Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Posts tagged ‘Rosh Hashana’

Inspiration in honor of the journey to the Tomb of our holy Rebbe

By HaRav Eliezer Berland, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

With awe and trepidation, we are now beginning our journey, thousands of people from every corner of the world. Has there ever been such a great thing? Has anything of the like ever been heard of? After roughly fifty years of the iron curtain, about three generations of true holy tzaddikim who did not merit to make it to the Rebbe’s Tziyun.  And now WE, the spiritually impoverished, who are so far from the point of truth and Kedusha, are making the journey. Upon us has befallen divine mercy of levels beyond comprehension to travel to the one who possesses intelligence supreme to any other, wisdom incorporating all wisdoms, a soul inclusive of all Three Avos1 (forefathers) and all Seven Shepherds2. A raging sea of mercy has suddenly burst forth, sweeping us to the source of light, compassion and teshuva; the source of kedusha and tahara. We now stand ready to immerse ourselves in infinite waters of kedusha and tahara that will renew every part of our souls3; our nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida4, so that we too should merit to be “exactly like me,”5 to achieve the highest level of yechida attainable (yechida she’be’yechida6), with a new spirit of kedusha and tahara to know that “there is nothing else but Him” and that the physical world is truly nothing .

Who is it that can bring us to shed rivers of tears, day and night, over the days and years that have passed by without torah and tefillah, without teshuva and regret; filled instead with brazen arrogance and terrible impurity.  Even if we should live numerous years and do nothing but confess and cry day and night, we could not atone for even the slightest sin7 of a fleeting second.  How much more so for all our lives, in which we have sunk to the deepest depths of the realm of evil, “save me Hashem because the waters have reached until the soul”(Tehillim 69,2), “waters flowed over my head; I said, ‘I am doomed!'”(Eicha 3,54). And there is no one to save us from all the impure thoughts, sights and other terrible transgressions that bombard us day and night, leaving us with no possibility of inner peace.

All our hope and faith is that as we draw closer to the source of teshuva8 which proceeded the very creation of the world9, that is higher than the torah itself10, we should indeed merit with this journey to true, sincere and complete teshuva; to have every part of our souls renewed11 and that we should never again return to the ways of folly.

And so if we proceed, with trembling knees and tear-filled eyes, will we truly be worthy to have our teshuva accepted? Will we truly abandon from here forth our forbidden thoughts and sights? Will we merit from today to: “Who may ascend the mountain of Hashem, and who may stand in the place of His sanctity? One with clean hands and pure heart who has not sworn in vain…”(Tehillim 24,3)”? Will we truly merit to purity of heart, that the waters of purity and sweetness should wash us clean of our illness and filth? That we should merit renewed souls, that our prayers should be received in favor and that we should be granted a fresh start in which we will begin to close our eyes to this lowly world that it should not taint us in thought, word or action with the poison of The Nachash (primordial snake) in whose belly the world has been completely consumed.

We are now coming to the place where we can be freed, in the blink of an eye, from The Nachash that has engulfed us from head to toe, not leaving even one strand of hair unconsumed. Only The Tzaddik who is called “Levyasan”12, as taught in the Zohar Ha’kadosh (Parshas Ki Tetsei pg.279)13, [The gematria (numerical value of the Hebrew letters) of ‘Levyasan’ is 496, which is a also the gematria of ‘Nachman Ben(son of) Feiga’], whose 248 limbs, internally and externally [248 × 2 =496], where transformed into spiritual torches of fire, can take us out from the stomach of The Nachash.

Our Holy Rebbe stated that even in his time he had succeeded in freeing many people from the grasp of the Samech Mem (Satan), and his strength has continued to grow from day to day and from moment to moment, so much so that he can free even us, and there is no end to the ways and means of salvation drawn from the endless “wellsprings of salvation” that are without boundaries and without limit. It is only because of our own endless arrogance that we are so far from truth and humility, sunken in all sorts of jealousy and terrible impurity and that we have still not merited to sincere teshuva with true regret from the depths of our hearts. Surely if we had truly regretted our wicked ways we would have already been saved long ago. And now, from where will come our salvation, being that we are still so far from true regret for the past and from full-fledged resolve for the future not to sin ever again?

However, we nevertheless believe with perfect faith, and will not, God forbid, allow any despair to sway us, that there is no greater sin and transgression than despair14 and belief in any lack of hope. We know, with as much clarity as we know that the sun and the moon shine in the sky, that it is within the great power of The Tzaddik who is going to arouse us to true teshuva and remorse with all the heart, and to uproot from within us, once and for all, any trace of evil in thought and in sight that are the bitter fruits of the many reincarnations spent in the deepest depths of evil and below, since the sin of the Eitz Hada’as (The tree of knowledge) until this very day.

We are traveling to the radiant heavenly light of Adam Ha’rishon15 (the first man, who until his sin had radiated a spiritual light that nullified that of the sun), to a soul that never once sinned, a soul that fled from within Adam Ha’rishon before he even entertained the thought of sin, that did not taste from the Eitz Hada’as in action, sight or thought16. A soul that never ceased it’s Dveikus (cleaving) to Hashem for even a moment17, that never saw the physicality of this world at all, that passed through this world without eyes, without ears, without a mouth, without hands and without legs18, that never took a breath from this world; the wondrous soul that cannot be comprehended, the soul before whom no gates are closed and no heart impenetrable.

We are coming closer to the flaming fire that can burn and eradicate any trace of impurity, we will soon fulfill the verse “anything that comes into fire, you shall pass through fire and it will be purified” (Bamidbar 31,23)19, we are progressing with broken hearts and rivers of tears with which to burn away all of our sins, unintentional and willful, from all our gilgulim (reincarnations), truthful cries and broken heartedness drawn from he who is the heart of the world, the root of all hearts, whose toenail was more heart-like than the very heart of any other, he is the one more compassionate than all those with compassion and it is he who promised, without compromise, that he will come to the aid of all those who travel to him simply and sincerely for the sake of teshuva alone.

The little bit of broken heartedness that we have and the few tears we will merit to shed in the coming days will suffice, through the power of the awesome Tzaddik, to create wondrous vessels to cleanse us of our sins, to refresh every part of our souls, to uplift our prayers20 and our teshuva21 until  all of the gathering and all of the Jewish people are uplifted back to our root in Hashem’s Throne Of Glory, to be included in the root of all the Jewish souls, to be incorporated with all the souls of the coming awesome and holy gathering, to truly feel our lowliness, that we are truly the worst, lower  than all the others who join in this holy gathering and every other Jew, wherever he may be22, to feel that all of them are closer to true teshuva and that in truth we have no hope of sincere repentance if not for the awesome and holy tzaddik who promised to come to the aid of every one of us.24

In his merit and through his power, all of our prayers and teshuva will be accepted, even those of the spiritually poor and impoverished. It is in his reliable hands that we have entrusted ourselves, to purify us of any trace of sin and iniquity until the coming of Moshiach in the blink of an eye, this very year, in the merit of our holy Rebbe, Amen.

