1. It is a Jewish custom to begin a gathering with a “blessing.” We find this in today’s Torah portion, the first parshah of Noach. It states “These are the generations of Noach, Noach...” it repeats the word Noach twice. Our Sages explain that the name Noach is derived from the word “Naycha” meaning favorable; the repetition of the word Noach in the verse alludes to the notion that Noach was both favorable in the lower worlds and favorable in the higher worlds. The word “favorable” denotes the concept of “blessing.”

The Tzemach Tzedek expounds on the Midrashic explanation of the verse “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to the L‑rd, as in the days of old and as in bygone years” — “The days of old” referring to the era of the flood of Noach. (In Hebrew the word “Y’mei” meaning “days” can easily be transformed into “mei” meaning “waters” and the Midrash interchanges these words to interpret “the days of old” to mean the “days” (“flood”) of Noach). The relevation for the permanent existence of the world was in the era of Noach. Never again would the world be subject to an all encompassing destruction such as the flood. This is the meaning of “as in the days of old”; the era of the flood of “Noach,” the favorable days when the world was assured of a permanent existence.

The question arises, how can one associate the flood of Noach with favorableness? That Noach himself found favor in G‑d’s eyes is clearly understood; the Torah itself attests to this. “Noach’s flood,” however, was certainly an unwanted and undesirable calamity! What was so favorable about it? The result of the flood that G‑d would never destroy the world again does not justify the flood itself being a “favorable” episode.

The explanation is, as explained in many places, the flood purified the world similar to the purification caused by the mikvah. This is why it rained for exactly forty days, corresponding to the forty “sah” required for a mikvah. For this reason the flood is referred to as the waters of Noach — by purifying the world, a favorable atmosphere was created.

The virtue of the “waters of Noach” is emphasized in Rashi’s commentary on the verse “And the rain was upon the earth” (7:12). Rashi asks: “But later on (verse 17) it says “And the flood was upon the earth. But (the answer for flood rather than rain is that) when G‑d brought the rains down, He brought them down with mercy (gently), so that if the people should repent they should be rains of blessing; but when the people did not repent, it became a flood of destruction.”

Our Sages explain that the construction of Noach’s ark took 120 years, giving the people the time and opportunity to repent. When this failed to arouse them, G‑d displayed miracles, such as, when the people tried to bodily stop Noach and the animals from boarding the ark, miraculously, all entered peacefully and unharmed. When this also failed to arouse them, still, at the very last moment G‑d gave them the chance to repent and convert the flood into rains of blessing.

The waters of Noach had the potential to be waters of blessing. That in reality, there was a destructive flood was the fault of the people. From Noach’s part the “waters of Noach” were “rains of blessing” — favorable in the lower worlds and favorable in the higher worlds.

In the above mentioned, lies a fundamental lesson and guide for every Jew. When a Jew looks around him, he is apt to conclude that he does not have the strength to withstand or counteract the evil influences of his environment: He is one individual against a “whole world!” He must realize that he is not the first to be in this predicament. Noach alone, stood up against the entire world and was successful and victorious in all his endeavors. In his time the world was at its lowest ever moral level. Despite this, as a righteous and whole-hearted man, Noach was so victorious that he alone was instrumental in establishing a “new world” of which “And the L‑rd smelled the sweet savor!”

One must not give up or even resign to fulfilling Torah and mitzvos apathetic to its effects on his environment. It is already a proven fact that a single man alone can upgrade the level of existence of the entire world in a manner of being “favorable in the lower worlds and favorable in the higher worlds.”

In accordance will all of the above, the common theme between Parshas Noach and the month of Cheshvan can be clearly understood (Parshas Noach is always read at the beginning of the month of Cheshvan).

The difference between Tishrei and Cheshvan: Tishrei is filled with festivals whereas Cheshvan is an “ordinary” month in which a Jew engages himself primarily in mundane activities. The term “mundane” is really only relative to the activities of a Jew during Tishrei, which is blessed with so many special mitzvos pertaining to the festivals. “Jew” and “mundanity” are in essence contradictory terms, for at Mattan Torah, G‑d said “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The true essence of a Jew is his spirituality and holiness and no-one and nothing has the ability to change this “inborn trait.”

When the mundane and ordinary service of the month of Cheshvan begins, an extra and greater blessing is required to fulfill this mundane service adequately.

This extra blessing is supplied by, and through the message of Parshas Noach. “These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a man righteous and wholehearted in his generation.” Despite the evil and immoral conduct of his generation. Noach conducted himself as a perfectly righteous man in a manner that was favorable in the lower worlds and favorable in the higher worlds (as explained at length earlier).

The above mentioned also applies to the famous dictum “Ya’akov went on his way.” It is a custom in some places to announce these words on Motzoei Simchas Torah. The purpose of it was, as if to announce, the festivities are now over and it is time for everyone to return to their ordinary and mundane activities.

In the dictum “Ya’akov went on his way” two major points are emphasized. A) The name Ya’akov is used and not Yisroel (as he is referred to in other places). B) It says L’darcho — his way — his own personal and mundane matters.

