1. The previous Rebbeim have explained that the two days, Simchas Torah and Shemini Atzeres, are connected with the two days of Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah “the Mitzvah of the Day is with the Shofar.” (Rosh Hashanah 26b) On Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah “the Mitzvah of the Day is happiness and rejoicing.” The effects produced by our service on Rosh Hashanah are brought about by our service of happiness on Simchas Torah.

The happiness and rejoicing of Simchas Torah surpasses that of all the other festivals, respectively. The Torah declares: “You shall rejoice in your festivals.” The Alter Rebbe writes in the Shulchan Aruch that such celebration fulfills a positive commandment of the Torah, even now, in Golus. Nevertheless, the celebration of Simchas Torah possesses an advantage over the rejoicing of all the other festivals. In the latter case, the happiness is connected with the particular nature of the festival. But on Simchas Torah, “the Mitzvah of the Day is happiness,” — a simple and pure happiness that is not connected with other qualities. The happiness brought about by each of the other festivals is limited. For this reason, the Jewish court sent messengers throughout the community to make sure that the rejoicing stayed within certain limits. However, on Simchas Torah, our happiness and celebration is totally unbound.

On the surface, the name of the holiday, Simchas Torah, seems to imply that in this case as well, its happiness is connected with another quality, the Torah, and therefore limited by it. However, the holiday’s main stress is on the aspect of Simcha — of celebration. In fact, the unlimited quality of that celebration effects the Torah and brings out the Torah’s infinite qualities. Torah, in general, is connected with understanding and conscious grasp. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya (Ch. 5) that Torah study creates “a wondrous union” between the intellect (mind), the person who comprehends the concept, and the concept; till, “Israel, Torah, and G‑d is one.” (Zohar III 73a) Still, there is an aspect of Torah which is above all limitations and forms, a level that is totally unlimited.

That aspect of Torah is connected with the unlimited rejoicing, the singing and dancing that are part of the Simchas Torah celebration. When someone dances, he shows that he has gone beyond his personal limits. Generally, happiness will not always motivate us to dance . We will dance only when our happiness is overwhelming. Then we lift our feet above the ground, stepping higher then usually. These actions are reflected on the spiritual plane. There too dancing represents a state of elevation; a time when we rise above our normal level.1 Even though, throughout the year, we derive happiness from Torah, as the Book of Psalms (19:9) declares, “the precepts of G‑d are just rejoicing the heart.” Nevertheless, that joy is not powerful enough to motivate us to dance. The joy of Simchas Torah, however, is beyond all limits and bounds. Then we dance carrying the Torah which is bound up in its mantle. When the Torah is carried in this fashion it cannot be studied. However, since on Simchas Torah we connect with the infinite aspect of Torah, the quality of Torah that transcends understanding and conscious grasp, we relate to the Torah in this manner. On Simchas Torah, a Jew stands above all forms boundaries, and limitations. The innermost powers of his soul come to the surface. The Yechidah, the quality of soul that is totally united with G‑d, becomes manifest in his body.

This experience teaches a fundamental lesson which is applicable to our service throughout the year. It teaches us how to stand above our personal limitations; to express infinite energies. When studying Torah, we should not restrict ourselves only to the knowledge and the understanding of Torah. Rather, we must connect ourselves to G‑d, the giver of the Torah.2 The experience of Simchas Torah helps to bring about this level of awareness. Further it allows us to take this appreciation of the infinite qualities of Torah and apply it to those aspects of Torah which are intellectually understandable.

The above calls to mind a statement of the previous Rebbeim. They explain that all the services of the month of Tishrei are general in nature, each affecting our entire service of Torah and Mitzvos in the year to come. Rosh Hashanah for example, teaches us the quality of Kabbalas Ol (acceptance of G‑d’s yoke). The same way we acquire from Simchas Torah an appreciation of the joy in Torah and Mitzvos for the entire year. The unlimited joy of Simchas Torah causes our service during the entire year — a service restricted by boundaries and limitations (in Torah, the limitations of knowledge of understanding; in Mitzvos, the particular limitation of each Mitzvah) — to be infused with an infinite joy.

“Joy breaks all fences,” this joy will break down the barriers of the inner exile of each Jew; till it will break down the barriers of the exile of the whole Jewish nation (and the whole world); and bring the true and complete redemption, led by Moshiach, speedily in our days.