Footnotes:

1See Lekutei Moharan lesson 58.

2Lekutei Moharan lesson 22,3, Biur Halikutim; see Likutei Halachos Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Nezikin 4,16: “..that we should merit to find the true Tzaddik who incorporates The Seven Shepherds, for only he can work on the rectification of our souls, to heal us of the tremendous pain and illness of our souls and to draw us to an understanding of Godliness.”

3Biur Halikutim lesson 22, key 11.

4The five levels of the soul.

5Sichos Haran #165: “Every single person can merit to come to my level, to be exactly like me”

6Every one of the five levels of the soul includes within it five levels, thereby making Yechida within Yechida the highest possible level. See Chayei Moharan #267: “he achieved the level of Yechida in highest form”

7Chayei Moharan #304: “How can you possibly repent, will your days and all your strength ever suffice to correct a single item of all the damage you have done? It is only because I rectify for you and I have the power to do so-that is, all the damage you have done up till now. From now on the main thing is not to carry on like before…” see also Sha’ar Ha’gilgulim introduction 22.

8See Likutei Halachos Orach Chayim, Hilchos Rosh Hashana 6,2:”…therefore we need to travel to true Tzaddikim for Rosh Hashana who involve themselves with this path in order to bring repentance to the world, upon which the coming of Moshiach is dependant as the sages taught and as the verse states: ‘A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those of Jacob who repent’ (Yeshaya 59,20), for the name of Moshiach preceded the world as the verse states:’ before the sun his name connotes mastery’ (Tehillim 72,17), so too did repentance precede the world, therefore it is he who knows the secret of ‘In the beginning’ (Bereishis 1,1) through which is the main path of repentance, and from him all the true Tzaddikim receive.”

9Talmud Pesachim 54,Nedarim 39, Zohar Acharei Mos pg 69.

10TzaddiK #565, Sichos Haran #3,Likutei Halachos Hilchos Ona’ah:”…for according to the laws of the torah there would be no rectification for a sinner at all, but repentance is higher than the torah and through it all is turned to good and willful sin turned to merit.” See also Zohar Chadash Parshas Chukkas pg. 50, Tomer Devorah chapter 4.

11Biur Halikutim lesson 22 key 11.

12The Levyasan is an enormous type of sea creature described in scripture, Pirkey D’Rebbi Eliezer mentions that is eats one whale a day.

13See there, that the Levyasan represents the “Tzaddik who is the foundation of the world”(Mishlei 10, 25) and parallels the attribute of Yesod (foundation) which is the paradigm of holiness and purity.

14See Shivchey Haran #2

15Sefer Hagilgulim chapter 19, Sha’ar Hagilgulim introductions 29,31,32,35,36. See also Sefer Halikutim Bereishis 4, Zohar Harakiya 58 pg 9.

16Hashmatos to Chayei Moharan #290(from R’ Alter Tepliker) regarding what is stated in Sichos Haran:”‘One thing I managed to achieve and through this I merited to what I merited’, and it was not explained what it was, I heard that he said that it is brought in the Kabbalistic teachings that when Adam Harishon ate from The Tree of Knowledge all the souls that were included in him tasted from the tree too, but his holy soul merited that it did not taste from it at all.” It is known that there were souls that left Adam before the sin (Beis Aharon of Karlin pg.99,regarding the Baal Shem Tov.) See also Sha’ar Hagilgulim introduction 32 that all souls were at that time incorporated in Adam except for the completely new souls to which Adam did not merit, and were not include within him. See also Kochvey Ohr Chochmah u’binah #41.

17See Shivchey Haran #2.

18See Rabbi Nachman’s Stories #13 The Seven Beggars, where The Rebbe tells of seven beggars, one blind, one deaf etc. Each one explains how, in truth, they have no defect all. For example the beggar with the speech defect says:” Actually I am not blind at all. But the entire duration of the world’s existence is not considered by me to be even the blink of an eye. (it was for this reason that he appeared to be blind; he did not look at the world at all.)” See also Tzaddik #272 that from this story one can understand the Rebbe’s greatness. See also Yemey Moharnat part 1 #66.

19See Likutei Moharan lessons 4 & 156.

20Likutei Moharan lesson 2.

21See note 7.

22Likutei Moharan lesson 14,5. Likutei Halachos Hilchos Orlah 5.

23Tzaddik #218,# 305.

24Sichos Haran #141, Tzaddik # 225

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Halachos pertaining to the trip to Rebbe Nachman’s Tomb on Rosh Hashanah

By HaRav Shimon Anshin, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

Departure Times:

1. One may leave for Uman during the night as the injunction of departing on a journey ‘b’chi tov’ (day time) does not pertain to a journey which fulfills a Torah precept.

2. One may leave after day break for the same reason.  When doing so however, it is best to recite the morning blessings first, and if leaving less than 50 minutes before sunrise, to recite Krias Shema.

Accompaniment:

1. One should make every effort to have someone accompany him at least 4 amot (~6 feet) from one’s door.  Chazal says that one who is accompanied 4 amot at the beginning of his journey, is protected from injury on that journey.  If those accompanying cannot leave the house, they can accompany him 4 amot towards the door.

2. The traveler should be wished to go TO peace and not IN peace.

3. One who has not yet davened, may only come to wish the traveler a safe journey if he intends to do the dvar mitzvah of accompaniment as well.

The Wayfarer’s Prayer:

1. If there is 4 kilometers of uninhabited area on the way to the airport, Tefilat Haderech should be recited on the way to the airport while having in mind that the recital is for the plane trip as well.

2. If there isn’t a 4 kilometer uninhabited area on the way to the airport, one should say Tefilat Haderech on the plane immediately before going down the takeoff runway.  One who recited the prayer earlier fulfilled his obligation.  If one did not say the tefillah before takeoff, one should say it as soon as possible.

3. One who recited the standard Tefilat Haderech, may recite the special prayer composed for air travel.

4. If travel lasts for more than one day and one sleeps in a bed at night, the prayer should be recited again when traveling the next day.  If one slept, but not on a bed, the prayer should be said up to but not including the blessing at the end.

5. One should learn Torah on the way or at least recite Tehillim.  As Chazal says, “One who travels and turns his heart to emptiness…

Tallit and Tefillin:

1. One should take his Tallit and Tefillin as carry-on luggage so that they are always available.  One never knows what situations can arise when traveling.

2. If the bag holding the Tallit and Tefillin has the dimensions of a square tefach, it may be placed on the floor.

3. It is forbidden to sit on a suitcase that is holding Tefillin, unless one is doing so to prevent the theft of the Tefillin.

Sleeping on the way:

When sleeping in one’s clothes, care should be taken not to use one’s clothes as a pillow, as this causes forgetfulness.  If there is something between one’s head and the clothes, then it is acceptable.

