1. While the Alter Rebbe was with the Maggid of Mezritch, his master quoted to him a statement of the Baal Shem Tov: Commenting on the fact that on the Shabbos before Tishrei the regular blessing before the new month is not recited, the Baal Shem Tov declared: “The seventh month1 which is the first of the months of the year, is blessed by G‑d Himself, and with power of that blessing, the Jews bless the other months of the coming year.” The Baal Shem Tov continued, explaining that the nature of that blessing is expressed by the Torah portion read that Shabbos: “The portion begins ‘you are standing today.’ ‘Today’ refers to Rosh Hashanah — the great day of judgment. ‘You’ — the entire Jewish people — are standing strong and firm. As Rashi comments on the word ‘today’: ‘just as the day endures and shines, so G‑d shines for you and will continue to shine for you.’ This is G‑d’s blessing for the seventh month which is full2 and fills the other months, bringing the Jewish people much good throughout the year.”

A number of important insights can be gained from this statement. Through emphasizing that Rosh Hashanah was the day of judgment, the Baal Shem Tov emphasized the power of the Jewish people. A point of Halachic law clarifies this concept. A Shtar (legal document) which was questioned and then verified by a court of law is stronger than a normal shtar. A normal shtar’s authenticity can be tested in a court of law. However, once the court has verified the shtar it can never again be questioned.3 Through the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, the integrity of the Jewish people is questioned and nevertheless “You stand today firm and strong” — the Jews thereby receive additional strength.

The same concept is related to the primary service of the month of Tishrei, Teshuvah. The Rambam explains that a Baal Teshuvah possesses an advantage over someone who has never sinned. The latter has never been faced with a challenge and we don’t know how he would react if he were. However, a Baal Teshuvah has tasted sin and then separated himself from it. He has conquered his desires and demonstrated the superior strength of his commitment. Therefore, the Talmud comments: “A complete Tzaddik cannot stand in the place of a Baal Teshuvah.”

Another concept can be gleaned from the Baal Shem Tov’s statement. He declared the month of Tishrei “brought the Jewish people much good throughout the year.” This does not mean, G‑d forbid, that the blessings brought about by the month of Tishrei are confined to this year specifically; in fact they affect all the years to come. A “year” is a complete cycle of time which keeps repeating itself. It includes all the possibilities of change and variation in the seasons and in the weather etc.4 In other words, this means that the blessings of Tishrei apply to all the different times which could possibly occur in all the years to come.5 This concept is alluded to in the word “shanah,” which is related to the word ‘sheni’ which means “repetition” (in a broader sense).6

This is G‑d’s blessing for the coming year. Since “G‑d’s word is considered deed,” we can be assured of a good year, a year full of happiness. Then, that happiness will break through all barriers, including the barriers of Golus and bring the ultimate and complete redemption.

* * *

2. Trans. note: Generally on a Shabbos farbrengen the Rebbe Shlita elaborates on one of Rashi’s interpretation contained in the weekly Torah portion. This week the Rebbe Shlita chose the verse (Deut. 30:19) “I call to witness for you this day the heavens and the earth.” Rashi brings two interpretations. The second reads as follows: “G‑d said to Israel — ‘Gaze upon the heavens...Have they ever changed their ways? Has the sphere of the sun ever failed to rise...to give light to the entire world? ...Gaze upon the earth...Have you ever sown it and (the seed) did not sprout? Or have you ever sown wheat and it yielded barley?... they have not changed their ways...most certainly you should not change to evil ways.” Within the context of his remarks, the Rebbe explained the reason why Rashi chose the sun’s shining and the earth’s producing fruit. The sun’s shining and revealing light is related to the service of a Jew, since his endeavors must be directed to that goal; to reveal G‑dliness in the world. The same holds true for “the earth producing fruit.” That concept is also related to a Jew’s service. Each man possesses aspects that can be compared to heaven and earth. The soul in general, is like the heavens and the body the earth. G‑d gave the Torah and Mitzvos to relate to these two aspects. The Torah to the soul and the Mitzvos to the body. The Mitzvos have been compared to sowing seeds. This is the implication of Rashi’s commentary. “Did you ever sow the earth and the seed not sprout” refers to the positive commandments where the absence of fulfillment can be compared to the lack of fruit. “Did you ever sow wheat and it yielded barley?” refers to the negative commandments. There the transgression of a commandment produces a different type of fruit than the type desired. The two types mentioned wheat and barley are significant. The Talmud describes wheat as “food for man” and barley as “food for animals.” By committing a sin, a person sinks to the level of an animal.7