2. The above statement, describing the celebration of Simchas Torah as an unbounded and unlimited celebration, applies to every Simchas Torah. However, each year the celebration of Simchas Torah and the day on which it falls give light to a particular lesson specific to that year.3

This year Rosh Hashanah and the last day of Sukkos began on Shabbos. This fact produces a number of lessons. First and foremost there are certain qualities of Shabbos that are Torah law. Shabbos must be celebrated in a manner of: “You shall declare the Shabbos a delight.” (Isaiah 58:13) Also, on that day a Jew must feel “as if all of his work is completed.” (Mechilta, Yisro 20:9)4 Shabbos must be a day of pleasure, a day when we are not bothered by work.5

At this point a question arises: Since the joy of Simchas Torah is infinite, above all boundaries and limitations, how can we differentiate between one year and another? How can the fact that Simchas Torah falls on Shabbos effect the quality of the celebration if that celebration is infinite in nature?

An answer to these questions can be derived from Torah law. Halachah states that it is proper to fill the cup of wine for Kiddush and for Havdalah to the point where it overflows. Then it is called a “sign of blessing.” (Shulchan Aruch Admur Hazaken,296:5) There are a number of ways to carry out this practice: One can use a small cup or a large one. The larger the cup, the more wine it takes to make it overflow.

The same principle can be applied to Simchas Torah. The joy of Simchas Torah is beyond all limits and measures. However, there are varying degrees that define the limits and measures which the joy of Simchas Torah transcends. When the service that is limited is of a high quality, a much higher degree of happiness and rejoicing is required to go beyond its limits.

This concept can be explained in personal terms. The highest quality of the soul we possess is pleasure. We feel pleasure when all of our needs are met and we also possess additional wealth. Then in accordance with the nature of his bounds and limitations, (including the pleasure of having everything he needs); is determined the aspect that transcends our limits and boundaries.6

The above is closely related to Shabbos. Shabbos teaches us how we must always be progressing: how even if we have reached a state of self-transcendence, we should still strive for greater heights. The Talmud (Avodah Zora 3a) states: “He who works Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.” The more work put in Erev Shabbos, the greater the potential to eat on Shabbos.7 We must proceed from strength to strength, following the directive: “Always proceed higher in holy matters.” Then, a service that we had previously considered above our capacities and beyond our limits, becomes conceivable within those boundaries; and we can perceive a new level, even higher and greater, to constitute the service beyond limitations. From Shabbos we derive the lesson that no matter what level characterized the nature of our service until now, we can not be content with it; we must add to it. These efforts (in turn) lift the service which is above limitations to a higher level.

This concept can be applied to our efforts to refine our portion of the world. One person will pick a small portion, a handbreadth by a handbreadth, and work to refine this area. Another will choose the entire world for his portion to refine, as our Sages say (Sanhedrin 37a) “each person is obligated to declare: ‘the world was created for me.’“ We each have the potential to choose and determine the nature of our service in refining the world. The greater the service desired, the greater the nature of our service beyond boundaries and limitations.8

This point is particularly applicable to Simchas Torah. We have already gone through the service of the month of Elul and three weeks of the month of Tishrei. Shabbos teaches us that even if we have already gone beyond our limits, we should continue to proceed and rise to a higher level, a greater state of self-transcendence.

At this point someone may argue: Why become involved in the entire matter? He expresses his willingness to forego the reward but also chooses to be excused from the effort and the striving required to earn it. He is happy in his portion. He must be brought to realize that one should only be happy in his portion when involved with physical things (knowing there are those who are lower than him i.e. have less than him). In spiritual matters one should always strive higher (heaven which alludes to spiritual things is above him i.e. therefore he must strive to go higher). When he complains he is tired and wants to rest, we tell him: “Talmidai Chachamim have no rest.” And since every Jew is a “Talmid Chacham”, a student of Hashem9 it is understood that he can’t complain that he wants to rest since “Talmidai Chachamim have no rest....as it is written ‘they go from strength to strength.’“

This is the lesson taught by Simchas Torah this year. In general, Simchas Torah teaches the necessity of self-transcendence. However, that self-transcendence can be limited to a small measure. The fact that Simchas Torah falls on Shabbos teaches that just as Shabbos is a larger measure, so too, our service should be on a higher level. That in turn, should call for an even greater service of self-transcendence on Simchas Torah.

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3. The above points are particularly emphasized by the fact that this is the seventh year, the year of the Shemitah, a year which is “a Shabbos unto G‑d.” The Shemitah year brings out an added lesson that both reinforces and enhances the concepts stated above.

That lesson must be equally understood by all Jews, for the unity of the Jewish people is central to Simchas Torah.10 Then the basic unity that binds together all Jews, the leaders and the simple people, comes to the surface. This unity is even greater than that of Sukkos. Concerning Sukkos, the Talmud (Sukkah 27b) declares, “All of Israel are fit to sit together in one Sukkah.” However, it is only that they are fit to sit in one Sukkah.11 In the celebration of Simchas Bais Hashoeva as well, differences existed between the celebration of the “men of piety and good deeds,” and that of the general populace. (Sukkah 51a) On Simchas Torah, the celebration involves all Jews equally. Therefore, the lesson is applicable to all Jews.

The lesson of the Shemitah year is connected to the prohibition of agricultural work. On Shabbos all work is forbidden, while during Shemitah, only agricultural work is prohibited. During the times of the Bais Hamikdosh, the majority of the Jewish people were involved in tilling the land. When Shemitah came they would stop their normal work, plowing, sowing, etc., and only perform lighter work. The aim of such behavior is to reveal the Jews inner spiritual nature. Each Jew is a son of the King (G‑d). Each Jew stands totally above the world. By nature, he has nothing to do with Earthly tasks. The only reason for his involvement in the world is to use it as a means to serve G‑d.

If one asks, ‘If so what will happen with his work?’ The prophet Isaiah (61:5) answers “And strangers will stand and feed your flocks”, “And kings shall be your foster fathers.” (49:23) Even in Golus a Jew need not be involved in the material world, as Rav Shimon Bar Yochai declared, “Is that possible? If a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of the Torah?” (Berachos 35b)

The Shemitah teaches that even though the whole year is a “Shabbos unto G‑d,” nevertheless, special importance is given to the Shabbos day. The Shemitah year teaches that a Jew stands above worldly matters. However, its lesson is restricted to more difficult labor — working the land, etc. On Shabbos, “all your work is completed.” A Jew stands above all work, even simple tasks.12

This concept adds to the lesson of Simchas Torah. Previously it was explained that Simchas Torah gives us the potential to rise above all boundaries and limitations. Furthermore, it was explained that in the service above boundaries and limitations various levels exist. The concept of Shabbos in the Shemitah year represents a very high level of service, calling, therefore, for an even higher level of service to transcend those very high limits.

Simchas Torah teaches every Jew his service must go beyond all boundaries and limitations. If one Jew has difficulty understanding the simple meanings of Torah he must know that he can not remain content, thinking that by him this is already above his bounds and limits; but must strive for a higher goal. At each stage of service, a new level of service ‘beyond limits’ presents itself.

This same principle holds true for a Jew who studies Torah, prays, and fulfills Mitzvos as he should. He must also seek a higher goal. Even if he maintains that he is unique “is one in the generation,” and had he lived in an earlier generation he would be on their level. We tell him, first of all, perhaps he is making a mistake in evaluating his own level. Even if he is not making this mistake, he should not content himself with his present state, but, rather, strive to achieve a higher rung.

The above statement provides clear guidelines for Jewish Education. We must educate a child to understand how the nature of a Jew is to stand above worldly matters. When a child asks: “Why do my father and mother have to spend a large portion of their day involved with material things?” We should answer him that we are living in Golus, (“Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.”) That we are in the process of Teshuva, and that when that Teshuva is completed we will return to our true state, a state totally above worldly affairs.13 Then we will proceed from level to level, each service being higher than the first, until we reach the level of ultimate knowledge: the “ultimate knowledge is not to know.”14 May all the lessons pertaining to the Shabbos, and also the Shemitah year, be enhanced by the lesson of Simchas Torah. May we be able to transcend all of our boundaries and may this service lead to the Messianic redemption, “the day that is all Shabbos and rest for everlasting life with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.”

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4. Before the Hakkafos, we recite the verses of Ata Haraisa to prepare ourselves for the Hakkafos. The Previous Rebbe explained that these verses are recited in order to provide us with the reasons for the celebration of Simchas Torah.15 (The recitation of verses in general draw down the said concept in this world — as it is in Torah so it should come down in this world. For all things in this world are found in Torah.)

At this point a question arises: One of the Torah’s general principles is, “Serve G‑d with joy.” (Psalms 100:2) This applies to all aspects of the service of G‑d, the study of Torah, the fulfillment of Mitzvos, and even in the worldly sphere in the fulfillment of, “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven,” and, “know G‑d in all your ways.” If happiness and joy are so fundamental to Torah, why do we need the verses of Ata Haraisa to give us a reason for joy? Where is the proof for joy in the verses of Ata Haraisa?

An answer can be reached through analysis of the first verse of Ata Haraisa. The verse Ata Haraisa means, “you were shown [and impressed to the point where you should] know16 that the L‑rd [in this case the name Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay is used] is G‑d [in this case the name Elokim is used], there is none else aside from Him.” The different names of G‑d refer to different spiritual levels. The name Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay refers to G‑d’s essence. It is totally at one with G‑d. On the other hand the name of Elokim is plural. It refers to those aspects of G‑dliness that allow for division, and the interpretation of the name Elokim is “the master of potential and power” (plural). For that reason, the same word Elokim is used to refer to a judge, and a similar word, “Aylai” applies to a person who has power of wealth (even a non-Jew). The verse teaches that Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay is Elokim, that G‑d’s essence is connected with, and is the inner force behind, his expression as the “master of potential and power.” This concept brings about the awareness that, “there is nothing else aside from him.” It is understood that when we tell a Jew that these high levels come down to his understanding, this brings out the greatest joy possible.

This knowledge can only be arrived at, through learning the body of study referred to as Pnimiyus HaTorah (the inner aspect of Torah). However, our Sages taught (Chagigah 13a) “The secrets of Torah shouldn’t be given over to someone unless his heart worries within him.” How can the joy of Simchas Torah be connected with the concept implied by the verse Ata Haraisa? On the surface, the Simchas Torah celebration is in opposition to a “heart that worries within?”

(A similar question arises in connection with the last verse of Ata Haraisa, “The Torah will go out from Zion and the word of G‑d from Yerushalayim.” How can “Torah” and the “word of G‑d,” two infinite qualities, be connected with Zion and Yerushalayim, the names of clearly defined and limited place in the physical world?)

These questions are explained by the second verse of the Ata Haraisa: “Who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness is everlasting.” Since G‑d performs “great wonders” — wonders so great that only He can appreciate their greatness — He can also bring about the union of two opposites; He can unite happiness with a “worried heart,” and Torah’s infinity with a finite city in this physical world. These wonders come about because His kindness is everlasting. The Hebrew word that is translated as everlasting also means, “to the world.” G‑d’s infinite kindness is drawn down into the world, and His “great wonders” are directed towards that goal.

The verse Ata Haraisa refers to the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai. All the souls of the Jewish people from every generation were present at that time. G‑d’s intent, however, was to have that state of unity — Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay is Elokim — revealed and drawn down into the world. A Jew and the world shouldn’t remain two separate entities, but, rather, within the context of day-to-day existence, we should reveal how Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay (G‑d’s infinite aspect) is one with Elokim (the aspect of G‑d which is limited by nature). We can reveal these qualities through (Yerushalayim) complete fear of G‑d (and Zion — being a sign for aspects of above).

5. The verse, “May our words find favor before the Master of all things,” provokes a number of questions:

1) In all the previous verses, one of G‑d’s holy names is used. Why in this verse is He referred to as, “the Master of all things?”

2) The Hebrew word for “our needs” Amarainu refers to “soft speech.” Why should a Jew speak softly. Generally everything a Jew does should be done with power. Just as the “king’s speech uproots mountains,” similarly, a Jew’s behavior in Torah and in worldly affairs permitted by Torah, should be carried out with strength. Why should he have to speak softly?

The answer is as follows: There are times when a Jew has to come into contact with non-Jews. Then Torah instructs him to begin with an entreaty for peace (even if later he knows he must go to war), to wait three days for it to be accepted, etc. Then he must use “soft speech.” When dealing with himself he must always be strong, but when dealing with non-Jews it is proper to use softness.

Not that he should show weakness: He should carry on with full strength. The call for peace required by the Torah is on condition that “the entire nation found in the city will be your subjects and serve you.” (Devorim 20:11) However, this lesson should be expressed in soft speech. G‑d requires both qualities, a conciliatory attitude and also the power of maintaining the Torah position. For that reason, G‑d is referred to as, “Master of all things.” A non-Jew doesn’t necessarily understand the various different aspects of G‑dliness, Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay — Elokim, etc. However, he does relate to G‑d as “Master of all things.”

This is the lesson taught by this verse. When a Jew speaks with a non-Jew he shouldn’t try to impress him with his personal qualities, his knowledge, his strength, or his wealth. Rather, the way we will succeed is through showing the strength that comes from the connection with the “Master of all things.”