Washing hands upon waking:

1. One who inadvertently falls asleep on a chair at night, is not obligated to wash one’s hands, but it is preferable to do so.  If he intentionally fell asleep, he must wash his hands.  If there is no cup available, one may wash without one.  One may wash in the airplane bathroom.

2. If one does not have water and would like to learn, he may wipe his hands on a towel – provided he wipes the entire hand – front, back and between the fingers until the wrist.  B’dieved one may wipe only the fingers until the palm of one’s hand.  This is just for cleanliness and does not remove the ‘bad spirit’ – but one should not refrain from Torah learning due to an inability to wash one’s hands.

3. One sleeping on the top of a bunk bed is not required to have the water brought to him.  He can come down in order to wash his hands even though he is traversing 4 amot.

Eating prior to dawn:

1. It is forbidden to eat more than the size of an egg’s volume of food for half an hour prior to daybreak.  The Zohar mentions that one should not eat from midnight as well.  After daybreak it is forbidden to eat even less than an egg’s volume of food.  One who was eating before the half an hour started, can continue to eat until daybreak.

2. Special care should be taken regarding this halachah since on an airplane one is not always aware when daybreak is approaching.

3. A weak person may eat.  Everyone is allowed to drink.

4. On Tzom Gedalia, since one will not be eating the entire day, one may eat during the half an hour before the fast, but it is preferable to plan in advance to eat before the half an hour prior to daybreak.

Earliest Davening times:

1. Korbonos – preferably after daybreak but may be recited at night.

2. Parshas haKiyor and Terumas haDeshen – may be recited at night leChatchila.

3. The blessing on the Torah – If one slept in a bed at night he may recite these blessings as soon as he wakes up even if it is before midnight.  If one only fell asleep in a haphazard way, i.e. on his chair – there is no need to recite the blessings on the Torah upon waking up in the middle of the night.

4. Elokay Neshomo, blessing for washing hands and blessing on using the bathroom – It is always best to wait until morning prayers to recite these blessings.  If one did not sleep on a bed, one should not recite these blessings until he uses the bathroom.

5. Morning Blessings – From Midnight.

6. Pesukei d’Zimra – From daybreak.

7. Krias Shma and it’s blessings – 50 minutes prior to sunrise.

8. Shemona Esrei – Preferably after sunrise, but when one is under pressure they may be recited from daybreak.

9. The exact time of daybreak – this is not clear and changes from place to place.  If one is in a pressured situation he may rely on the opinion of 72 minutes prior to sunrise.

10. Halachic times on an airplane – There is much debate on this topic.  Here are some guidelines:

a. It is not considered night time until it is dark outside the plane.  (If one prayed the evening prayers earlier, he has fulfilled his obligation since one may pray evening prayers prior to nighttime.)

b. For morning times one should wait until the times as they are listed on the ground, except for Shemoneh Esrei which may be recited as soon as there is light on the plane.

c. On the fast of Tzom Gedalia one should not eat from when there is light in the plane until it is dark on the plane.

When to pray when flying at night:

1. If one knows he will have a minyan to daven with properly within the time allotted for Shacharit on the plane – even if he will need to sit down while davening – one should wait until then.

2. If not, wait until 50 minutes before sunrise. In extenuating circumstances one may start at dawn.  (It is preferable to use the calculation of 72 minutes before sunrise.)

3. It is better to pray Mincha Gedola under normal circumstances than Mincha Ketana at the airport.

4. One should try to arrange his flights in a way that disturbances to prayer are minimized as much as possible.

Davening on a plane:

1. One must sit down while davening on a plane or train.  Legs should be placed together and one should not lean back on the seat, but sit upright supporting oneself.

2. The only exception is if there exists a quiet corner where one will be able to concentrate.

3. One must take care not to pray where there are women who are not dressed properly.  If this is the case, he should turn to a different side as much as possible and shut his eyes tightly while praying.

4. Similarly, one must take care not to pray or learn Torah opposite a bathroom or a soiled area.

Sitting and walking near someone who is in the middle of prayer:

1. It is forbidden to sit within a 4 amah radius of someone who is praying, unless the one who is sitting is praying or learning himself.  In front of someone praying one may not sit as far as the person praying can see.  Even if the one sitting wishes to pray or learn, there are those who forbid sitting down in front of one who is praying.

2. One may not traverse in front of one who is praying.  If there is a partition between the one praying and the one traversing and the one praying has his eyes closed, there is room to be lenient.  Furthermore, you may traverse in front of one praying if you need to go to the bathroom.  But upon return, you should wait until he finishes praying.  To hear Shofar, one may traverse in front of someone who is in the middle of prayer.  In a pressurized situation, the Eishel Avrohom permits traversing if the one praying has his eyes closed.

3. The Benches in the Kloiz would be considered partitions for our purposes since they are 10 tefachim high and are ‘permanent’.  However, unfortunately there is an empty space of 3 tefochim at the bottom of the benches and thus they cannot be considered partitions.  The Gabbaim of the Kloiz would do us a great favor if they were to put something in that space to diminish the 3 tefach area.  Leisting or a well knotted string would suffice.

4. On a plane, one may continue to sit near one who started to pray since a plane is not a designated place of prayer.  One may possibly even be able to sit down after his neighbor started praying, since the chairs are partitions.  In either case, one may not pass in front of one praying, or push him.

Airline Meals

1. Even though the rolls are often labeled ‘mezonos’, if one is eating the food in the tray, he needs to wash, make Hamotzi and recite Birkat Hamazon. (According to the Mishna Berura and most poskim, one needs to do this even if he is not eating the entire meal.)

2. The difficulty in washing on the plane is not a valid reason not to wash.  ‘The Wise has eyes in his head’ and when he sees the crew getting ready to serve the food, he should wash when it is still easy to move around and afterwards, wait in his seat, taking care to keep his hands clean until the meal is served.

3. If it is still very difficult, there is an option to first eat whatever is in the tray, and make a ‘post blessing’ on that food, and only then to eat the roll. (According to most poskim, this too does not remove the requirement to wash.)

4. One must ensure that the hot food tray has 2 sealed coverings as the ovens in which the food is cooked is completely treif.  Without 2 coverings, any food cooked in the oven becomes treif as well.

Lighting Candles on Shabbat and Yom Tov

1. There are two requirements with regards to candle lighting:  a) the act of lighting (one fulfills this obligation through one’s wife’s lighting – provided she lights at their home and not at a neighbor, family, etc. ) b)  eating and sleeping in a place that has light.

2. If one’s wife is definitely lighting in their home and the place where one is eating and sleeping has lights, one has no obligation to light candles.  If there is no light where one is eating and sleeping, even when his wife lights at home, he must light with a blessing.

3. If his wife is not lighting at home then:

a. If he is eating and sleeping in one place he should light there with a blessing.  If eating in a public area he should light where he is sleeping and make sure the candles can stay lit until he comes back to sleep.

b. If there is light in the room he is sleeping in, but he wants to fulfill the obligation with candles lit in the dining room – he should ask someone lighting there to give him a portion in the candles (he should preferably hear the blessings from the one who is lighting.)  If candles were bought from monies given by the public for the food, there is no need to ask for a special portion in the candles.  In any case, candles lit in a dining hall should be placed in a central place where they contribute to the honor and enjoyment of Yom Tov.

