The Previous Rebbe related that the Alter Rebbe said the following: “When I was in Mezritch, I heard from my teacher and master the Mezritcher Maggid, in the name of his teacher and master the Baal Shem Tov, that the seventh month, which is the first of the months of the year, G‑d Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevarchim, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul. With this strength Israel blesses the months eleven times a year....”

G‑d’s Blessings vs. Man’s Blessings

We see from the above that although we do not announce after the Torah reading that this Shabbos is Shabbos Mevarchim — as is customary on every other Shabbos Mevarchim — it is still called “Shabbos Mevarchim.” Indeed, this Shabbos Mevarchim is loftier than all others because “G‑d Himself blesses it.”

On the other hand, service performed by man possesses an advantage over that conferred by G‑d, to the extent that G‑d, as it were, says, “You have bested Me My sons, you have bested Me.” This is why, in the above teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, two concepts are brought: 1) “The seventh month ... G‑d Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevarchim” — the distinction conferred from Above; 2) “With this strength Israel blesses the months eleven times a year” — the distinction accruing from man’s service.

Moreover, man’s service itself — blessing the other eleven months of the year — comes from G‑d, deriving from the blessing which He bestows upon the seventh month. In other words, that Jews can make an impression Above, to the extent that “You have bested me, My sons, you have bested Me,” comes from G‑d. Because He is omnipotent, He is unfettered by any bounds — and can allow that Jews can, so to speak, best Him. Because Jews are the “sons” of G‑d, and “the son’s strength is greater than the father’s,” Jews can “best” their Father. However, the superior ability of the son itself comes from the father: because he is his father’s son, he possesses the father’s powers.

So too with Shabbos Mevarchim. The superior distinction of man’s service as manifested in Jews blessing the months eleven times a year, comes from the fact that G‑d blesses the seventh month — “with this strength Israel blesses the months.” And that is why in the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching it first states “the seventh month ... G‑d Himself blesses it” — for it is the source of that which follows — “with this strength Israel blesses the months eleven times a year.”

Particulars are encompassed in the “Head”

The Previous Rebbe, in quoting the above teaching, is careful to state that the Alter Rebbe heard it from the Mezritcher Maggid who in turn said it in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. This is puzzling. Why is the Previous Rebbe so meticulous in recounting who the Alter Rebbe received this particular teaching from? In other instances of teachings delivered by the Alter Rebbe we do not find this insistence.

The answer is associated with the central theme of the actual teaching, which is that G‑d Himself blesses Rosh Chodesh Tishrei — which is Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah means the “Head of the Year,” and is called this name (and not the “Beginning of the Year”) because it symbolizes its relationship to the rest of the year. Just as a person’s head encompasses all the body’s limbs, so Rosh Hashanah encompasses all the days of the year.

Because the above teaching concerns Rosh Hashanah, the Previous Rebbe emphasizes that the Alter Rebbe heard it from the Maggid who said it in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. It is not important how the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe approached this teaching as individuals, what new insights they added, but rather how they are encompassed in the head. That is, the Previous Rebbe is emphasizing how the Maggid and the Alter Rebbe are compounded in the Baal Shem Tov — the idea of Rosh Hashanah.

This idea of Rosh Hashanah is also expressed in the actual teaching. That Jews bless the months eleven times a year with the strength derived from G‑d’s blessing of the seventh month is similar to a general concept (the blessing of the seventh month by G‑d) encompassing many different details (the blessing of the other months by the Jews, the strength for which comes from the general concept). That is, this teaching emphasizes not so much the individual nature of each detail — how Jews bless each month — but how the details are encompassed in the general concept: that the strength to bless the other months comes from and is compounded in the blessing bestowed by G‑d upon the seventh month.

It follows, then, that the blessing bestowed by G‑d on this Shabbos Mevarchim is not just for the month of Tishrei, but it is also a blessing which extends to the entire following year — for it is with the strength of G‑d’s blessing that Jews bless the other months.

Pledges of Tzedakah

Since the Previous Rebbe has revealed to us this teaching, there is a lesson in it for every Jew. Every Jew, on Shabbos parshas Nitzavim (the Shabbos which always precedes Rosh Hashanah), must know that he has the strength to prepare not only for Rosh Hashanah and Tishrei, but for the entire year. Therefore, on this Shabbos we must undertake good resolutions in service to G‑d for the whole year, until the next Elul.

Because the Previous Rebbe revealed this to all Jews, the above lesson applies to everyone, even the simplest of Jews. That lesson is in the area of tzedakah, especially in this country which is outstanding in its generosity and benevolence.

