1. The Alter Rebbe, in the name of the Maggid who heard it from the Baal Shem Tov, said: “The seventh month, which is the first month of the months of the year, G‑d Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevorchim, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul. It is with this strength that Israel blesses the months 11 times a year.” He continues: “It is written ‘You are standing steadfast today’, ‘today’ referring to Rosh Hashanah which is the Day of Judgment ... and you are standing steadfast, existing and standing, meaning meritorious in judgment. And on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, which it the last Shabbos of the month of Elul, we read the par-shah ‘You are standing steadfast:’ This is G‑d’s blessing on Shabbos Mevorchim of the seventh month, which is (the month) replete with, and gives fully, much good to all Israel for the entire year.”

Although the above concerns “G‑d’s blessings,” it is also connected with our service and deeds. For G‑d’s blessings for the other 11 months comes as a result of Jews’ service — “Israel blesses the months 11 times a year.” In other words, although Jews bless the other months with the strength of G‑d’s blessing on the last Shabbos of Elul, nevertheless, G‑d’s blessings for the other months is drawn down specifically through the efforts of Jews. Moreover, the action of Jews — blessing the other eleven months — belongs entirely to them, for they are the “masters” of this. When a person blesses, it means he is on a level loftier than the blessing, and therefore has the power to command the blessing. Hence, Jews can bless the other 11 months because they are on a loftier level than the blessings themselves, — and are therefore the “masters” to draw down the blessings.

Moreover, the service of Jews is not just on the other 11 months, but is also related to Shabbos Mevorchim of the seventh month which G‑d Himself blesses; for G‑d’s blessing then is “You are standing steadfast today,” referring to Jews.


2. This year, on the last Shabbos of the month of Elul, we read parshas “Netzavim-Vayeilech” together (some years parshas “Netzavim” alone is read, on others, as this year, we read the two together, “Netzavim-Vayeilech”). When Netzavim-Vayeilech are read together, they are not two separate parshas merely joined, but each one is changed because they are read together. Simply, every moment of this week belongs to parshas “Netzavim-Vayeilech,” and not that some moments belong separately to Netzavim and others to Veyeilech.

We find this concept elsewhere: A woman, for example, should not possess the same name as her mother-in-law. The Tzemach Tzedek notes that when one of them has an additional name, there is absolutely no need to worry (that they share a common name besides the additional name one of them possesses). For when someone has two names, it does not mean each name is separate (for then they would indeed share the same first name), but the two names in combination become one name; therefore the essence of the first name also changes. In other words, although a person’s name may be composed of two separate words, they are one name. So too in our case: Although the name of our parshah “Netzavim Vayeilech” is composed of two words, it is one name of one parshah — “Netzavim-Vayeilech.” Consequently, the contents of the parshah changes: Each par-shah separately has its own contents, and the par-shah “Netzavim-Vayeilech” has a different content.

Netzavim and Vayeilech mean two diametrically different things. Netzavim means standing steadfast; Vayeilech means movement, to go, the exact opposite of standing steadfast. How then can these two parshas be joined together into one entity?

When each parshah is read on a separate Shabbos, their opposite meanings pose no problem, for it teaches us a lesson in service to G‑d. One’s service must be in the order of first “Netzavim” — standing steadfast, then followed by “Vayeilech” — movement. This teaches us that when one’s service is in the mode of “Netzavim,” a person must know he cannot remain on this level, but must always be rising — “Vayeilech.” Conversely, one’s service cannot start out as “Vayeilech,” but must follow after “Netzavim” — standing steadfast.

In each of these two types of service there are differing levels. Although “Netzavim” in general means the service of standing steadfast, the idea of “I have not changed,” such a service can express itself in different levels. Likewise, “Vayeilech” — going, also has different levels, dependent on the level one starts from. The lesson from parshas Vayeilech following parshas Netzavim is that the service of “I have not changed” must itself be such that it leads to an ascent, continuous movement higher and higher, from level to level. Conversely, the service of “Vayeilech” must start from the firm base of “Netzavim,” and only then can one rise to a higher level.

However, this lesson only applies when Netzavim and Vayeilech are separate parshas, symbolizing separate types of service which follow each other. This year however, Netzavim and Vayeilech are joined, “Netzavim-Vayeilech.” How can there be two opposite types of service simultaneously?

These two types of service can only be synthesized from a level which is sufficiently lofty to transcend any such differences. For example, we find that the Aron (the ark which housed the tablets) possessed just such a quality. The Talmud states that “the position occupied by the Aron did not take up any space.” That is, the Aron had definite physical dimensions — 2} cubits length, 11 cubits width, 11 cubits height. Logically then, when placed in the Holy of Holies, the Aron should have occupied this amount of space. Yet, the Talmud tells us, it took up no space at all! This is logically impossible — for it is the synthesis of two opposites: the finite and the infinite. Yet in the case of the Aron, it existed. The Rashba cites this as proof of the existence of the phenomenon of the logically impossible.

