1. This gathering is taking place in the month of Tishrei, the letters of which, when transposed, form the word “reishis” — “beginning.” It is the beginning and “head” of the year, in which resolutions for the rest of the year’s conduct are made.

The month of Tishrei begins with Rosh Hashanah, when Jews crown G‑d as King of the world. The world is constantly being created anew by G‑d, and, moreover, He controls every moment of its existence with Divine Providence.

Recognition of G‑d’s role as Creator and King must lead to compliance with His will and directives. And, as a just and benevolent king, His directives are certainly just and beneficial for His subjects. Similarly, He has provided the means whereby man knows how to serve the king, to know what is permitted and what is prohibited. He gave us the Torah.

Torah is cognate to the word “horo’oh,” meaning directive and teaching. It is called the “Torah of life” and the “Torah of light,” for it is a directive for daily life, given in a clear, illuminating fashion.

Compliance with the Torah’s directives causes it to become “our life,” forming our day to day conduct in every moment — to the extent that it becomes a Torah-life, given and directed by G‑d, the Source of all blessings. It thus follows that a Torah-life brings in its wake G‑d’s blessings for all necessities, suited to each individual’s time, place and needs.

So too with the entire Jewish people. A Jewish people implies not only that it is comprised of Jews, but that it is comprised of persons who behave Jewishly, such that “in all your ways you shall know Him” and “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.” Even in such pursuits where no differences exist between Jews and non-Jews, such as in eating and drinking, a Jew must not eat in a gluttonous manner, but in a refined manner. Moreover, because a Jew blesses G‑d for the food before eating, he has placed G‑d before him — and his very eating and drinking is done in a correspondingly suitable manner. He eats, drinks, and behaves Jewishly.

A life led in a Jewish manner enables one to see how Divine Providence is all-pervasive. This is particularly so in the case of businessmen: While running a business demands planning and foresight, the more acute observer will also realize that certain opportunities afforded him can only be put down to the Divine Providence of G‑d, Who wished the person to succeed past all rational expectations.

The inspiration for the above starts with the month of Tishrei, for it is a special month, filled with special blessings from G‑d, and elicits special fervor and spiritual arousal from a Jew. Resolutions undertaken in this month are therefore of special importance, and have unusual influence on the coming year.

At such a time, the essence of a Jew’s soul, which is “a part of G‑d Above,” is awakened, and its hitherto hidden powers are brought to the fore. Success for implementing the resolutions is therefore assured, for this month and for the whole year.

2. Extra success is conferred when Jews are united together, as at this gathering. Generally, no two people are alike, each possessing different minds, characters, and outlooks on life. Yet, when gathered together for a mutual objective, that objective unites them: not only is there no clash because of their differences, but one helps and complements the other. A synergistic effect then takes place: Jews together can achieve more than the sum of the individuals’ efforts.

When, therefore, Jews are gathered together in the month of Tishrei, the inspiration and spiritual arousal elicited — and the success for implementing the good resolutions made at this time — is great indeed.

This is particularly so since, in the month of Tishrei itself, we have gathered together during the festival of Sukkos, the “Season of our Rejoicing.” More can be achieved when one is in a state of joy than when not, and certainly more than if one is sad or gloomy.

The joy of each Jew in G‑d’s festival is also a unifying force. All those assembled here, and all Jewry, who celebrate the same festival at the same time, are united together — and united with G‑d, the Giver of this joyous festival.

Where we are assembled also serves as a unifying force: it is a place where all together pray to the same G‑d, and have the same study-sessions in Torah. In one’s home, one learns what he wishes; in a synagogue and study-hall, all learn the same thing — once again underscoring the true unity which exists between Jews. The causes for unity among Jews far outweigh their differences; and, moreover, love of a fellow Jew (through which unity is achieved) transforms these differences into assets — for a Jew’s unique characteristics complement one another’s.

