1. Today is Shabbos Mevarchim Elul. Thus, though in general Shabbos is a holy day, “blessed” and “sanctified” above the other days of the week, there is an added quality of blessing associated with this Shabbos, as is obvious from its very name. Indeed, in recognition of the unique nature of Shabbos Mevarchim, the previous Rebbe initiated and publicized the custom of holding a farbrengen on that day.

The above applies to every Shabbos Mevarchim. In particular, each Shabbos Mevarchim possesses a unique quality related to the month it blesses. The need to recognize the particular quality possessed by one month is related to a fundamental Torah principle, i.e. whenever we come in contact with a particular creation, we must endeavor to discover the unique quality with which G‑d endowed it. Similarly, each time and place has unique qualities of its own and we must endeavor to appreciate them. Hence, it is appropriate to search for and discuss the unique qualities possessed by the month of Elul.

There is no need to search to discover the unique qualities of the month of Elul. It is well-known that Elul is distinguished for two qualities: 1) The month of Elul is the conclusion of the previous years: the time in which a Jew makes an account of his actions throughout the entire year with the intent of compensating for whatever service that was lacking. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for compensate, “lahashlim,” also has the meaning “perfection” or “completion.” Thus, even if there is nothing lacking in a Jew’s service, in the month of Elul, he may work towards adding the qualities of perfection and completion to his service of the previous year.

2) The month of Elul is a month of preparation for the month of Tishrei that follows. This concept is even alluded to in the letters of the word Tishrei. They spell out the word “reishis,” meaning “first,” only the letter aleph is missing. The aleph stands for G‑d, “Alupho Shel Olam” (L‑rd of the world). A Jew through his service can bring down G‑dliness and thus add the letter aleph to Tishrei. However, in order to do so, one needs added strength which can be attained through the service of the month of Elul.

From the above, we can appreciate the unique quality of the present day, Shabbos Mevarchim Elul. Since the above two aspects characterize the month of Elul, it follows that they have their source in the Shabbos that blesses that month. Thus, that particular Shabbos possesses a higher quality, for the one who blesses always possesses a — higher quality than — the blessed. This is particularly true in light of the unique qualities possessed by a Chassidic farbrengen, as the Alter Rebbe explained: “A Chassidic farbrengen can accomplish more than the Arch Angel Michael.” This is particularly true when that farbrengen is being held in the “beis Midrash” of the previous Rebbe. Thus, we can understand how we are being given the power, and hence, have the responsibility of carrying out the service of adding an aleph, as above symbolic of G‑d, Alupho Shel Olam, not only in the word Tishrei, but also in the word “golah,” — exile, and thus, transforming that word into “geulah,” — redemption.

In addition to the above, our sages have explained that the very name Elul serves as an acronym1 alluding to 1) the fundamental services of the month: Torah, tefillah (prayer), gemilus chassadim (deeds of kindness), and teshuvah; 2) the future redemption. These concepts are further emphasized by the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov that the name of something represents and thus, expresses and reveals an object’s inner life-force.

Firstly, Elul is an acronym for the verse: “I am [drawn] to my friend and my friend is [drawn] to me.” This alludes to a Jew’s service in general, for every act of Torah and mitzvos is a bond to “my friend,” to G‑d, and in particular, the service of prayer. Tefillah, expressing how “I am [drawn] to my friend” evokes an expression from G‑d — “My friend is [drawn] to me.”

From the above, we can appreciate the great privilege and responsibility, which each of us who attend this farbrengen have. For at this time, we are given the strength to conclude the previous year’s service and begin that of the year to come. That service is outlined in text of halachah beginning with the Rambam and proceeding to the Shulchan Aruch, the Shulchan Aruch of the Alter Rebbe, and ultimately to Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.2

May it be G‑d’s will that we put into practice the blessings we are Riven, bringing them from the state of potential to actual deed, just regarding the creation in general, it is explained that G‑d estimated within Himself all that would be created. Furthermore, G‑d’s potential does not lack the quality of actualization, nevertheless, the actual creation of the world is considered a matter of importance. Similarly, in all matters, the fact that something is brought into action is considered important. Thus, when the yetzer hora (the evil inclination) comes and tells a person that G‑d has already estimated whatever will happen, so what is so important if you actually do anything or not? Furthermore, what will your deeds accomplish? To that we answer: A man was created alone, just as G‑d’s Essence is a single entity,3 in order to teach us that each man is an entire world. Thus, if his activities are lacking, even though others have accomplished much, it is considered as if an entire world is lacking.