Indeed, there were Torah greats who, while conceding the possibility of a miracle transcending nature, could not comprehend the idea of a miracle taking place within nature, the synthesis of the finite and the infinite. The proof it does exist is the Aron. Not only did the Aron transcend the limits of nature (itself a great miracle, since the Aron was made of physical gold), but simultaneously the finite and infinite co-existed together in it: the Aron had definite physical limits, yet took up no space. So too in the case of “Nevtzavim-Vayeilech”: Its concept is made possible from a level that transcends both of them, allowing the synthesis of these two opposites.

The analogy to the Aron is made stronger by the two opposite aspects in the Aron corresponding to the opposite concepts in “Netzavim-Vayeilech.” The Aron was eternal, steadfast (“I have not changed”), and therefore did not go into exile (unlike the other vessels in the Bais Hamikdosh which were captured by the enemy). Instead, the Rambam writes, “When Shelomoh built the House (Bais Hamikdosh) and knew it would eventually be destroyed, he built in a place wherewith to hide the Aron below in the cracks ... And King Yoshiyahu commanded, and they hid it.” Likewise, the actual measurement of the Aron expresses this same concept of eternality, “I have not changed.”

The transcendent aspect of the Aron (that it took up no place) is similar to the idea of “Vayeilech,” rising ever higher, transcending all limits. Hence the synthesis of the two contradicting aspects of the Aron (finite and the non-finite) is similar to the synthesis of “Netzavim-Vayeilech.”

“Netzavim” in terms of man’s spiritual service corresponds to service with strength and steadfastness. Sometimes parshas “Netzavim” is read by itself, teaching us that a length of time is needed in which one’s principal service is in the mode of “Netzavim.” This ensures that the concept of “I have not changed” will permeate and be permanently engraved in a person.

There are of course several levels in the type of service, corresponding to a person’s level in service to G‑d. For example, one person’s service in this respect may be not to be affected by outside changes, while another’s is not to be affected by changes in his own service. That is, even when one rises in comprehension of G‑d, it should not affect the service of simple faith. Although service of simple faith precedes that of comprehension, “Netzavim” teaches us that even on the loftier levels of comprehension the rock-like strength of simple faith must be retained. This means that not only does one remain steadfast in his simple faith, but the strength of “I have not changed” reaches also those levels attained by comprehension.

Likewise in regard to performance of mitzvos: Before one attains comprehension in the meaning of mitzvos, his service is simple acceptance of the yoke of heaven — “I have ordained statutes, I have decreed decrees, and you have no permission to speculate about it.” Once however a person has risen in service to G‑d and comprehends the reasons for the mitzvos, he may wonder: What need now to fulfill mitzvos simply because so G‑d decreed, when he understands the reasons behind the mitzvos? And if so, why does he “have no permission to speculate about it?” Such speculation will not cause a weakening of the performance of mitzvos, but add to one’s enjoyment of service to G‑d! But the answer to such a question is that the service of submission to the yoke of heaven must be in the manner of “Netzavim” even when one reaches the levels attained by comprehension.

Just as the concept of “Netzavim” applies to the loftiest levels of comprehension, so too it applies to the lowest levels — the manner of giving tzedakah. When a person makes a profit in business and gives tzedakah, he may think that it was his business acumen which brought him this gain and thereby afforded him the opportunity to give it to tzedakah. The lesson of “Netzavim” teaches him that he must remain steadfast in regard to faith: Just as when he was a small businessman he believed with absolute faith that his profits came from G‑d’s blessings, so too when he became a “smart” businessman, he must remain steadfast in his faith that his profits come from G‑d’s blessings.

Following the service of “Netzavim” comes the service of “Vayeilech”: A person does not remain on his present level, but must continuously rise “from strength to strength.” And although “Netzavim” must be followed by “Vayeilech,” the service of “Netzavim” before he reaches that of “Vayeilech” must be whole and complete of itself.

The above applies to those years when “Netzavim” and “Vayeilech” are read on separate Shabbosim. i.e. each has a whole week for itself in which each mode of service is emphasized. This year, in which “Netzavim-Vayeilech” are read together, teaches that the era close to the days of Moshiach is not the time to delay on each of these types of service. Instead, the service of each day and each moment is the service of “Netzavim-Vayeilech” together.


3. Chapter 31, verse 28 of parshas Vayeilech, tells of Moshe’s command: “Gather to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, and I will speak in their ears these words ...” Rashi, on the words “gather to me,” comments: “They did not blow the trumpets that day to gather the community (as was usual), for it is stated ‘make for yourself (two trumpets),’ and He did not give Yehoshua power over them (i.e. the trumpets were made exclusively for Moshe’s use). And even during his (Moshe’s) lifetime, they were hidden away before the day of his death, to fulfill that what is stated: ‘There is no authority on the day of death.’”

The basic question which Rashi seems to be answering is that the expression “Gather” connotes a special activity of assembling the people. Since we have already learned (Bamidbar 10:1-8) that all assemblies were to be summoned by use of the trumpets, Rashi wonders why the word “Gather” is used. Hence he explains that on that day the trumpets were not used.