The steadfast resolutions of this month to live a Torah-life — which, we have said, possess a greater power when undertaken in a gathering of many Jews — enables one to ignore the past and start afresh: to turn over a new leaf. Indeed, the strength accruing from participation with other Jews continues even after parting from them. The resolutions undertaken and the inspiration received when gathered together continue to permeate one even when engaged in one’s private affairs. For the differences in opinion between Jews are only external; the true reality is that all Jews have one Father. They are all sons of Avraham, Yitzchok and Ya’akov, and all daughters of Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah. All are united for all time. And when united, they can never be overcome.

The U.S.A. emphasizes the same point. Written on U.S. currency are the words “E Pluribus Unum” — ”From the many — one.” The goal and purpose of this country is to unite all its individual elements into one, thereby enabling all to live productive, righteous lives. Then “nation will not lift up sword against nation:” because they will acknowledge that there is one Master of the world, nations will cease warring against each other.

This is also the concept of the festival of Sukkos. Besides the sacrifices offered on Sukkos to elicit blessings and protection for the Jews, sacrifices for the blessings and protection of the seventy nations of the world were also brought. And the principal blessing is that people should behave as decent human beings, ready to forego their private interests for the public good. The unity thus effected serves as the preparation to Moshiach’s coming, when all nations will serve G‑d “with a common consent.”

Decent, responsible behavior means the elimination of the idea that “he who is strongest, prevails.” One must override his own ideas of what is best and do that which G‑d, Who knows what is best for man and mankind, commands.

Eventually, one will see the success such conduct brings. When one devotes his time, energy, and wealth to help others, resources which could have been used to further his own interests, G‑d grants him success also in his private endeavors.

This is in addition to the peace of mind and soul such a person experiences when he devotes energy to helping others, even those of whom he has no personal knowledge. He knows only that a person somewhere in the world is in need, and he is asked to help. He knows the other not; he knows only that the same G‑d created them both — and he leaves his and his family’s concerns, and helps. The knowledge that he has fulfilled his mission as a human being, true, decent, caring and unselfish, results in true peace for the soul — in addition to G‑d’s blessings for success in his personal life.

3. As noted above, this is emphasized on Sukkos, the time when this gathering is being held. And there are special lessons to be derived from the particular day of Sukkos on which it is being held. Each day of Sukkos has its own “guest” (the first day Avraham, the second day Yitzchok, etc.), and today’s “guest” is Aharon the High Priest. There is also a Chassidic “guest” on each day (the Baal Shem Tov the first day, the Mezritcher Maggid the second day, etc.), and the Tzemach Tzedek, third leader of Chassidus Chabad, is today’s “guest.” Lessons can also be derived from the Torah portion learned today — the second section of parshas “V’Zos HaBerachah.”

Aharon was noted for “loving creatures and bringing them near to the Torah.” Aharon was the High Priest, the most holy of the Jewish people in his time, and upon him devolved the responsibility of the Sanctuary service. In total contrast, the word “creatures” implies people whose only redeeming feature is that they are G‑d’s creations. Yet Aharon, disregarding his personal status and position as representative of the entire people, would leave the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary and go to the abode of these “creatures.” They did not go to him for help; he sought them out.

Moreover, service in the Sanctuary demanded the highest standards of ritual purity. Aharon could not be sure that in going to the “creatures” he would not come in contact with something that would render him impure — and thereby render him temporarily unfit for the Sanctuary service. Yet this too he disregarded! Because of his love for them he actively sought them out, and brought them near to the Torah.

Aharon introduced them to the most precious possession of a person: the revelation of the soul’s essence, which, in a Jew’s case, is when Judaism, found in the Torah, is opened to him.

The beginning of Aharon’s work, however, was to help them in their material needs. A “creature” has no higher feelings than that he needs food, drink, shelter and clothing. It was in these things, the Midrash tells us, that Aharon first helped — and only afterwards did he “bring them near to the Torah.”