4. An unmarried person has the status of someone who does not have his wife lighting for him, even if his father is with him.

5. In a room with many people – one should light and designate a portion of the candles for each person there.

6. The time to light is no earlier than ‘plag minchah’ (1 ½ seasonal hours before sunset).  If one lights before candle lighting time – one must accept the onset of Shabbat then.  If lighting at the designated time, there is no need to accept Shabbat then.

7. If one does not have access to a candle, he can use electrical lights.  If they are already on, he should turn them off and then on again having the honor of Shabbat or Yom Tov in mind.

Muktzeh:

1. Make sure that all muktzeh items are removed from your luggage before Shabbat or Yom Tov, otherwise one needs to ask a Rov how to proceed with moving the luggage.

2. Passports, tickets etc. are muktzeh.

3. Food cards are not muktzeh and are not considered ‘business documents’.

Requesting work by a non-Jew:

One should ask a Rov in all cases how and when it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to work on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

Preparing from one day of Yom Tov to the next:

It is prohibited to prepare from one day of Yom Tov to the next until nightfall.  At nightfall even before Kiddush, one can say “Boruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh” and prepare that which needs to be prepared for the second day.

Using a goy’s vessels:

Ideally one should not use anything that belongs to a goy.  However since the tables, countertops, fridge and gas range must be used if one is renting a goy’s flat, the following guidelines apply:

a. On the table, kitchen counters and fridge – some nylon or aluminum foil should be spread to completely cover the area being used.

b. Gas ranges – these must be covered completely and the grid must be covered a few times over as well.  Kashering the range is NOT an option.

c. Be sure to cut as much aluminum foil as you will need – BEFORE YOM TOV.

Meat left unsupervised:

If a Jew is ‘coming and going’ (i.e. has access and makes use of that access regularly) into and out of the place where the meat was left unsupervised, we do not suspect that the goy who came in switched the meat.

Nesech Wine:

1. If a goy touches wine with his hand or a utensil, or tastes the wine, or picks up and shakes an open bottle of wine – the wine becomes forbidden as Yayin Nesech.  If he only moved the bottle, there is room for leniency where we are speaking about a large monetary loss.

2. A closed bottle has no Yayin Nesech issues.

3. If an open bottle was left open where goyim are about – if the goy has reason to believe that the Jew can come in at any moment, there is no yayin nesech issue.

4.  ‘Cooked wine’ does not have yayin nesech issues.  Pasteurized grape juice is NOT considered cooked, although there are lenient poskim.

5. One should not consume anything produced locally based on rumor and hearsay that such and such is kosher.  A thorough investigation needs to be made into each item, especially since we are in the 10 days of Teshuva where even some things that are permitted by the strict letter of the law, are refrained from.

Placing food under the bed:

1. Ideally no food should be placed under a bed, even if it is sealed and no one is sleeping there.  If food was placed under a bed – one who eats that food has one to rely on.  Food which was sealed is easier to permit if it was left under a bed and even more so if left under a bed that was not being slept on.

2. There are poskim who permit food to be placed under the upper bed of a bunk bed.  Some poskim maintain that if someone other than the owner of the food placed the food under the bed, there is no bad spirit.

Theft of a non-Jew:

Unquestionably forbidden.  Some opinions maintain that this is a biblical prohibition.

Theft of sleep:

One must take extra care to avoid this; especially on the Yemei haDin.

Shatnez:

1. Items which are shatnez prone – MUST be checked before wearing.  All Ukrainian clothes are Shatnez prone.

2. Mattresses are not shatnez prone.  If the mattress is hard and does not bend at all – one may place linen on the mattress even in the case where it is uncertain as to whether or not shatnez exists in the mattress.  (Some poskim permit such a mattress even when it is certainly shatnez)

3. Blankets – need to be checked for shatnez.

THERE WILL BE A SHATNEZ LABORATORY NEAR THE TZIYUN.

The Blessing of Magen Avot (said Friday night)

This blessing should only be said in a place designated for davening that has a Sefer Torah as well.  Therefore, those davening on Friday night in an apartment should not say Magen Avot.  However, if the apartment is used year in and year out for davening on Rosh Hashanah – and if there is a Sefer Torah – the blessing should be said.  Even without a Sefer Torah, some poskim maintain that Magen Avot should be recited in such a place.

If one is not sure if the apartment is used year in and year out – the blessing should not be recited.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

“Whoever believes in me, should come to me for Rosh Hashanah”

A talk given in preparation for the journey to Uman for Rosh Hashanah

By HaRav Nosson Liebermensh, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

In the Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Chukas, the sages discuss the mitzvah of Parah Adumah, which the Torah refers to as a “chok” – a law without explanation. They explain that “The Satan and the nations of the world agitate Klal Yisroel by asking, ‘What’s this mitzvah all about? What rationale is behind it?’ The Torah therefore calls it a ‘chok’, as if to say, I have decreed this mitzvah, and you don’t have permission to wonder about it.”

This Midrash needs clarification. Don’t we perform all the mitzvos only because Hashem so decreed? If that’s the case, what’s the novelty of the mitzvah of Parah Adumah relative to all the other mitzvos in the Torah?

It would appear than the explanation is as follows:  all the other mitzvos have at least an amount of reason and understanding which we are capable of grasping. The reasoning behind Parah Adumah, however, is totally hidden from us, and no human mind can grasp its meaning.

The nations of the world therefore harass and pain Klal Yisroel with their words, “what is this burning of the Parah and grinding of its ashes and spraying the water etc.” But we know that the answer is that Hashem has decreed it and we have no permission to wonder about it.

But it’s the Parah Adumah – about which we have no understanding – that has the ability to cleanse the most severe form of impurity, Tumaas Mes, defilement from a corpse. The only way to be purified from it is with the ashes of the Parah.

We find a similar concept in regard to the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah. While in the Rebbe’s general advice, although their key effectiveness comes from our faith in each of them, at the same time we see that the Rebbe presented them together with a variety of reasons and explanations, by which someone who needs them explained can be satisfied and convinced of their truth. We are actually expected to look deeply into them and to understand them. Even though, of course we must remember that with all of our understanding, however great it may be, it’s nothing in comparison to their true greatness, as the Rebbe truly grasped them.

The exception to the rule is the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah. It’s akin to the mitzvah of Parah Adumah. It’s as if the Rebbe also said, “I have decreed a chok, and you have no permission to ponder it.” Concerning his Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe didn’t give any reason or explanations as he usually does. Even those lessons in Likutei Moharan where the Rebbe discusses the greatness of spending Rosh Hashanah by the Tzaddik, are lofty ideas, far from our understanding.