This is related to Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, since on this day a Jew is given extra potential, and he must bring that potential into revelation. Then, with one turn, to his friend, to G‑d, G‑d will turn His countenance to him, inscribing every Jew for a good and sweet year, including the greatest possible blessing: the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.

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2. It is customary that when a Guest comes to someone’s home, he will praise his host. Similarly, the host will do whatever possible to make his guest feel comfortable, as the Talmud relates: “Receiving guests is greater than receiving the Shechinah.” We see that G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham and rather than stay in G‑d’s revealed Presence. Avraham went to Greet his Guests.

Even though the episode preceded the giving of the Torah and there still was a decree separating the spiritual realms from the physical, nevertheless, with a physical activity Avraham was able to reach a higher level than by remaining in G‑d’s Presence. After the giving of the Torah, such a concept would be understandable, for then the potential was given to achieve more with activities of this physical world than can be achieved through spiritual activities. However, before the giving of the Torah, it is difficult to appreciate how, in fact, this concept could apply. Yet, we see how this concept was put into practice by Avraham; indeed, it is so important that it is included in the Torah. Thus we can see how important receiving Guests is.

There are various levels in the receiving of guests. A host should act differently to guests who have just come than to guests who have come a number of days beforehand. Similarly, a host should act differently to guests who have come from overseas, taking into consideration the hardships of their journey and existence away from home. There are guests who have just arrived from overseas attending this farbrengen. First of all, their physical needs, eating, drinking and sleeping, must be taken care of. Similarly, it is proper to recite a Torah concept for them since, the words of Torah bring happiness. In order for that happiness to be full, they should also be given wine, for our sages declared: “There is no happiness without wine,” and “song is recited only over wine.” Thus, not only will the animal soul not disturb the joy, it will also contribute towards its enhancement, for it also derives pleasure from wine.

Now, I will recite a Torah concept in honor of the guests. It should be explained to them that this is not an ordinary practice and hence a great honor.

The concept chosen is the last Mishnah in the conclusion of the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos (which is learned today according to the custom of studying Pirkei Avos on Shabbos during the summer).

That Mishnah states: “All that the Holy One, blessed be He created — in His world, He created solely for His glory, as it is stated: ‘All that is called by My Name, indeed it is for My glory, that I have created it, formed it, and even made it’; and it says: ‘The L‑rd shall reign forever and ever....

The Mishnah is not coming to teach us that there are objects in the world that are created for G‑d’s glory; that concept is understood. Furthermore, the Mishnah teaches: “G‑d has made five acquisitions in this world....” The Mishnah explains that everything that G‑d created and every aspect of each creation are for one purpose: G‑d’s honor. Similarly, every event that transpires is directed by Divine Providence for the same purpose: G‑d’s honor. Nothing happens by itself, rather every occurrence and every thought, expression, and deed emanates from G‑d and is for one purpose: G‑d’s Glory.

This concept is related to the guests mentioned before. Even if their intention in coming here was to visit relatives, to tour the country, to make money, etc., those are not the true reasons, but merely the animal soul’s perception of the situation. The Mishnah teaches that the real reason for their visit is for one purpose — G‑d’s honor. How is G‑d’s honor expressed? To answer that question the Mishnah continues: “The L‑rd shall reign forever and ever.” Commentaries explain that, on the surface, the connection between that verse and the previous concept — G‑d’s glory — is difficult to understand. However, their relation can be explained as follows. G‑d’s sovereignty is expressed by the fact that man follows His commandments. Thus, G‑d’s glory is enhanced when every creation and every occurrence is related to the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos or fulfillment of the commands: “Know Him (G‑d’s sovereignty. Though an event occurs thousands of years after the giving of the Torah, in a distant place, nevertheless, by using that event for Torah and mitzvos, G‑d’s glory, a Jew reveals how “the L‑rd shall reign forever and ever.”

