By the Grace of G‑d
Second Day of the Week of Nitzovim-Vayelech
18th of Elul, 5739
[September 10, 1979]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere—
G‑d bless you all,

Greeting and Blessing:

Reflecting on the coming new year, and on the preparation which it calls for, one becomes aware that each new year has a dual dimension: one is the general significance that each new year shares with all new years—as a new year; the other is the special significance, which is related to the specific features of the particular year, whereby it is distinguished from the others. It is on the special significance of the coming new year—5740—that we shall dwell here.

The special significance of the coming year is that it is the “seventh year, the year of Shemittah,” which the Torah, Toras Emes (so called, because it illuminates everything with the Divine Truth), designates as a “Shabbos unto G‑d,” a “Sabbatical year dedicated to the Almighty.”

A second point which emphasizes even more pointedly the special character of the coming year is that the first day of the year, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, occurs on Shabbos. And, as it has often been pointed out, “Rosh Hashanah” is not only the “beginning” of the year, but allso the “head” (Rosh) of the year, meaning, that just as the head directs all activities of the body, so must the good resolutions of Rosh Hashanah dominate each and all the days of the entire year.

Hence it is doubly significant that the coming Sabbatical Year also has a Sabbatical “head.”

At the same time it should be noted that although the distinction of the coming year in respect of Shemittah is primarily connected with Eretz Yisroel, and with the holiness of our Holy Land, where all the laws of Shemittah are in force, above all the Shemittah (“release”) of our land, fields, vineyards, etc., from any agricultural activity—

It has been explained on many occasions that a Jew, wherever he is, is expected in his everyday life, especially in his spiritual life, to transform his environment—his home as well as his surroundings—into a (spiritual) “Eretz Yisroel.” In other words, since Eretz Yisroel is a “land on which G‑d’s eyes rest continuously, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year”—a similar atmosphere of G‑dliness must permeate every Jewish home and all around it, to the extent of breathing the very “air of Eretz Yisroel,” wherever a Jew is.

Besides, also in the Diaspora the law of Shemittas Kesofim (remission of debts) is in force, which emphasizes the spirit of Shemittah also in the material aspects of life, particularly in inter-human relationships (bein odom lachaveroi).

The essence of Shabbos is holiness—Shabbos Kodesh, a holy Shabbos, a day permeated with holiness, which first of all expresses itself in the cessation of all weekday activities: In regard to the Sabbatical Year, Shemittah—in all agricultural activities, in the field, vineyard, etc.; in regard to the day of Shabbos—cessation from any kind of work, both in the house and in the field, as it is written, “You shall not do any work.”

Needless to say, one does not stop at not doing what is forbidden to do; together with this, it is necessary to actively “fill the day of Shabbos”; and to do this in a way that “brings pleasure (Oneg) into the Shabbos”—by way of the Torah and Mitzvoth. And through all this G‑d’s blessings, both spiritually and materially, are brought down, not only in the day of Shabbos, but also in all the days of the week. For the holiness of Shabbos goes together with the blessing of Shabbos, as Torah declares: “And G‑d blessed the Seventh Day and made it holy.”

To put it another way. The general purpose of a human being is, as written, “A man to toil is born”—toil, do useful work, and to achieve good results. Shabbos cannot contradict this purpose, G‑d forbid. On the contrary, the “toil” of Shabbos is the true and purposeful kind of toil, which our Sages call the “toil of Torah” (Torah meaning “instruction,” namely, the fulfillment of the Mitzvoth, including the Mitzvo of learning Torah in a manner that leads to action), and the “toil of Tefillah (prayer).” Therefore, come Shabbos, when a Jew is free from weekday activities, it is filled with Mitzvoth (even the ordinary activities of eating, drinking, sleeping become a Mitzvo,—the Mitzvo of Oneg Shabbos) with additional time for Torah study, for more devout prayer, with appropriate preparation that prayer calls for. And this is, as mentioned above, the true Oneg Shabbos (aside from the pleasurable anticipation of the reward and blessings that come with the observance of Shabbos).

The same is true of the Year of Shemittah: both in regard to the Jew’s Shabbos-like conduct during this year, utilizing the “released” time from work for additional Mitzvoth, Torah and prayers; as well as in regard to the influence of the Shemittah Year throughout all the “week”—years of the cycle.

And if this is so in regard to any Shemittah Year, it is certainly more compelling so in regard to the coming year, which has a Sabbatical “head,” as mentioned above. Surely, such a year should be filled with a greater measure of goodness and holiness—over and above the usual obligation of “keeping all matters of holiness on the upgrade.”

Moreover, since both the Shabbos day and Shabbos year remind us that G‑d is the Creator and Master of the world, and of all that is in it, including man, it is certain that He provides every Jew and all Jews with the fullest capacity which is necessary to keep the Shabbos, and to keep the Shemittah in the fullest measure.

To sum up, in practical terms:

Since we are at the threshold of the new year, a year that is a “Shabbos unto G‑d,” and whose Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbos; a year that is associated with holiness and blessing and Oneg (pleasure), it calls for a corresponding preparation in terms of a firm resolve to fill each day of the coming year with matters that contain these qualities, and in all three areas of Torah, Avodah (Tefillah) and charitable acts, all to be performed with Oneg.

It should also be emphasized here that in view of the fact that the Shemittah Year—in respect of the prohibition of agricultural work—begins already a month earlier, in the month of Elul, it follows that also the special conduct that the Shemittah Year calls for should likewise begin in the month of Elul, with emphasis on action, which is the essential thing; namely, to put into effect the higher level of Torah studies, more meticulous observance of the Mitzvoth and greater devoutness in prayer. And this will bring even more blessing and prosperity in their wake, now and throughout the entire coming year.

May G‑d grant that every one of us, in the midst of all our Jewish people, should indeed resolve to carry out the above, in keeping also with the current Weekly Sidrah Nitzovim-Vayelech:, “You are standing, all of you, today before G‑d, your G‑d . . . to enter into the Covenant of G‑d, your G‑d.”

And may this be the preparation for the imminent fulfillment of the Divine Promise in the section of Chumash corresponding to this day of the week: “And G‑d, your G‑d will return your returnees . . . and will bring you into the land,” which follows last week’s reading, “And it shall come to pass (vehoyo) when you will enter into the land . . . and dwell in it, on which our Sages comment that vehoyo is an expression of joy, as well as an expression of imminent fulfillment,

At the true and complete Geulo through Mashiach Tzidkeinu,

When we will see the realization of the prophecies, “As in the days of your coming out of Egypt” and “G‑d will bring all our Jewish people into His Holy Land, to the Beis HaMikdash which His Right Hand made,” when all the Mitzvoth, including also those of Shemittah, will be carried out in all their details, with joy and gladness of heart.

With esteem and blessings for a
Kesivo vaChasimo Tovo, for a
Good and Sweet Year, both
materially and spiritually.

/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/