The connotations of the name Ya’akov are of “mundanity.” The Alter Rebbe explains the difference between the spiritual level of the Jewish nation on Shabbos and on weekdays. “On Shabbos we are at the level of Yisroel... and then on Motzoei Shabbos... we descend to the level of ‘Ya’akov My servant’ for the duration of the week.” This descent is emphasized in the name Ya’akov itself as the verse says “and his hand grasped the heel (b’okeiv) of Esav.” This denotes the idea of lowliness i.e., worldly and ordinary matters. In fact it was G‑d Himself who named Ya’akov and in turn gives the ability to combat the difficulties of Ya’akov in the broader connotations of the name Ya’akov i.e. the Jewish nation.

Even though “Ya’akov went on his way” was announced on Motzoei Simchas Torah, it takes its full effect in the month of Cheshvan. For this a Jew is given the extra blessing from the message of Parshas Noach, “Do not fear My servant Ya’akov” (prayer from Motzoei Shabbos), G‑d will instill in every Jew the ability to elevate his worldly and mundane activities to the extent that they will be favorable in the lower worlds and favorable in the higher worlds.

This blessing is relevant to, and incorporates the blessing for the ultimate redemption by Moshiach, as we stated earlier “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to the L‑rd, as in the days of old ...” “the days of the flood of Noach.”

2. Every year an additional mission is given in the divine service of every Jew. To enable fulfillment of this mission additional powers and abilities are given to every Jew. This is in accordance with that which the Alter Rebbe states in Iggeres Hakodesh. “Every year a new more sublime light descends, so sublime a light as has never shone yet since the beginning of the world.” Since everything that G‑d creates has a purpose, there must be a necessity for this new sublime light, to penetrate and illuminate an area or situation that is in need of an extra abundance of sublime light. This in fact is the additional mission incumbent on the Jewish nation every year; to activate and make permeate this light in the required areas.

The fulfillment of this mission is a daily responsibility. Our Sages comment, in the era immediately preceding the coming of Moshiach, each day the darkness of the exile intensifies. To counteract this an increase in Torah study and in the quality of performance of mitzvos is required and necessary on a daily basis.

The desire and will of the Almighty is that this “enormous” task incumbent on every Jew be fulfilled in a manner and spirit of pleasure and delight, free of exertion.

This concept is emphasized this year, since Rosh Hashanah (the head of the year) falls out on Shabbos. The central theme of Shabbos is delight as it says “and you call the Shabbos delight.” The service of a Jew on Shabbos is joyous, free of difficulties and exertion. This is illustrated by the fact that when Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbos, the divine revelations of the shofar blowing take effect, without the kavonnos (thoughts behind) and actual blowing of the shofar. The divine revelations take effect automatically.

The question arises: A Jew must strive for perfection in his divine service, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” This requires total application of all the powers and skills of the person, to the extent that he must exert himself. Why are we instructing him that his divine service be free of difficulties and exertion?

All holy matters have the element of infinity. If a person is able, in certain areas, to fulfill his divine task with ease, in a pleasurable way, he will still be left with “infinite” areas where he will have to exert himself.

The Alter Rebbe once offered to give the Tzemach Tzedek (as a child) certain attributes in service of G‑d (knowledge of Torah, fear and love of G‑d, etc.). The Tzemach Tzedek answered him that he prefers to acquire these attributes through his own efforts. A few years later the Tzemach Tzedek regretted his refusal. Had he accepted the gift of the Alter Rebbe, he said, he could have geared his own efforts to advance and reach beyond the attributes given to him by the Alter Rebbe. The scope of Torah and mitzvos is infinite!

From this it is clearly understood, if one has the opportunity to fulfill a divine task with ease, he must certainly do so; his efforts he will gear towards even greater tasks! This is in fact what we pray for everyday “Do not bring us.. to temptations” (meaning do not test our abilities).

For this reason the virtues of the “Torah supporters,” who enable yeshivah students to study Torah peacefully, free of financial worries, are greatly extolled by our Sages. The Mishnah in Avos states “Commensurate with the painstaking effort is the reward.” What favor are the Torah supporters really doing for the students? If they would learn under difficult circumstances their reward would be even greater! The Torah, however, tells of the great virtues and importance of the Torah supporters, teaching us the great merit to support yeshivah students. This will enable the students to strive and exert themselves to reach greater heights in their study of Torah. In this vein will the students, commensurate to their painstaking efforts, receive their reward.

For everyone to be able to fulfill their resolutions for the new year with “ease” it is advisable that the resolutions be formed together. This will give more strength to the resolutions and greater potential to their fulfillment. To begin, everyone participating in this farbrengen should make the resolution together to “love your fellow man as yourself” which is the fundamental precept of the Torah. This will extend to everyone helping each other to form and fulfill good resolutions in all matters of Torah and mitzvos.

Then we will merit the fulfillment of the promise “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to the L‑rd, as in the days of old and as in bygone years,” speedily in our days — instantly!