Thus, the guests who have come should realize that the purpose of their journey is the study of Torah, the fulfillment of the mitzvos, and carrying out the directives “Know Him (G‑d) in all your ways” and “All of your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven.” Thus, though it is thousands of years after the giving of the Torah, in a different country far away from the desert in which the Torah was given, nevertheless, by using each event and occurrence for the purpose of Torah, we reveal how G‑d is an eternal King.

We are living in Ikvos HaMashiach — the age right before Mashiach’s coming — when G‑dliness is not revealed. (Indeed the very name Ikvos — meaning “the heel” — is called “the angel of death of the body,” in the brain and in the heart the life-force is revealed, but not in the heel.) Nevertheless, even in such an age, we can reveal how “the L‑rd shall reign forever and ever.” To conclude, the guests should now say LeChaim and sing a joyous song (the guests came from France and the Rebbe began to sing HaAderes VehaEmunah4 to the tune of Marseilles), even though the song was originated by gentiles, and indeed, has been adopted by a gentile nation (one which the Alter Rebbe opposed), thus, showing how everything including that song, was created for G‑d’s glory.

3. In addition to the qualities that are found in Shabbos Mevarchim Elul — every year, there are other unique aspects connected with the present Shabbos: 1) this year is a leap year; 2) Shabbos Mevarchim Elul follows the 20th of Av, the Yahrzeit of my father [the holy sage, R. Levi Yitzchok Schneerson], this year being the 40th anniversary of his passing.

The lesson to be learned from a leap year is related to the juxtaposition of the sun and the moon. Since the festivals must fall in their proper season, Pesach in the spring, etc., and there are more days in a solar year than a lunar year, therefore, in certain years, we are given an extra month, and thus, over the 19 — year cycle, the two calendars are coordinated to the point that, according to the reckoning of the sage Shmuel, there remains merely a difference of slightly more than an hour, a halachically negligible amount of time. Furthermore, according to the reckoning of the sage R. Adda, the two calendars are totally juxtaposed to the point where there is no difference whatsoever. Thus, a complete union of the sun and moon is achieved.

The above provides a lesson in our service of G‑d. Only in the Messianic age will “the light of the moon be as the light of the sun,” nevertheless, through the service of the Jewish people in a leap year, equality and union is achieved between the moon (a symbol for a receiver of influence) and the sun (a symbol for a source of influence). Even within the context of material existence, there will be no difference between then.

The concept however requires further explanation. The prophecy which foretells that in the Messianic Age, the moon will be the size of the sun, continues explaining how the size of the sun will also be increased “to the point that it will be seven times the light of the seven days [of creation].” Thus, it appears that the moon will never attain the size of the sun; when the moon will be increased to the sun’s present size, the sun will have grown even greater. Though at the time of creation, the sun and the moon were of equal size, as the verse declares: “And G‑d made the two great luminaries,” however, on the surface, from the time of the sin and the diminution of the moon when it became “the small luminary,” the moon will never attain equality with the sun.

This concept can be explained through consideration of one of the concepts spiritually parallel, the relationship between tzaddikim and baalei teshuvah. The Talmud teaches that if a man betroths a woman on the condition that he is a tzaddik, the betrothal is valid even if he is totally wicked, for it is possible that he did teshuvah at the time. This passage is questioned by the commentaries. Though they accept the fact that with one thought of teshuvah he can wipe away his entire past, nevertheless, another problem arises. The Talmud teaches that if a betrothal is made on a condition and later, the condition is not kept (even if the change appears to be for the benefit of the bride, e.g. the betrothal was made on the condition that the groom was poor and he turned out to be wealthy), the betrothal is nullified lest the woman would only have considered marrying a poor man. In this case as well, a baal teshuvah is on a higher rung than a tzaddik, if so, perhaps the woman desired to marry only a tzaddik and would not consider a person on the high level of a baal teshuvah.