An expression of this idea is that we don’t find that concerning any other advice which the Rebbe gives.  An expression such as, “all who believe in me and heed my call should come to me for Rosh Hashanah.” When trying to convince somebody of an idea in a way that it should take hold of him, we don’t employ faith and belief. We try to explain the thought every possible way. But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, the Rebbe uses this unique expression, “Whoever believes in me.” This is because we have no idea what the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah is. Everything depends on what the Rebbe said, “If you believe in me- come to me for Rosh Hashanah…”

In this context, we find Reb Nosson in Likutei Halachos discussing the well-known Zohar that no Teshuvah helps with the blemishing of the Holy Covenant (Pgam Habris) for which the Rebbe insisted that Teshuvah does in fact help and that no one understands that Zohar besides him. Reb Nosson explains how the rectification of that blemish, and the true repentance for the sin, is through believing in Tzaddikim. He explains this in light of Likutei Moharan 29, that all the 365 spiritual “tendons” in a person correspond to the 365 negative commandments in the Torah, and when someone does a specific sin, he causes a blemish in the tendons which corresponds to it.

Concerning this, the Rebbe says that we must always try to purify ourselves by drawing purity and “whiteness” from our minds to our “tendons”. But what should somebody who has blemished his mind through Pgam Habris do?

Reb Nosson explains that the only solution is to nullify his mind to the mind of the Tzaddik. Then the Tzaddik can give him “whiteness” from his own mind in order to purify him from all his blemishes.

In this light, we can understand the following Midrash: “Said R’ Yehoshuah D’Sachnin in the name of R’ Levi: Concerning everything which the Holy One, Blessed be He, told Moshe, he explained to him its impurity and its purification. When they reached the portion of the Kohanim being defiled by a corpse, Moshe asked, ‘Master of the World, if one is defiled is such a way, how will he be purified?’ and He did not answer him… When they reached the portion about Parah Adumah, Hashem told him, ‘At the time I told you about Tumaas Mes, and you asked me what is its purification, this is its purification.’”

The Rebbe teaches in Likutei Moharan 2 that Pgam Habris is also referred to as Tumaas Mes.

Together with what we just saw from Reb Nosson, we can understand that this is what Hashem was telling Moshe. The rectification for Tumaas Mes, which is Pgam Habris, is through a “chok”. Putting aside the mind and nullifying oneself before the Tzaddik, through belief in him, is what purifies and renews the mind.

This is what is alluded to in the Midrash that Hashem told Moshe, “To you I am revealing the reason behind Parah Adumah, and for everyone else it’s a chok.” The explanation was given to Moshe, the true Tzaddik. The same way the Rebbe said that only he understands the aforementioned Zohar. For the mind of the Tzaddik is the Tikkun. But we must approach it as a Chok, by totally giving ourselves over to the Tzaddik.

Therefore, concerning all the obstacles and doubts which we all have, there seems to be a simple solution. Let us all imagine the Rebbe alive, living in Uman, and calling out to us, “Come to me for Rosh Hashanah!” People ask the question, there are people who would rather come a different time, and the Rebbe answers them all, “Whether you eat or not, whether you sleep or not, whether you daven or not, just be by me for Rosh Hashanah, there’s nothing greater than this.”

And then he adds, “The Tikkunim which I accomplish on Rosh Hashanah, I can’t do throughout the whole year.”

Everybody should think about how much he has sacrificed himself to get close to the Rebbe and to Breslov, and to all the advice which he has given. Here we are discussing an awesome thing, such an incredible Tikkun, incomparable to anything else, something which the Rebbe himself told us that there is nothing greater than it. Of course, it’s impossible to demand sacrifice from someone else, but at least let everybody know what we’re talking about. Maybe this will help people to try harder to overcome their obstacles.

Hashem should help us all draw upon ourselves the holiness of Rosh Hashanah, and alleviate all harshness for the coming year, for the entire world.

Uman: The Dog or the Lion?

By Harav Lazer Brody Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

Just as in the holy of holies in the Beit Hamikdash, travelers to Uman must be forewarned that one can encounter both proverbial dog and lion in Uman…

Our sages teach us that the Evil Inclination resides right in the heart of the holy of holies of the Beit Hamikdash, our holy Temple in Jerusalem, just as the good and evil inclinations reside side by side in a person’s heart. When a sacrifice was pleasing to Hashem, the image of a lion came down in a flame from Heaven that consumed the sacrifice on the altar. But, when a sacrifice was unworthy, the image of a dog would be come down in a similar pillar of fire, and its flames would lick the sacrifice. In other words, right there on the holiest place on earth, the epitome of holiness and its dark-side counterpart were side by side. The image of the lion and the image of the dog descended in similar pillars of fire that originated in the same place.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, the “Ramchal” of saintly and blessed memory, explains that the above phenomenon is necessary to preserve free choice – wherever there is holiness, there is also an equal and opposite force of unholiness. Without equal forces, one would be coerced to do good or bad. Within the framework of coercion, then the concept of reward and punishment becomes meaningless.

Uman has the attributes of the holy of holies. From one standpoint, it was the site of one of the greatest sanctifications of Hashem’s name in history. In 1768, only four years before Rebbe Nachman was born, the evil Cossack leader Gonta and his henchman attacked the Jews of Uman. The Jews that weren’t slaughtered in the fierce hand-to-hand and house-to-house fighting were told that anyone who passed under a certain canopy in front of the church would be spared. But, in order to do so, one would have to prostrate oneself before the cross. Not a single man, woman, or child of Uman’s 33,000 Jews agreed to do so, despite the fact that parents were slaughtered in front of their children and children were brutally maimed in front of their parents, all becoming holy martyrs.

Uman is also an aspect of “holy of holies” in that it is the eternal resting place of Rebbe Nachman, who yearned to lie among the martyrs.

Just as in the holy of holies in the Beit Hamikdash, travelers to Uman must be forewarned that one can encounter both proverbial dog and lion in Uman.

We certainly want a “lion’s share” from all the expense, preplanning, and dedication that it takes to make the trip to the holy kibbutz (gathering) of Breslever Chassidim in Uman on Rosh Hashanna. Nobody wants their trip to go to the dogs. In a nutshell, a person must be on strong spiritual guard in Uman, guarding his time, his eyes, and his tongue. One who guards all three will certainly reap all the benefits that the holy pilgrimage to Uman has to offer, including a soul correction for oneself, one’s spouse, and one’s family. Let’s see how:

Guarding one’s time

Time flies in Uman. You never seem to have enough. One of the Yetzer’s (evil inclination’s) biggest ploys in Uman is to rob you of your time. The Yetzer tells you to have long conversations with people, and all of a sudden you either haven’t slept all night or else you’ve awoken late for prayer services.

Don’t get trapped in all the outdoor carnivals in the days and hours before Rosh Hashanna. Uman is not the place to do your duty-free shopping either, for the locals are just waiting to rip you off. If you want to bring home gifts, bring home books and CDs that you’ll find from all the major spiritual guides of Breslev in a tremendous and beautiful assortment. Don’t forget that while you’re roaming around outside, inside the Kloiz are back-to-back Torah lessons from Breslev’s leading rabbis, right there in one place! It’s Heaven on earth, great preparation for Rosh Hashanna praying, and like collecting diamonds off the sidewalk.

