1. When a special gathering takes place on a propitious day and in a place which has special mazal and happiness for many Jews, it carries with it a special blessing from G‑d. As such, this gathering is being held in a place where Jews pray to G‑d and study His Torah, in regular classes, in a manner that encourages them to daily action, thus, the Holy One, Blessed be He, promises us, and gives us, success.

As the Torah says:

If you follow My laws and are careful to keep My commandments, I will provide you with.... (Vayikra 26:3-4)

The Torah then goes on to list the many blessings of G‑d up to and including the blessing: “I will grant peace in the land” (Ibid), a peaceful life, which allows us to accept and absorb all of the other blessings of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

The verses go on and conclude:

And lead you forth with your heads held high. (Ibid)

This is a blessing and a lesson for us. A Jew must stand proud and staunch in his Judaism. So what, if we are the smallest nation, so what, if we are in the galus (diaspora), these facts do not deter us nor weaken us; our proper behavior is not affected. Rather, it evokes a greater inner strength. Although we are small we will act with the fullest power, and in the greatest measure, with joy and glad hearts. The nations will see our pride and they will offer us respect, when they see our faith in G‑d and our determination to observe the mitzvos of the Torah in our daily lives — all the time — not only on special days — even on a plain weekday. This will cause them to respect us, and they will extend their helping hand to assist us, as we see happening in this country.

Many aspects of Jewish life are visible and noticeable, and when we act as we should, not only when we are in a synagogue or in school or even at home, but also when we walk in the street, the people of the world see this.

This point is most relevant to women, for the way a woman dresses is very noticeable, and when a woman dresses in a Jewish manner and when she walks in the street dressed as a Jewish woman, it is something which hits the eye.

When Jewish women dress in the manner of modesty exemplified by the first Jewish mothers: Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah, this will increase G‑d’s blessing for everyone and all the needs of the Jewish people will be satisfied.

For when “the Jews [should] rejoice in their Maker,” by acting in the proper manner, even on a street, where there are not many Jews, then G‑d adds His blessing to each of us and to all of us: “From His full, open, holy and generous hand.” And the blessing is given in a way that will be revealed and seen, and in these days He will bless us with a Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah for a truly good year.

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2. The theme of these days preceding Rosh Hashanah has been portrayed for us by the Alter Rebbe and further explained by the Previous Rebbe.

In the month of Elul the “King is in the field.” This is the parable. There are times when the King is in His capital city and in the Royal Palace, and there are times when the King goes out to the people. But He does not go out to the people as they are in the city — be it large or small — rather the King goes out to the people who are in the fields — as they stand in their secular life and work in the field.

He visits each person in the field and comes near to everyone, showing a smiling face and a friendly and happy countenance. The King gives everyone encouragement so that each person can turn to Him with his or her request and prayers and He will bestow on everyone all the sweetest and most wonderful blessings. The encouragement that we receive gives us the ability to fulfill all that we are expected to accomplish and this will bring the coming of Mashiach closer.

This is the theme of the entire month of Elul.

There is also a special lesson to be gleaned from each day in the month of Elul. Divine Providence has brought together many women and daughters of Israel in a holy place at a holy time, for the purpose of encouraging and inspiring each other and strengthening one another to improve and to increase their activities as women, mothers and wives. May it be with good health and nachas from children and family.

We are in the week of Selichos. On the first day of Selichos we said the “piyut,” “Yours is the righteousness, O’ G‑d” meaning that You give us more goodness than we are worthy of. When one lives a proper Torah life and he is blessed by G‑d, this is earned. But in Selichos we are saying that in addition to what You normally reward for a person’s Divine service, You add blessings beyond his worth — this is tzedakah — a “righteous kindness.” In truth we need this help of G‑d — this tzedakah and thus this piyut is said every day in the Selichos.

On the fifth day of Selichos, today, there is another piyut: “G‑d, please help us.” This may also be interpreted: “G‑d will help us.” Thus it is a request and a promise, that when we make a decision to do the will of G‑d, He will give us the strength to carry it out and we will attain great success and happiness.

There is another point that may be understood at this time in the month of Elul.

Often when we are faced with many responsibilities in life, and especially religious and moral duties, we tend to compare one mitzvah to the other, and based on some external criteria (objective or subjective) we tend to consider some acts to be more important than other acts. Ostensibly, certain responsibilities have relative importance while others just seem to carry less significance. Well, then, if these relatively unimportant activities or observances are easy to perform we do them right away, but if they are difficult, we sometimes tend to put them off. We rationalize to ourselves: “Why bother, this is really not so vital.”

This approach may be pardonable when we are on our own and when the King is in His palace and sends a messenger to tell us what to do. But this conduct is inexcusable when the King is in the field, next to you! During the month of Elul the King is near every Jew, in the field. The King looks at you and says “I want you to do this!” Even if it seems to be insignificant — you must realize how lucky you are — what great merit (zechus) you have, the King, Himself, asked you to do something for Him. It might be a very small act — but the King Himself came to you in the field, stood at your side and asked you to do this.

Of course, you will do it in its fullest measure with enthusiasm and pride and happiness. Because the Holy One, Blessed be He, asked you for this favor.

So, too, there is a very basic mission given to every Jewish mother. To educate her children, boys and girls, “Educate the child according to his way” (Mishlei 22:6). The earliest and most effective form of education is when the child sees the living example of the older people around him. The early education of a child does not depend on the father, or brother, or teacher. The small child learns most from the training of the mother or older sister, who also has the gentleness and softness that is so important to small children. In this respect the older sister is like the mother, for she, too, is preparing herself to be a Jewish mother.

