandments.