1. The Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are unique and distinct among the rest of the days of the year. Within these ten days themselves, Shabbos Shuvah has special significance, having the loftier level of Shabbos as compared to weekday. Every Shabbos is the level of teshuvah (repentance) as seen from the very word itself — in Hebrew ‘Shabbos’ has the same letters as ‘toshev’ (return). On Shabbos Shuvah however, there is extra emphasis on the idea of teshuvah. ‘Shabbos Shuvah’ means the ‘Shabbos of Return (repentance)’ for it is the Shabbos in the Ten Days of Repentance.1 Thus the idea of repentance is doubly stressed: not only is it Shabbos which is the idea of repentance, but it is Shabbos Shuvah.

On Shabbos, we do not say the Tachnun prayer, nor do we beg for forgiveness and atonement. Teshuvah, repentance, is the concept of remorse over wrongdoing and request for forgiveness. But if on Shabbos we do not ask for forgiveness — why is it the concept of teshuvah?

There are however two levels in teshuvah. There is ‘teshuvah tatoh,’ the lower level, which is connected with the days before Shabbos; and ‘teshuvah iloh,’ the higher level, which is on Shabbos, and is associated with great joy. Every mitzvah must be performed joyously — “Serve the L‑rd with joy.” The mitzvah of teshuvah then, which is loftier than all other mitzvos and therefore has the power to rectify and complete the service in Torah and mitzvos, must certainly be with the greatest joy.

In the higher level of teshuvah itself (that associated with Shabbos) there are many levels. For “teshuvah is mainly in the heart, and the heart has many levels, and everything is according to the person...” As a Jew ascends to higher levels of service, he must do teshuvah on those things which did not demand teshuvah on the previous level. So too on each Shabbos. Since “one ascends in holiness,” on each Shabbos one must reach yet a higher level in ‘teshuvah iloh’ — until one reaches to the loftiest height on Shabbos Shuvah. For the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur include all the days of the week, and the service of each day rectifies that day of all the weeks of the previous year (e.g. the Sunday of those seven days rectifies all the Sundays of the previous years). Hence Shabbos Shuvah rectifies and completes the service of ‘teshuvah iloh’ of all the Shabbosim of the year — and thus is infinitely greater than all other Shabbosim.

The idea of teshuvah is “the spirit shall return to the G‑d Who gave it,” to return the soul to its source and essence, and thereby also elevate the body and one’s environs. Since “the G‑d Who gave it” is infinite, the service of teshuvah is also limitless. And this is the greatness of Shabbos Shuvah compared to all other Shabbosim. Since a special day (Shabbos Shuvah) has been added for the purpose of ‘teshuvah iloh,’ it must be utilized in the manner of ‘ascending in holiness.’ This is especially applicable since Shabbos Shuvah comes after the service performed in the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashanah. On every day of the month of Elul we say the 27th Psalm which contains the verse “In Your behalf my heart says, ‘Seek My countenance’...”, indicating that the service of Elul is connected with the inner level of the heart.2 Since “teshuvah is mainly in the heart, and the heart has many levels,” the service of Shabbos Shuvah, which follows the service of Elul connected with the inner levels of the heart, is on the highest plane, above limitations. And this causes the great joy that must be present in the teshuvah done on Shabbos Shuvah.

The lesson from all the above. A person must be in the process of teshuvah all his life, for this is the very concept of Torah and mitzvos — to turn his soul to its source and essence — “the spirit shall return to the L‑rd Who gave it.” Nevertheless, a person’s service can become routine, lacking the enthusiasm and fire that makes his service penetrate his entire essence, to actually feel in his heart the effects of the joy or fear attained in his service.3 On Shabbos Shuvah one is given special strength in the mitzvah of teshuvah, to cleave to his essence and source — the “L‑rd Who gave it...;” and this special strength extends to the whole year. For when a Jew knows that his soul is “verily a part of G‑d Above,” he realizes that “It is not concealed from you, nor is it far off... But it is very near to you in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it” — not just action (“do it”) but also “in your heart,” that also one’s heart should actually feel the effect of one’s service.

This service begins with study and meditation on the above, and through proper effort one is assured that “If you work you will succeed,” since “The L‑rd assists him” — and then the effect on the heart is assured. In other words: Since one is master of his mind, and the mind rules the heart, proper meditation will permeate one’s whole being, including the heart, and extend also to all one’s physical matters.

Through such meditation one merits the fulfillment of the promise “I will remove the heart of stone from your midst.” It states “heart of stone” and not “mind of stone,” since the removal of the mind of stone is-dependent not on G‑d, but on man, through proper meditation. When one’s service of the mind is proper, then one merits to have G‑d remove “the heart of stone.”

When G‑d removes all obstacles to the service of the “heart of flesh,” then all Jews perform their service to perfection even while still in exile, with great joy. And then we merit the fulfillment of the promise “immediately they are redeemed,” in the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Moshiach, with joy and good heart.


2. This year Shabbos Shuvah is on the 5th of Tishrei, the birthday of Naphtali. This event is seemingly of importance only to those who are from the tribe of Naphtali, and today, since we are not sure to which of the tribes each of us belong, the connection of each of us to Naphtali is unsure. His birthday seems especially irrelevant to Kohanim (priests) and Levi’im (levites), who certainly do not stem from Naphtali (since they are from the tribe of Levi). Nevertheless, the particular events of each tribe do have a connection and relevance to all Jews, regardless of their affiliation to a particular tribe. For it is a universal custom among Jews to recite everyday, from Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the chapter concerning the sacrifices by the Prince of each tribe on that day. All Jews say the section concerning each Prince of each tribe — indicating their connection and relevance to all Jews.

The recital of these sections by a Jew are not just a matter of Torah study, without any connection between him and the Prince of the tribe whose day it was to bring the sacrifices. For after the recital of the section, we say the prayer “May it be Your will... that if I, Your servant, am of the tribe of so and so, the Torah section of whose Prince I have recited today, then may there shine upon me all the holy ‘sparks’ and all the holy lights contained in the holiness of this tribe...” Thus we see, that because of a Jew’s connection to that tribe, he prays and requests from G‑d that “the holy lights” of that tribe should shine upon him. And although a Jew is a descendant from only one tribe, nevertheless he reads the sections pertaining to all tribes, and prays that the lights of each tribe should shine upon him — for each Jew has a connection to all tribes.

This prayer is said not only because one is in doubt to which tribe he belongs,4 for Kohanim and Levi’im, who know for a certainty which tribe they stem from (Levi), also recite the sections, and say the prayer. The Rebbe Rashab’s brother-in-law (who was a Kohen), once asked him how he could indeed say the words “If I am of the tribe so and so” when he knew that he was not from that tribe, but from Levi. The Rebbe Rashab answered him that even Kohanim say such a prayer, for each tribe encompasses all the other tribes, and hence each person has a connection with every other tribe.5 Therefore, the birthday of Naphtali, which is today, has a connection with all Jews, even those who are descended from other tribes.

Although Naphtali was born thousands of years ago, nevertheless, on a birthday, one’s “mazal” is on the ascendancy. Since the idea of Naphtali is relevant to all Jews (because of the encompassing of all the tribes in each other, as above), there is a lesson from today that is relevant to all of us in our service to G‑d.

The quintessence of Naphtali is, as stated (Bereishis 49:21; Rashi) “Naphtali is a hind let loose — like a hind which is swift in running.” This is relevant to all Jews in their service as stated at the very beginning of the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Code of Law): “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion...”

This year we read Parshas Vayeilech on Shabbos Shuvah, which is also connected with the concept of Naphtali. “Vayeilech” means “He went,” — movement, and, as Chassidus explains, true movement is without limits — the idea of swift running.

This is also the connection with the service of teshuvah. The difference between the service of tzaddikim (the truly righteous), and baalei teshuvah (repentors), is that the service of tzaddikim is in the mode of ascent from level to level. Whereas that of ‘baalei teshuvah’ is not in an orderly ascent from level to level, but rather in an unbounded limitless leap. Hence, Parshas Vayeilech is read on either Shabbos Shuvah or in the month of Elul, the month of repentance — since teshuvah is unbounded movement towards G‑d.

The idea of an unbounded leap is, in Parshas Vayeilech, stressed in connection with Moshe Rabbeinu. On the verse (Devorim 31:2) “And he (Moshe) said to them: ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today,’“ our Sages comment “This day my days and my years are completed.” On that day, (34:1) “Moshe went up from the plains of Moav to mount Nevo,” and as our Sages explained “There were many steps, but Moshe covered them with one step” — the idea of one unbounded leap. And since there is a spark of Moshe in every Jew, the one unbounded leap of Moshe has a connection to the service of every Jew.

The lesson drawn from all the above in the service of man is as follows: Regarding the fulfillment of mitzvos, the mishnah teaches us “to run swiftly to (fulfill) a minor mitzvah” — i.e. even to a “minor” mitzvah one must run swiftly, unbounded by any limitations; in consonance with the teaching that “Be as careful in [the performance of a] minor mitzvah as of a major one.” This is especially so in the performance of the mitzvah of teshuvah, which is loftier than all other mitzvos, and thus is able to rectify and complete any remissions in all other mitzvos. For such a mitzvah, one must certainly run, in a single unbounded leap, above all limitations.

Besides the general idea of “run to perform a mitzvah,” and especially the mitzvah of teshuvah, this year gives added emphasis to the idea of one’s service being above all limitations, since on Shabbos Shuvah we read Parshas Vayeilech — true movement beyond all bounds. In addition, Shabbos Shuvah is on the 5th of Tishrei, when we are given special strength from the service of Naphtali, which is “a hind let loose — swift in running.”

In concrete terms, the lesson from this year, in which Shabbos Shuvah stresses the concept of service being higher than all limitations, is a refutation to those who, while ready to fulfill Torah and mitzvos, wish to do so with deliberateness, restraint, moderacy. Shabbos Shuvah teaches us that the reverse is true — one’s service must be in the mode of a “jump” — above and beyond all confines.

However, a natural question arises: On the one hand, it is demanded that one’s service be beyond all limits; and in a synagogue, which is a miniature Temple, where G‑d resides. On the other hand, it is also demanded that a person be involved in the dissemination of Judaism and Chassidus through the Ten Mitzvah Campaigns — which is within limits and confines, divided into particular mitzvos (Ahavas Yisroel, education, Torah, Shabbos lights etc.). And the place to do this is not in the synagogue, but specifically in the streets, to leave one’s Torah environment, and to spread Judaism and Chassidus. Is this not a paradox?

The answer to this is from the Haftorah of this week Shabbos Shuvah — “Return Yisroel... and take with yourself words.” The service of “Return Yisroel — above and beyond limits, goes hand in hand with that of “take with yourself words” — the performance of Torah and mitzvos precisely within bounds and limits. Indeed, when the service of teshuvah beyond bounds is then extended to and effects the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos within bounds — this is a true indication that the teshuvah has been performed correctly. Conversely, the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos that follows teshuvah is on the loftiest level, since the preceding teshuvah illuminates and perfects the mitzvos that follow.

May it be G‑d’s will that through the service of “Naphtali is a hind let loose — swift in running,” a leap beyond all limits, we merit the fulfillment of the promise “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings,” who “leaps upon the mountains” to bring the good tidings of the true and complete redemption. And we shall very quickly go to our Holy Land, to our holy city Yerushalayim “and they will bow down to the L‑rd on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim,” in the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.

3. Chapter 31 verse 17 in Parshas Nitzavim states: “Then My anger will burn against them on that day, and I will abandon them, and I will hide My face from them...” Rashi, on the words “And I will hide My face” comments “As though I do not see their affliction.” Rashi never makes a comment unless there is a need for it in the plain meaning of the verse. In this case, even without Rashi’s comment, the words “I will hide My face” are perfectly understandable. Why then does Rashi find it necessary to make extra clarification? In Parshas Nasso (6:25), it states “The L‑rd will let His face shine upon you,” on which Rashi comments “He will show you a glad face, a shining face” — i.e. G‑d shows His face to His people. It is obvious then, that “I will hide My face” is simply the converse of “G‑d will let His face shine upon you” — that G‑d does not show His face to His people. Why then does Rashi make a comment upon a seemingly obviously understandable thing?6

Indeed, Rashi’s interpretation contradicts the plain meaning. Rashi interprets the verse to mean G‑d does not “see in their affliction.” But where is this inferred from the plain meaning that G‑d simply hides His face?

But even if there is some reason for Rashi’s interpretation, the verse itself is unclear. Why indeed are the people punished so severely in that G‑d does not “see in their affliction.” Is not the hiding of His face alone enough?