Yet all is not clear:

1) From the above, we see that the problem Rashi finds necessary to elucidate seems to be the use of the word “Gather.” Why then, does he quote the entire phrase “Gather to me” as the words he wishes to elucidate, when his comment only explains the use of the word “Gather,” and not also “to me.”

2) This verse is obviously not the place to elaborate on the laws of the trumpets; that belongs to parshas Baha’alosecho where its principal treatment is found. Why then does Rashi write that “He did not give Yehoshua power over them (the trumpets)”? What relevance has Yehoshua’s power or non-power over the trumpets to this verse?

3) Since the trumpets were for Moshe’s exclusive use, Yehoshua was no different from the rest of the Jewish people in this respect. Why then does Rashi employ the terminology “He did not give Yehoshua power over them?”

4) How does Rashi know that “even during his (Moshe’s) lifetime they were hidden?” Even if they were not hidden they could still not be used, for “There is no power on the day of death.”

5) Why were the trumpets hidden “before the day of his death?” The non-use of the trumpets because “There is no power on the day of death” refers to the “day of death” itself, and not “before the day of his death.”

The explanation:

In our verse there are two points which need clarification. The first point is why Moshe said to “Gather” the people and not to blow the trumpets, as stated in parshas Baha’alosecho (Bamidbar 10:7) “When the community is to be assembled, blow (the trumpets).”

The second point is the use of the words “to me.” At the beginning of parshas Vayeilech, Moshe says “I am 120 years old today; I can no longer go out and come in,” on which Rashi comments “I am not permitted, for authority has been taken from me and given to Yehoshua.” That is, authority and power over the Jewish people had passed from Moshe to Yehoshua. How then, and why, did Moshe say “Gather to me” which indicates that he was still the leader; since authority has passed to Yehoshua, Yehoshua should have gathered the people, not Moshe.

Although the word “Gather” precedes the words “to me,” Rashi first answers the problem associated with “to me,” and then that of “Gather.” The reason for this is that the problem of “to me” is a general difficulty in the verse (why did Moshe command them to gather to him), whereas the problem with “Gather” is a difficulty in one detail of the verse (how they were gathered).

Rashi answers why Moshe could command the people to gather to him by saying “They did not blow the trumpets that day to gather the community, for it is stated ‘Make for yourself,’ and He did not give Yehoshua power over them.” This answers why Yehoshua did not assemble the people through blowing the trumpets, for the trumpets were for Moshe’s exclusive use (“Make for yourself”) and Yehoshua had no right to use them (“He did not give Yehoshua power over them”). And the specific use of the word “power” in Rashi’s comment “He did not give Yehoshua power over them” answers why Yehoshua did not assemble the people through other means. Since Yehoshua could not use the trumpets (even after Moshe’s passing on) as Moshe did, it follows that Yehoshua’s power and authority over the Jews (“He did not give Yehoshua power”) was not completely the same as Moshe’s. Hence, even when “authority was taken from Moshe and given to Yehoshua,” Yehoshua could not assemble the people to him while Moshe was still alive. Therefore Moshe had to assemble the people, and therefore he said “Gather to me.”

After answering this difficulty in the general concept, Rashi must then answer a question relating to the method used to assemble the people — why Moshe said “Gather” the people, instead of summoning them to him by use of the trumpets as was usual. Therefore Rashi says “And even during his lifetime they were hidden away before the day of his death, to fulfill that what is stated ‘There is no authority on the day of death.’”

The reason why the trumpets were hidden away is understood by reference to an earlier passage in Scripture. In parshas Acharei (Vayikra 16:23) we learn that after the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) concluded the service of Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies, “he shall take off the linen garment which he put on when he went into the holy place, and he shall leave them there.” Rashi explains that “this teaches that they must be hidden away and he should not make use of these four garments for another Yom Kippur.” Rashi derives this from the words “he shall leave them there,” for since they must be left there permanently, they must be hidden — for it not, they will not remain there but be moved (by other people, the wind etc.). Since these garments were never to be used again, they had to be hidden to ensure non-one will come to transgress by using them.

So too in our case: Since only Moshe Rabbeinu was allowed to use the trumpets (“Make for yourself” — “You make and use them, and no one else”) they had to be hidden to ensure no one else would come to transgress by using them.

One last difficulty remains: Why does Rashi say “even during his lifetime they were hidden away before the day of death,” when the verse says “There is no power on the day of death?” “There is no power on the day of death” applies to the entire day, including its very beginning. That is, Moshe could not use the trumpets from the first minute of the day of his death. Hence, if they were hidden away on the actual day of his death, there would be a period of time at the beginning of the day (before they were actually hidden) when it is possible that he could come to the transgression of using the trumpets. To remove the possibility, the trumpets had to be hidden “before the day of his death,” thus ensuring that even in the first minute of that day there was no possibility of using the trumpets.