* * *

3. Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita also explained a portion from his father’s commentary on the Zohar. Within the context of his remarks, the Rebbe Shlita mentioned the Kabbalistic significance of the numbers of four and ten. There are four letters in the name of G‑d, Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay. If the names of each of those letters are spelled, the sum of all the letters equals ten. The spelt-out form of the letter is called its “milui.”8

Both numbers contain special significance; the difference between them is that four represents G‑d’s name itself, ten represents its revelations to the outside. This is because the “milui” of a letter is related to expression to others. In mentioning a certain letter to someone, one must mouth that letter in full. This concept is reflected in Halachah. In relation to the laws of Shabbos a “Rishus HaYachid,” private property, must be at least four cubits wide and ten cubits high. Chassidic thought explains that Rishus HaYachid — The domain of “Unity” — refers to G‑d. Width refers to his own qualities, therefore four cubits are required. On the other hand, height refers to its expression in the world and therefore it requires the cubits.

The same principle refers to the Land of Israel. There are four directions which bounded the land — the thing itself. However, more particularly it is related to the land of the ten nations — the seven mentioned in the Bible and the other three: Keni, K’nizi, and Kadmoni that will be conquered in the Messianic times, when “G‑d will widen your boundary.”

4. This concept is also related to one of the chapters of Pirkei Avos studied this week, chapter five. That chapter begins with many points connected to the number ten and also contains many references to the number four. The same principle that four is the thing itself while ten is its expression outside can be seen. All the references to the deal with G‑d’s power in creation, the miracles He performed in the Bais HaMikdosh, etc. in all cases, revelations of His power to others. The references to four deal with “four character types, four types of temperaments, personal qualities of the Jew, those not necessarily related to his service with the surrounding world.

Pirkei Avos is directed at teaching us behavior beyond the measure of the law. In a recent farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita explained how the various classifications and categories can teach us such behavior. For example, the Mishnah states: “He who says...what is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine is a wicked person.” The Mishnah is referring to one who in fact does give tzedakah, but says “What is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine.” In terms of behavior beyond the letter of the law, this person is evil.

A question arises in the classification of “There are four types among those who attend the House of Study.” One of the types mentioned is: “One who does not attend nor does he engage [in study] is a wicked person. The question arises: How can such a person belong to a category of those who attend the House of Study?!

The answer is that the Mishnah “There are four types among those who attend the House of Study” also teaches us an important lesson. All of the four categories described are people who attend the House of Study on a regular basis. It is one of their basic thrusts in life. Nevertheless such a person may, because of circumstances beyond his control, neither attend nor study. For reasons beyond his control, he may be prevented from attending the House of Study and learning. In terms of behavior beyond the measure of the law, he is an evil person, since there must be something lacking in his service, otherwise he would not have been prevented.

The purpose of this Mishnah is to encourage this person to repent and perfect himself. However, now after it has already been taught, its directives are applicable to all of us. The same concept has been explained regarding the Talmud’s comments “Hillel obligated the poor — Eliezer ben Charsum obligated the rich (note the farbrengen of Parshas Re’eh). Before their times, Shulchan Aruch would have freed someone in their situation from the obligations of Torah study. However, now that they opened the way, it is Torah law to follow their example.

May such behavior bring about G‑d’s abundant blessings in the coming Shemitah year, when it is said that all the world belongs to G‑d.

* * *

5. It is proper to mention the importance of Hachnosas Orchim, the Mitzvah of receiving guests. Guests are faced with many difficulties. To make it easier, some people have taken it upon themselves to provide them with food and lodging. Those people deserve great appreciation. However, this should not preclude the involvement of others. On the contrary, everyone, even those involved in Torah study, should make an effort to help.9

In addition, the guest’s spiritual needs should be met. Classes should be arranged to allow them to learn a minimum of “Perek Achas” — one study session in the morning and one in the evening. The above applies all the more so to the hosts as well as to the guests. They should learn the laws of the holiday and also study texts that lead to the love and fear of G‑d. On Rosh Hashanah, the principle of Jewish unity is strongly emphasized. Therefore, these activities serve as a proper preparation for that holiday.