Rashi’s interpretation here contradicts a different interpretation of his elsewhere. On the verse (Devorim 11:12) “A land... which the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are always upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year,” Rashi comments “to see what it requires, and to institute decrees for it, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad...” We see then, that even when there are bad decrees, those decrees stem from the fact that “the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it.” Yet in our case, Rashi interprets the verse in the exact opposite sense — that bad comes when G‑d is not watching (“I do not see in their affliction”)!7

The explanation of all the above questions is as follows. Rashi is forced to interpret our verse the way he does, because he is faced with a problem. The verse states: “Then My anger shall be kindled against them on that day, and I will abandon them, and I will hide My face from them...” ‘Abandon’ means to leave the Jews, G‑d forbid, and to go away from them. If so, how is it possible that G‑d will “hide His face” from them, if He has left them and is in another place? If G‑d is together with them, then He can hide His face from them. But if He has already left them, how is it possible to say “I will hide My face from them”? Hence it is impossible to interpret these words in their normal plain sense (the converse of “the L‑rd will let His face shine upon you”), since it is a situation of abandonment. Therefore Rashi interprets it to mean “as though I do not see in their affliction.” For even when G‑d has abandoned them and is in another place, it is still possible that He is watching them. And in this case, the verse is telling us that in addition to abandoning them, G‑d will also hide His face from them — meaning “as though I do not see their affliction” (even from afar).

The reason why the Jews deserve such a severe punishment of complete abandonment, is because G‑d punishes in accordance to the sin. In the previous verse it states: “And the L‑rd said to Moshe: ‘Behold you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will rise up and go astray... and will abandon Me...” Hence, the appropriate punishment for the Jews abandoning G‑d is that G‑d abandons them.

All is not clear however. Rashi says “As though I do not see their affliction.” The verse does not say “As though I will hide My face from them” — why then does Rashi say “As though I do not see their affliction”?

The answer lies in the terminology employed by Scripture. It says “I will hide My face from them,” and not “I will cover My face” — and there is a difference between the two. When one covers one’s face, not only are others affected (by not seeing the face), but the face itself is affected — it is covered. Whereas when one hides one’s face, only others are affected (they cannot see the face) but the face itself is unaffected (it itself is not covered). Hence, when the verse says “I will hide My face,” it implies that G‑d is not covering His face, but rather is hiding it from the Jews. In other words, it is “as though I do not see their affliction,” for in reality, G‑d does see their affliction, but since G‑d is hiding his face, it appears to the Jews as though G‑d does not see their affliction.8

This idea provides great solace for the people of Israel. Jews are in exile and their situation is such that “they shall be devoured and many evils and troubles will come upon them (the continuation of our verse), to the extent that it seems as if G‑d does not see their affliction. But Rashi says it is only “as though” G‑d does not see their affliction, it only appears so to the Jews; whereas in reality G‑d does see their affliction and suffers together with them.

Since G‑d sees and feels their affliction and great bitterness, then certainly it will effect that (Shemos 2:25, Rashi) “(G‑d saw the children of Israel) and G‑d took cognizance — He set His heart upon them and did not conceal His eyes.” Then automatically Jews will be redeemed from their bitter exile. For since G‑d must be in the state of “Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty,” and the bitterness of the exile in which G‑d is also with the Jews does not allow this, it is evident that the exile must immediately be eliminated!

That we are still in exile is only because “I have abandoned you for a short moment,” which itself is only because the Jews have abandoned G‑d. When Jews return to G‑d, thus abolishing the reason for the exile, immediately G‑d’s abandonment of His people is eliminated. And since teshuvah is done in a moment, the abandonment by G‑d is eliminated in a moment, and “immediately they are redeemed.”

Even further: Jews have a just claim against G‑d. The reason Jews have abandoned G‑d is because Moshe Rabbeinu is no longer with us, as stated in our verse, “The L‑rd said to Moshe: ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will rise up and go astray...” Had G‑d not taken Moshe from His people, they would not have abandoned Him! Moshe is the “true shepherd” of Israel, and it is promised that a true shepherd “will not abandon the sheep of his flock.” If so, Jews can rightly claim, why was Moshe taken from them? Had he remained with them, they would never have abandoned G‑d! It is G‑d’s fault that they have abandoned Him!

The reason for Moshe’s death is because of the ascent that he will gain when the dead will rise up. All this time Moshe has been learning Torah with our forefathers and the other great men in Israel, rising higher and higher in Torah study. How great then, will be his ascent when the dead will arise! May it be G‑d’s will that very soon the promise of “those who lie in the dust will rise up and sing,” including Moshe and Aharon, be quickly fulfilled, with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our times.