So it is appropriate at this time, in the closing days of the month of Elul, and in the days when we say Selichos, that we must be careful to carry out our responsibility, whether it appears to be important or seemingly insignificant, large or small.

And it should be done with enthusiasm, in a lively manner, with joy in the observance of all mitzvos, even those that appear to be unimportant.

The yetzer hora may interfere when the King is in His palace, but not when the King is in the field.

This is the special intention of the Selichos prayers.

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3. In the Torah reading of today, in the portion of Nitzavim (which also indicates the idea that we are standing before the King, as in the term “Nitzav Melech”) after mentioning the different divisions of mitzvos which we will observe, the Torah says:

And when you return to G‑d your L‑rd with all your heart and soul. (Devarim 30:10)

This does not refer to the act of returning to the observance of a particular (easy) mitzvah — but turning back your whole essence to the Eternal. Just as G‑d came to you in the field, you turn to Him with all your heart and soul. Not to the messenger, but to G‑d, Himself. The King is in the field and you realize that it makes no difference what aspect of Torah or mitzvos you are required to do — it all comes from G‑d — and you turn back to the Al‑mighty One, with complete joy and happy hearts.

What do we learn from the portion of Tehillim of today?

During the month of Elul we make a reckoning and accounting of our actions of the past year; we realize that we could have been better. During the year there may have been times that, for a moment, we were lost from the way of Torah, and acted in word, or thought, or deed not in accordance with Torah. Despite this, one should not despair for a moment.

In today’s section of Tehillim Dovid HaMelech tells us:

If I have strayed as a lost lamb seek Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commandments. (Tehillim 119:176)

Even a sheep which loses its way is still under the care and guidance of the trusted shepherd. Each Jew is a “lamb” and as the Jews are spread out in the diaspora among the gentiles, an individual sheep might be lost for a moment, so G‑d looks for the lost sheep and finds them right away.

For every lamb remembers the commandments of G‑d, even though he did not perform them properly. And although he is lost, still he is bound up with G‑d, and G‑d will be his salvation.

Thus even when a Jew appears to be lost he may call to mind the first verse of today’s section:

O, how I have come to love Your teachings (Torah); it is my meditation all the day. (Ibid:97)

When the Jewish mother cradles her child to sleep in her arms she sings to it: “Torah is the best and sweetest thing,” and when the child begins to speak and she speaks with the child, she speaks of Torah. By speaking about Torah, not only is the Torah not forgotten, but it also adds more to the education of the children in all areas of life. Even in seemingly small matters it will be evident that there is Yiddishkeit here, and G‑d dwells here. The feeling of “Shabbos” fills every day, and the house becomes a true “sanctuary.”

In the Sefer HaMitzvos, the section for today deals with the mitzvah of “Aliyah L’regel.”

When the Beis HaMikdash stood there was a mitzvah of going up to Yerushalayim three times a year: on Sukkos, Pesach and Shavuos. At those times each Jew had to fulfill his obligations and offer those sacrifices which he had become liable to bring during the year. Similarly he had to distribute all tithes and charities which he was obligated to give.

Now that we are in the diaspora and we wait for the redemption, we must learn from those glorious times and apply the lesson of that mitzvah in some way, to our own lives. In our own homes we must set aside special hours and times of “Aliyah L’regel” — some moments when the home will be raised, and will feel like a Jewish home in which the Shechinah will dwell.

The mezuzah on the door reminds us of “Shema Yisrael.” A Jew must not only believe, but he must also hear — G‑d is the L‑rd and He is One. The word oneEchad — has three letters: aleph, ches, daled, the numerical equivalents are: one, eight and four. This indicates that the seven heavens and the earth (eight), and all four corners of the universe are all united and dedicated to the One G‑d.

G‑d helps us to dedicate this Aliyah L’regel, as we say, “Modeh Ani, — I offer thanks,” in the morning, to the living and eternal King who returned my soul, new and refreshed to give me life all day. Alive and refreshed we remember our responsibilities and good resolutions: tzedakah, chinuch of the children, or grandchildren, and all the mitzvos; we have the lesson from Aliyah L’regel — and we, too, start each new day close to G‑d; He just gave us our new soul to have a good and healthy day.

Thus we have all three aspects of Torah, prayer and good deeds, and we must do all of this zealously, especially tzedakah. And this will bring us the blessing of Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah for all and for everyone.

And this will lead to the essential blessing of the coming of Mashiach when our youth and elders, sons and daughters will go under Mashiach’s leadership to our Holy Land.

At this time of the concluding year, when we make the accounting for the past and resolutions for the future, our positive activities will bring completion to Eretz Yisrael and to the Jewish people. For the fear of the Jews will fall upon those who oppose us:

All the nations of the world will realize that G‑d’s Name is associated with you, and they will be in awe of you. (Devarim 28:10)

They will see how we conduct ourselves and they will give us respect. And they will return the areas which belong to Eretz Yisrael, in a pleasant way. This is all connected to our Torah and mitzvos, so that we will have a complete people, complete land and Torah.

And since the coming year is a leap year, G‑d gives more blessing from Rosh Hashanah.

Being in the fifth day of Selichos, G‑d will surely help us more than before and bless us with good health, prosperity and nachas.

So now, in addition to our prayers and Torah I will distribute dollars for “Shaliach Mitzvah” (Messengers to perform a good deed). This tzedakah, which you will give, will add happiness for the King in the field and we will follow the King into the new year.

May it be a year of blessing, redemption, Torah, teshuvah and prayer.