Rebbe Nachman said that our Rosh Hashanna eve is like other people’s Rosh Hashanna. Why? Uman is a teshuva factory. But, to be part of the unbelievable personal prayers and teshuva that takes place by Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite on Erev Rosh Hashanna, you must be there praying, saying Psalms, speaking to Hashem, and actively doing teshuva. You can’t be out on the street talking to your buddies from Miami.

Each minute in Uman is therefore a diamond that must be guarded carefully.

Guarding one’s eyes

Even in the short walk from your lodging to the mikva, the Kloiz, or the tziyun (gravesite), if you open your eyes, there will be an abundant assortment of forbidden images that get right in your face. Once again, wherever the lion is, the dog is right there too.

The best way to guard one’s eyes is to stay in the confines of the tziyun, Kloiz, and immediate areas and avoid the locals and their part of town like you’d avoid a plague.

Guarding one’s speech

The Yetzer tries his best to stir up dissension among people in Uman. The rule of thumb is to use your speech for holiness. Don’t get drawn into aimless discussions, and beware of people who try and lure you into badmouthing other groups, rabbis, or people within Breslev. This is none other than the Yetzer trying to get you to say derogatory things about others, which will enable him to say derogatory things about you on Rosh Hashanna, G-d forbid. Whatever you do, guard your tongue and don’t fall into the Yetzer’s trap.

By devoting every spare moment to more prayers, more Torah study, more teshuva and more hitbodedut, your lion will defeat the dog and you’ll be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, amen!

“Whether As Children, Whether As Slaves” – Words of Emunah to understand the Truth

By HaRav Nissan Dovid Kivak, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

  • “The essence of crowning that makes us Hashem’s children”
  • “Children vs. Slaves”
  • “By the Kibbutz we can merit remembering Hashem with awe and sanctify our deeds.”
  • “Rosh Hashanah – meriment that combines a broken heart within.”

“Remember us to life, O King who wishes Life”.

Hashem favors mercy.  He wants to bestow on us good life.  During the High Holidays we ask for life from a “King who wishes life.”

There is a kind of life Hashem wishes for – it is the life of Torah and service of Hashem.  On Rosh Hashanah, we ask Hashem for an existence in which we can imbue our lives with the performance of his will and adhere to a life of eternal fulfillment and joy.

“Life” therefore means enthusiasm and satisfaction in keeping the Torah.  This is no trivial matter.  It is an incredible merit to rejoice while one is learning, keeping the Torah, and serving the King of Kings.

Depression on the other hand, is the essence of the exile of the Shechina (divine presence) and the only way to rescue her is through joy.  By enhancing our joy we come closer to Hashem.  Every time we experience any success in the service of Hashem, we immediately experience an influx of joy and rejuvenation.  This is the source of the ability we have to withstand whatever may happen in our lives.

This is true for all times of the year, but never more so than during the time of Rosh Hashanah Hakadosh.  It is the time for ushering in the Holy Yom Tov with a joy for having merited coming closer to Hashem.  It is joy that will bestow holiness and a sense of rejuvenation on us.  It is the time to elevate the Shechina .

Even though this is the Day of Judgment, and any rational person experiences an understandable anxiety, this should not drag us down to thoughts of despair and doubt.  In fact, the main job of this day is to guard the thinking faculties and keep them focused on happy, joyful thoughts.

This is the time to keep constantly in mind Hashem’s royal authority with great joy and a broken heart (see Sichot HaRa”n, 42, on the difference between a “broken heart” and “depression”, which is akin to anger).

The reason for Joy – The merit of being the King’s son

When we are at the holy Kibbutz (gathering) of Rebbe Nachman on Rosh Hashanah we can plainly see how faith lights up the hearts of the people of Israel.  We can see thousands of people who have overcome incredible obstacles to be there.

You can see the burning faith in every single word uttered by the Rebbe.  We need to internalize this in our hearts enabling an indescribable joy and vigor to fill our very being.  And this is because we experience something here which is beyond anything we have ever done.  This is way beyond any mitzvah we have performed during the year – simply because, as great as the mitzvah is, it is still far from perfection.

Rosh Hashanah by Rebbe Nachman is an event of cosmic proportions – An event upon which the rectification of creation itself stands.  To be a part of the endeavor of this profound Tzaddik is a merit beyond anything we can ever imagine.

“Be it Like Children, Be it Like Slaves”

During the Musaf prayer on Rosh Hashanah, we implore Hashem to have mercy on us any way – be it like children or be it like slaves.  “Be it Like Children” means that if we have merits we will be judged as His children.  This obviously makes it much easier to be judged for life as the judgment comes from the King Himself.  And a father always has mercy on his child.  The sole reason for judgment in such a case is to awaken the fear of judgment in us so that we return to Him.

But when we say “be it like slaves” this is when we have no merits in our favor.  However even so, we will not give up.  We will beg and trust in the power of prayer that Hashem will bestow mercy on us regardless.

Some interpret this verse to say, that if we find ourselves without merits to the degree that we are considered slaves, we will look up to Hashem in supplication until we will be considered like children once again.

The holy Zohar explains a few times that the profound Tzaddikim ascend to the universe of Emanation אצילות)) where they rectify and bring about the unification of Hashem and the Shechina.  Only such exalted Tzaddikim merit being called “children”.  At such an elevated place the negotiations are not handled by judges and court-clerks, so-to-speak.  These matters transpire “before You” – the place of complete and total Presence and mercy.  Only as creation trickles down into coarser manifestations are we degraded into the state of “slaves”.  Hardly anyone merits a soul of the world of Atzilut.  This is the rarified air of the great and profound Tzaddikim.

Now, obviously there must be someone at the Atzilut level to affect the rectifications every day.  It is also obvious that each and every one of us rectifies only according to his own level and no more.  If that is the case, how then, is it possible for any “regular” person to ever be called a “son”?

The answer is by connection to Tzaddikim.  This is what the Zohar reveals and this is what the Baal Shem Tov made known throughout the world.  Reb Nosson expounds on this topic at length explaining how everything depends on faith in Tzaddikim.

There are various ways of connecting to Tzaddikim with one’s prayer and avoda.  They are affected when a person does what he can and “hands over” his work to the Tzaddik to “cleanse and sterilize” so that the intrinsic good in it can ascend and affect a supernal rectification at the level of Atzilut.

That being said, we must realize the astounding difference between the true avoda that affects real joy in front of Hashem, and our lukewarm service that is muddled with ulterior motives and stray thoughts.  By realizing how far from perfection we really are, we connect to the Tzaddikim.  This is what makes it possible for us to recognize the truth and do teshuvah.  This is also what makes it possible for us to rejoice with every iota of goodness we find within us.  It enables us to awaken ourselves to true avoda.  And this, in turn, includes us in the avoda of the Tzaddikim – the ultimate regimen that has the “wings” of love and awe to ascend and affect the reconstruction of the divine presence.

This is what the Rebbe meant when he said: “You bring bricks and mortar and I build edifices.”

We have to be filled with endless joy for having merited being by the Tzaddik at this holy gathering.  This is what makes us “Children” before Hashem even though we do not merit it individually.  Nothing is greater.  It makes it possible to connect to the Tzaddikim all year round as well.

Rosh Hashanah “One long day” –  the source of drawing down joy.

“My Rosh Hashanah is greater than anything”.  Rebbe Nachman declared this unequivocally.

This is an extremely important declaration for it allows us to realize how incredibly fortunate we are to be here, and draw an abundant amount of enthusiasm.

One should dedicate time at the Tziyun to pray that the astonishing significance of these words “descends” into our hearts and takes permanent root.  While here, we should also beg for Emunah in the Tzaddik and his holy words so that it too, will permeate our being and infuse us with joy and rejuvenation. This will in turn strengthen our resolve when tests threaten to drive us down.

We need this reinforcement because of the distractions that the trials and tribulations of the trip to Uman can present.  Frequent irritations may arise and we need to have this Emunah ingrained in our hearts so that we are able to enter the universe of thought, pray with proper intentions while pouring out our hearts at the Tziyun and awaken ourselves to the true remorse that will make our teshuvah deep and lasting.

All this will enable us to experience what the Rebbe expressed: “Anyone who comes to me for Rosh Hashanah should be exceedingly happy”.  That happiness will enable us to keep our thoughts positive throughout Rosh Hashanah.  It will also enable us to renew ourselves for the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah, treating it as if it is our first, enthusiastic day.

If we accomplish this, it will enable us to treat every day of the following year as new.

Drawing down Enthusiasm for the coming year

Once we manage to internalize the incredible greatness of our merit of being in Uman for Rosh Hashanah, we can down–size our pride.  We understand the difference between our avoda and that of the Tzaddik.  We can begin to appreciate the merit of having come close to such a Tzaddik, one who can renew us and affect the heavenly tribunals in favor of all the people of Israel.

As far away as we are from understanding anything involved in such exalted rectifications, it is astonishing to contemplate that the Rebbe actually wants us to participate in them (which we do by traveling to him).  We, as small and insignificant as we are, are standing on the shoulders of a giant, partaking in the greatest, most crucial universal rectification!

How vital is it that we introduce these words into our hearts and internalize them!  The Rebbe elevates us to the place of the greatest Tzaddikim, involving us in the toil of the greatest spiritual giants that ever lived!  Such an idea simply boggles the mind.

When we manage to internalize this knowledge, we can illuminate our souls with this awesome, holy imprint month after month throughout the coming year.  This will enable us to actualize that which the Rebbe expressed about anyone who merited to be by him during Rosh Hashanah “should rejoice all year long”.  It will enable us to connect our prayers and avoda to our Holy Rebbe at all times, infusing them with life and energy to ascend before the Master of the universe.

Coming to the Tziyun with Joy

The Rebbe’s Tziyun and the wisdom he left in this world are an incomprehensible wonder.

The light of the Rebbe is completely concealed, known only in the hearts of those who seek it relentlessly.  However, we were fortunate enough that our Rebbe toiled, journeying ever so high, until a crack was opened in the concealment, giving the entire world a glimpse of previously-unimagined extraordinary light.

It is obvious that there cannot be such a profound Tzaddik in every single generation.  From days of old the order always was that generations rested on the strength and power of the profound Tzaddikim of the generations that preceded them.

Every few generations however, there arrives a profound Tzaddik of this caliber who has elevated himself to the level of “Hashem’s son” whose light shines to the rest of the world and the following generations.

This Tzaddik has toiled relentlessly to find rectifications for the entire nation of Israel, especially the tikkun (correction) for the holy covenant without which people cannot even begin to find their way.

Furthermore, this Tzaddik has established a way to connect us to his truth to the point that we, too, will be labeled “Hashem’s sons”!  This is done with the power of his holy Tziyun.  This is the place to engage in teshuvah and confessions because the Tziyun is the ultimate place of teshuvah.  There is such power of kedusha there, that it elevates the Kingdom of Hashem and draws upon one the wisdom to know that everything happens for the good.  There resides a power of kedusha there that can totally extricate us from the influence of the klipot (impure husks) to sway and deceive us.

By saying the Rebbe’s prescribed 10 Psalms of “Tikkun Ha’Kalali” at the Tziyun we awaken the power of joy and stop the freefall into the lowest depths of purgatory and start to live a true Jewish life.

At the Tziyun we come to our Rebbe, the Tzaddik that descends from the upper worlds to converse and relate to each and every one of us privately.  By connecting to his light we receive our insights into Torah and renew our days.

The power of the Tziyun is a well known force.  The Talmud and Holy Zohar state explicitly that the world exists in the merit of the prayers of the departed Tzaddikim.  The fact the we don’t see anything is, of course, no hindrance.  None other than Rabbi Chiya of the Talmud came to the Tziyun of Rabbi Shimon in Meron and cried: “How can the mountain and the earth cover the holiness of Bar Yochai?”  Only after he fasted was he suddenly able to see what he perceived and cried: “No!  They cover nothing!”

We, of course, have not fasted, and even if we did, would still be far away from comprehending the holiness of “the bones of Yosef” – the remains of the holy Tzaddikim that are called “the true living” even after their departure.

As Reb Nosson stated, we all witnessed the traveling of Israel to Rabbi Shimon in Meron for generations, in order to seek closeness with Hashem and affect tremendous miracles and salvations.

We witnessed the same with the Rebbe’s Tziyun.  Anyone who has eyes to see, understands the tremendous power of the Tzaddik to give hope and rectification to all.

No one makes the mistake of “speaking to spirits” when it comes to the Rebbe.  The aim of each and every one of us is to come to the Tziyun and merit the essence of truth.  We know we come there to correct our defects and renew ourselves.  We come to connect to the truth and kedusha in the Rosh Hashanah of the Rebbe that is “higher than everything”.

In Summary:

1)  By rejoicing in the incredible merit of being at the Rebbe’s holy gathering,  we can sanctify our thoughts during Rosh Hashanah, think positively of the wonderful year that awaits us, and pray with great intention.  By doing this we are considered “Hashem’s sons”.

2)  By being happy that we are by the Kibbutz we will draw the rectification for the entire year.

3)   The avodah of the feeling of the heart during the coronation of Hashem is not a simple matter.  The essence of the coronation is revealed with the power of the Tzaddikim and this opens the gates for us.  When we become part of the crowning process, we merit sanctifying our minds.  This awakens us to study the Rebbe’s Books and receive from them the ways that are tailor-made for each and every one of us.  With this we are in fact, the messengers of the entire nation of Israel.