A person, when giving tzedakah, normally reckons up his present wealth, and then gives a tenth to tzedakah — or if he is particularly zealous, a fifth or more. In this country, however, a new concept has developed. One pledges that he will give a certain amount of tzedakah in the future.

What does this mean? Right now he doesn’t have the money. But he wants to give. Therefore the way to do it is to pledge that he will give it within a certain time, when he will have the money. For example, he pledges that every week for a set length of time he will give a set amount of money.

This is the lesson from Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei. On this Shabbos a Jew has the strength to give tzedakah not only for the month of Tishrei, but to pledge to give tzedakah for the entire year — a certain amount each week, for example. This pledge should not be made only orally, but should be written and signed.

The lesson for each Jew is as follows: Each person must make a careful evaluation of the amount he can give at set intervals throughout the year — and give it. If during the year he can give more, he will then do so — but right now he should at least pledge a set amount. The resolution to do the above should be undertaken on this Shabbos, and immediately after Shabbos he should write his pledge.

A person may ask: He makes his money honestly, and believes that G‑d is the One Who blesses his business with success so that he can give tzedakah. Thus he can understand that he should now give tzedakah according to his means. He does not know, however, how his business affairs will fare in the future. How, then, can he make a pledge now to give a certain sum in the future?

“G‑d joins a good thought to deed”

Torah, however, promises and assures him that “G‑d joins a good thought to deed.” When he has the good thought, and makes a pledge to give tzedakah for the coming year, G‑d will join the thought to a deed — and he will have a complete thing: the good thought and pledge, and the actual deed which G‑d will join to it.

A further question: The meaning of “G‑d joins a good thought to deed” is that when one has a good thought about doing something, G‑d joins that thought to a deed that he does at some other time. How does he know, however, that he will ever have that deed which G‑d can then join to the good thought and pledge?

There is, however, another interpretation of this saying: When a Jew has a good thought and undertakes a good resolution, G‑d provides him with the opportunity to translate it into deed.

This is illustrated by a story that occurred with the Previous Rebbe, who wanted to print the Responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek, but did not have the financial means to do so. A young man came to the Previous Rebbe, and pledged to pay the printing costs — although he did not have the financial means to do so. It was afterwards seen that G‑d opened new avenues and opportunities for this person, from which he earned more than enough money to pay the printing costs.

We see from this story that when a Jew truthfully undertakes a good resolution, then, although he may normally not be able to fulfill it, “G‑d joins a good thought to deed,” and opens new opportunities for him wherewith he can fulfill his resolution. In our case, when one makes a pledge to give tzedakah for the coming year, then, although he may not, at the time, see how he can fully carry out his pledge, G‑d will provide him with the opportunity to do so.

Moreover, when the resolution to give tzedakah is made at a time when a Jew is inspired and full of enthusiasm — such as on this Shabbos — he resolves to give a large amount. Without making a pledge, however, he may not, when he has the money, give as large an amount. And although when he carries out his pledge he may have lost some of his enthusiasm, the important thing is to actually give the money — which he will surely do if he has pledged himself.

This lesson from Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei applies to all Jews, not only to “the heads of your tribes” and “the drawers of your water,” but also to “your children.” Moreover, the verse states, “You are standing today all of you before the L‑rd your G‑d, the heads of your tribes ... your children ... the drawers of your water,” indicating that all categories of Jews stand equally. Thus the above lesson in giving tzedakah applies equally to all categories of Jews, including children.

Children should give Tzedakah

We must see to it that children should also give tzedakah; and that is why we endeavor to ensure that children should put money into a tzedakah-pushkah (charity-box).

Some people claim they see no use in this, for the child does not give of his own money, and, moreover, doesn’t give it directly to a poor person, but puts it into a tzedakah-pushkah.

The answer to this comes from an explicit verse: “Train the child according to his way, so that when he becomes older, he will not depart from it.” When one educates a child when he is very young to put money in a tzedakah-pushkah, he will give tzedakah when he becomes older.

We train him to put money in a tzedakah-pushkah rather than give directly to a collector of charity, for there is a certain advantage to this in his education to give tzedakah. A collector of charity comes to a person, and asks for money for a poor person, explaining why it is necessary, etc. When putting money into a tzedakah-pushkah, the child must go to the pushkah and put in money — thereby training him to give tzedakah of his own accord, without any prompting from others. His hand becomes a hand which is used for giving tzedakah.

In addition Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei teaches that besides training children to give tzedakah, they should also be educated to give it in the form of a pledge — consonant to the sum of money they receive as their allowance from their parents.

Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei also teaches that when one spreads Judaism and Chassidus to “children” in knowledge, he should give them enough of this spiritual tzedakah for the entire year.

Through making good resolutions to increase in giving tzedakah, G‑d blesses all Jews in all things.