What relevance has Aharon’s conduct to this year of 5744? Aharon’s behavior was derived from the Torah’s teachings — and the Torah is eternal, as relevant now as ever. Thus Aharon’s conduct, based on the Torah’s teachings, the “Torah of light,” serves as a beacon of light to show the way for all Jews. A Jew must “love creatures”: As noted above, when one hears of another in need, and does not know him or his qualities, only that he exists, one of G‑d’s creations — he must do all in his power to help.

When it is a Jew in need, however, material assistance is insufficient. One cannot satisfy the body and ignore the Jewish soul. One must do his utmost to ensure that Jewish children receive a Jewish education, and people residing in Jewish institutions, including hospitals, must have Jewish food.

Aharon’s efforts to reach out to other Jews are paralleled by that of today’s Chassidic “guest,” the Tzemach Tzedek, who united Jews from all walks of life. In the generations preceding him, there were divisions amongst Jewry, even among those who studied Torah. The Tzemach Tzedek labored mightily to correct this situation, and to this end travelled around meeting representatives of different communities. He met with success, and unity among Jews prevailed.

This unity encompassed also those who previously were not of the Torah camp. They afterwards assisted the Tzemach Tzedek in his representations to the Russian government not to issue edicts against the observance of Torah in general, and against the education of Jewish children in particular.

This is also the connection to the verses of Torah read today, which begin with the words “They shall teach Your laws to Ya’akov.” Although this is addressed to the tribe of Levi, whose task was to teach Judaism to the other tribes, it also applies to all Jews. The Rambam writes that any Jew whose heart moves him to be as the tribe of Levi, is given the strength by G‑d to do so. Regardless of his interests until then, he can serve as a living example to Jews — and non Jews — in his vicinity of how to behave in a decent, human manner. His personal life will fulfill the blessing that “They shall teach Your laws to Ya’akov;” for in every moment, in every deed, in every utterance, he serves as a “Rabbi” and educator.

4. In addition to the above lessons learned from the particular day on which this gathering is being held, a further lesson, associated with the above, is derived from the fact that the gathering is being held at night — when Simchas Bais Hashoeva (Celebration of the Water-Drawing) is held. Every day of the year, a wine-libation was offered on the altar; on Sukkos, a water-libation was brought, and the drawing of water for it was celebrated with great joy.

This teaches us a wonderful lesson of how everything depends on the soul. When one makes the body the primary force, and wishes to be joyous, joy will not be produced by drinking water; only wine makes the heart joyous. Simchas Bais Hashoeva teaches that Jews are given the mitzvah, during a set number of days each year, to draw water from a well. They did not even drink the water; they brought it to a sacred place, the Bais Hamikdosh, for a sacred purpose.

Yet Jews are informed that “You shall draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.” When a Jew draws water in consonance with G‑d’s direction, it will be “from the springs of salvation” — it will bring salvation to them. And this must be done “with joy” — the Simchas Bais Hashoeva.

This information is provided by Torah not just to relate an interesting story, to know that one had fine ancestors. It is told so that one will want to be like those ancestors, and then educate one’s grandchildren that they should want to be like him.

It is only in this way that the generation gap is eradicated, and all generations unite through the same Torah, behaving according to the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Code of Law).

Then we receive all the many blessings of G‑d, the Giver of the Torah. He has promised that “The Jewish people lives and endures” — the Jewish nation will overcome and outlive all difficulties, as it has overcome then until now. And very soon we will merit to have the true and complete redemption, particularly when we will increase in the joy of Simchas Bais Hashoeva, in the joy of Sukkos (the “Season of our Rejoicing”), and in good deeds — “loving creatures and bringing them near to the Torah.”

Because “joy breaks through all barriers,” the performance of all the above with joy hastens the redemption, when all Jews will leave the exile “with our youth and our elders, with our sons and our daughters.” We shall not leave one by one, but in a united group — “a great congregation shall return there.” And we will return to our holy land, the “land which ... the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” — the one unique land chosen from all others.

In Eretz Yisroel itself, we, together with our righteous Moshiach, will go to Yerushalayim, to the Temple Mount, to “the Sanctuary which Your hands, OL‑rd, have established.”