Real teshuvah is not a simple matter either.  True change never is.  A deep realization shines on us at the Rebbe’s Kibbutz – one that reminds us of the simple truth of the nature of this life.  This drives us to “put an end to our nonsense” and look for Hashem’s mercy and sound advice to affect the changes we need.  True mercy is drawn down only with the power of the Tzaddikim.

Even though it seems as if the matter of crowning Hashem is known and understood by people at large, in point of fact such perception is only possible by coming to the Rebbe and receiving the ways of truth from him.

In the merit of being by the Kibbutz on Rosh Hashanah we acquire the insight to open our hearts and serve Hashem seriously without self-delusion.  This will in turn bring us to feel Hashem’s presence near us all year long.  We will constantly be careful to protect Hashem’s honor even when there’s no one around us.

With the merit of the Kibbutz we will be strengthened to rejoice with the truth at all times.  This will enable us to remember that Hashem is in total control of reality and will drive away worry and stress from our lives.

The essence of crowning Hashem is the resolve to keep on strengthening and renewing ourselves at all times for the honor of Hashem because he is the King.

The essence of crowning Hashem is to search the books of Tzaddikim and draw from them the light of Torah we need.  This is the significance of the sound of the Shofar which is an aspect of the drawing down of Torah.  This “personalized view” will enable us to always find the way to keep the Torah and accept Hashem’s authority in our own private lives.

By traveling to the Rebbe for Rosh Hashanah we receive the power to sanctify our thoughts during Rosh Hashanah.  It gives us the ways and means to win the “battle of thought” and avoid dispiriting confusions.

We need to nullify ourselves to the Tzaddik and the totality of the crowd that comes to the Tziyun.  We need to keep in mind that we really have no concept as to what Rosh Hashanah really is about – the Rebbe does.  We need to internalize that we must learn what the Rebbe teaches us – not what WE think is right.

Crowning Hashem Everywhere

By HaRav Yaakov Meir Schecter, Shlit”a – Rosh Hashana 5770

Rosh Hashana is the chosen day when the people of Israel crown Hashem, as is clearly evident from the prayers we say during that day.  The Talmud (Tract Rosh Hashana, p. 34) says: Hashem said: “Mention Kingships, Remembrances, and Shofars before me so that you crown me upon you”.  All three issues are said mainly during the Musaf prayer.  The rest of the prayers of Rosh Hashana concentrate almost entirely on coronation.

What’s more, our sages say that one of the reasons for blowing the shofar is because trumpets are customarily blown during the coronation ceremony of human kings.

From all this we learn that the main thrust of the day is crowning Hashem as king of the world.  So much so, that even though this is the day of judgment for the entire creation, for us it is still mainly the day when we crown Hashem on us.  This is very significant, as the Vilna Gaon explains, because there is a major difference between a ruler and king.  A ruler, he explains, alludes to the act of “ruling” – exerting authority by force – whereas a king is someone who is willingly crowned by his subjects.

The main goal of creation is crowning Hashem

The beginning of the world was on the 25th day of the month of Elul (Pirkey d’Rabbi Elazar, chapter 8 ) and our Rosh Hashana is six days later.  It is the day Adam was created and crowned Hashem over the world.  This is why we say ”זה היום תחילת מעשיך” “This the day when your deeds have begun” even though creation actually started six days earlier.   This is because the world has gained its significance when Adam crowned Hashem.  We say “Whoever teaches another man’s child Torah is akin to having created him.”  This is so because even though he is the natural child of someone else, his significance as a human being lies in him possessing a true da’at, comprehension.  Without Torah he is merely a “human animal”.  Teaching him Torah gives him the stature of a “human manifestation of G-dly” – the goal of man’s existence.  So, too, the entire world, as magnificent and awesome as it was, was meaningless until Hashem was crowned over it, giving it meaning.  This is why the day the coronation took place is considered “This is the day your deeds have begun”.  Since the world was created for conscious man, the day man was created is considered the real beginning.

The sefer Eitz Chaim (Gate 8, chapter 6) describes the incredible rectifications Adam affected on the first day.  This is why we are ordered to “feast on fats and drink sweets etc’…for this day is sacred to our Master…don’t be upset for the merriment of Hashem is our strength.”  We must be incredibly happy for having merited being among the army of Hashem, those who crown Him and unify Him on this day.

This is also why we do not confess our sins on Rosh Hashana because the amelioration of the heavenly verdicts and prosecutions depend only on the crowning of Hashem and celebrating it on this day.

To Illuminate His Kingdom in the Darkest Places

It is therefore a wonder why Rosh Hashana is the only holiday on which the moon is always unseen.

We should ponder this because the moon, as we know, signifies kingship.  It would stand to reason that on this day, when the kingdom of Hashem is renewed, that it should take place on the day when the moon can be seen in all its glory.  In fact, all other holidays take place in the middle of the month when the moon can be fully seen and appreciated – except Rosh Hashana.  We need to understand why this is so.

But this can be easily understood when we understand the nature of the obligation of crowning Hashem.  We need to see to it that the coronation is complete. We need to make Hashem’s kingdom evident everywhere, especially in the lower, covered places.  The crux of Hashem being the recognized monarch is when this recognition comes from places where He cannot be seen.  This is the secret behind Rosh Hashana being on the day the moon is covered and unseen.  We are calling out declaring that Hashem is our king even when we have no visible evidence of it.  This makes Hashem’s kingdom more complete.  The main joy we bring to Hashem is when we recognize his authority when we are “blinded” by this world, yet still we call “Hashem is King, Hashem was King, Hashem will be King for ever and ever!”

The Secret of the Month of Elul

In point of fact, this is the secret behind the essence of Elul, the month we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana.  This is the month when we need to learn the art of staying with Hashem at all times (Likutei Mohar”an, 6).  We need to be able to recognize correctly times of expanded and constricted consciousness and adjust our crowning efforts accordingly.  And this is what it says in this lesson:

“The simple explanation is that whoever wants to walk in the ways of Teshuva must be resolved to forever strengthen himself in the ways of Hashem at all times, whether being “up” or “down”.  This means that if one finds himself attaining a great stature, still, he should not be satisfied with it, but endeavor to search higher and higher still…and the opposite is true as well.  If one falls to the deepest of depths, even into Hell itself, one should not become despaired, but should keep on looking for Hashem and hold himself up in any way he can.  One should know that it is possible to adhere oneself onto Hashem even from the depths of Hell itself.”  The goal on Rosh Hashana is to crown Hashem completely.  We can do this if we prepare ourselves to do so even when times are hard.

Elul – the Time for Searching

“Elul” can be understood to mean “searching”.  When the Torah says “And they searched the land of Cna’an” (Numbers, 11), Unkelus translated “Ye’Elul-lun”.  This comes to tell you that the essence of Elul is to search within oneself and be ready to crown Hashem at any place, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  This is why one must search his soul, especially in the darkest and deepest places, if one is to crown Hashem properly.

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