That question can be explained as follows: the movement of teshuvah is twofold. First one leaves the state of wickedness and becomes a tzaddik, and then one rises to the level of baal teshuvah. Even though teshuvah is an immediate process, in one movement and one moment, nevertheless, it is composed of these two stages. Hence, at the time of the betrothal, included in the groom’s level as baal teshuvah is also the level of tzaddik.

The same is true concerning the sun and the moon. The prophecy: “and the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun” has two facets: 1) That the moon’s light will be equal to that of the sun as was the case before the diminution of the moon; 2) afterwards, the light of the sun will be increased sevenfold and thus, surpass that of the moon (or the light of the moon will be also be increased surpassing even the increased light of the sun as explained in other Kabbalistic texts).

Similarly, a parallel can be found in the concept of a leap year. First, the lunar and solar years are juxtaposed, which symbolizes the union of the source of influence with the receiver, and afterwards follows a further service of ascent.

Similarly, a connection can be drawn between the concept of a leap year and the Mishnah quoted before: “All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.” It is possible to explain that the Mishnah speaks of two stages, one in which the world will be seen as an extension of G‑d’s glory. However, there is a difference between the creation and G‑d. The second level however: “The L‑rd shall reign forever and ever,” speaks about a fusion between the world and G‑d. A king and his subjects are not separate entities, but one point, as the Rambam writes: “The heart of the king is the heart of the community of Israel,” and as our sages declare “Moshe is Israel and Israel is Moshe.” Thus, we can see a total fusion similar to that of the sun and the moon.

The above can be connected to the concept of a fortieth anniversary. The Talmud states that the Messianic Age will last forty years. This point can be connected to the parshah of this Shabbos, which begins “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing.” Here too, we can see how the (mekabel) receiver of influence can be brought to the level of the source (mashpia) of influence. A Mashpia cannot view himself as performing a one-time activity. Rather, he must work with the mekabel until the latter can “behold,” i.e. till the concepts are so clear and so much part of his being that it is as if they are seen.

This is a lesson to those who are active in the Mivtzoim, for example, mivtza tefillin. It is not enough that one cause another Jew to put on tefillin once. An effort must be made to make a deep personal impression upon him, to the point where he himself desires, to continue putting on tefillin every morning in the future. The same principle applies regarding all the other mivtzoim. We must involve ourselves with those to whom we spread the mitzvos to the point that they themselves feel personally involved. This includes also the three mivtzoim that are given to women: Kashrus, Neiros Shabbos Kodesh (lighting Shabbos candles), and Taharas Hamishpachah.

In order to make a vessel for the revelation of the above, each Jew must be “recorded in the scroll” i.e. have purchased a letter in one of the general Sifrei Torah. And through these activities; as the Rambam writes: “Israel will do teshuvah and then, immediately be redeemed,” speedily in our days.

4. There are many Chassidic discourses which begin [with the words of the verse]: “I am [drawn] to my friend and my friend is [drawn] to me,” an acronym for the word Elul. However, many of the discourses also include the conclusion of the verse: “... the shepherd among the roses,” while others omit that phrase. For example, in Likkutei Torah on today’s parshah there are two discourses beginning with that verse. One includes the conclusion and one does not. This difference can be explained as follows. The phrase “the shepherd among the roses” is an allusion to the “thirteen attributes of mercy.” In the discourses, which describe the service of the month of Elul itself, the conclusion of the verse is not mentioned. However, in the discourses which dwell on the concept of the thirteen qualities of mercy, the conclusion of the verse is included. Even though the first discourse in Likkutei Torah also mentions the 13 attributes of mercy and still omits the conclusion of the verse, the main body of the discourse is not concerned with that matter. In contrast, the second discourse stresses the concept of the 13 attributes in much greater length.