On this last Shabbos of the year - may it be the highest, we have an opportunity to elevate all the Shabbatot of the past year. Take some time to think about how you got to celebrate each Shabbat and thank Hashem for every precious moment. If you feel that some Shabbatot were lacking in meaning, lacking in love and fear of Hashem or lacking in joy, then daaven a lot and sing lots of zemirot joyously this Shabbos with the intention of retroactively filling the ‘empty vessels’. Each mitzvah is a vessel for receiving and bringing down Hashem’s supernal light. A mitzvah that is done without love and fear, without joy, is an empty vessel. The vessel is still there and it can and needs to be filled this Shabbos. Do this quietly from the depth of your heart, b’simcha!
Some Rosh Hashanah related thoughts.....
can you hear it?
there is a sound
in the deepest depth of your heart
a sound in the breath of life
can you hear it?
a sound of holiness and unity
a sound of love and unity
that will break down all walls
can you hear it?
the sound is in your heart
opening the gates
the sound of the shofar
give it your silent loudest voice
sing it dance it feel it
to be one within One
the sound is in your hand
open your hand heal your heart
receive and share the healing lights
in your open hand
embrace your soul with loving Torah
with the joyous songs
of loving hearts
let us hear the voice of the Great Shofar
the sounds of unity, love and life
the sound of Hashem renewing the world
listen to the holy sound of renewal
may the light of Shabbos always be on your table
may the flames of unity and peace
always be kindled in our hearts
let us kindle the lights of our souls
in each other’s heart
may your tzedakkah* open the heavenly gates of compassion
may your love and compassion arouse Hashem’s abundant compassion
for you, for your children
for all of Israel
for the whole world
Concerning the נסירה- 'nesirah' - the detachment: and re-attachment
12 a land which the LORD thy God careth for; the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. Devarim 11:12
Eretz yisrael is the land that "Hashem's eyes are constantly תמיד gazing upon her / into her, from the beginning of the year unto the end of the year." The Alter Rebbe asks, since the Torah says תמיד- 'tamid'- continuously, why does it then say "from the beginning of the year until the end of the year", which implies there is a beginning and an end?
The Alter Rebbe explains that each Rosh Hashana there is a new light of creation; a new flow of life energy comes down from Hashem for the new year. This light lasts until the end of the year when there is a 'nesirah' - a cut-off point. Then the light of the coming New Year begins to descend with the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana. We need to understand, what is the 'nesirah' about? What is it's function and purpose?
Imagine you are in the presence of the King over all kings of kings, Hakodosh baruch Hu, the Holy One blessed is He. In His presence, you and the gathered multitudes bask and delight in His light. Suddenly, the lights go out and you cannot see the King- but He is of course still there, and of course you wish to see Him again. In the darkness, because of it you get in touch with your yearning and deep longing not only to see Him again, but also to be in an even deeper relationship with Him, than ever before. You desire פנים בפנים- 'panim b'fanim' - face to face- you desire to connect to Hashem's innermost essence from within your innermost essence.
The more intensely that you desire this, during the 'nesirah'- during the darkness following the cut-off, the deeper will be the cry of your heart אבינו מלכנו my father my King, I don't want to be cut-off from You--- the deeper will be the sound of your Shofar. And the deeper the sound of your Shofar, the more we arouse Hashem's longing for us, the more beautiful the flow of the divine life energy and love coming down to the world on Rosh Hashana, will be.
Among the tzadikkim, the yearning is so intense, that even their animals are aware of it and they too participate being in Hashem's presence. Instead of pulling them away from Hashem with their animal needs, they actually help and contribute their energy to the tzaddik, enabling him thus to do even more good.
[note: in the following piece based on the teachings of Reb Levi Yitzchak ben Sara Sasha, of Berditchev זצ"ל, we will use the word 'shefa'- in some translations it is translated as effulgence - meaning the radiant splendor of divine life energy from Hashem, who is above and beyond all worlds, to all created worlds and all forms of life below, creating and sustaining them from moment to moment.]
Here are a few selections from the holy Kedushas Levi on Rosh Hashana:
On Rosh Hashana the heavenly treasure houses are opened- Hashem opens the 'gates of life' apportioning life for all living and all life- this is the 'shefa' of life that comes down from the highest heavens on Rosh Hashana. This 'shefa' is then divided into appropriate daily portions according to the qualities of the recipients. To the one who is good before Hashem, is given everything he or she needs at the time it is needed and requested.
The 'shefa' which comes from Hashem on Rosh Hashana is simple- it is concealed and contained within the aspect of קול- 'kol'- voice and sound. That is why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana- a sound without words. We arouse the Supernal voice- the shefa without words; this is the essence of the blowing of the Shofar- that the supernal shefa life energy should spread out to all worlds including those of the angels. When the shefa comes further down, reaching into the worlds, the voice, the sound is vested into the garments of letters and words.
Through the prayers of the righteous the life energy voice manifests into speech; the potential is actualized in form. It is important to note that we are to pray for what Hashem wants to give us in His kindness, compassion, knowledge and will. We pray for our needs in the 'amiddah' prayer and we end with the words יהיו לרצון אמרי פי לפניך ה - let my words be expressions of Your desires Hashem; of course our prayers are motivated by our personal needs, but we need to be careful that our prayers don't get locked and determined by them. Rather, the feeling and awareness of our needs, real as they are, should arouse us to pray words of love, compassion and pleas for Hashem's grace; we should not ask that Hashem give us exactly what we want, but rather that our words should arouse Hashem's love and kindnesses, according to His great measures of goodness and kindness.
There are two opinions in the Talmud: one says that man is judged on Rosh Hashana and the other says that man is judged every single day. Reb Levi Yitzchak says that both opinions are the 'words of the living G-d'. There is the judgement of Rosh Hashana- the opening of the treasure stores of life, which comes wrapped in the aspect of 'kol' - sound, and then it is moved from sound into words of speech. This is the judgement of each day- as our daily portions are delivered from sound into words.
Reb Levi Yitzchak prefaces with a teaching from the Talmud (Yoma 76a) to help us understand the meaning of the yearly shefa being delivered in daily portions. The students asked Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai- why was the manna delivered each day [in portions that could not last to the next day]? He answered with a parable. A father who wants to see his son each day, who wants his son to relate with him each day and wants his son to relate with him each day, will give him daily gifts rather than one large gift. That way, the son will both need to come to his father each day and he will know that he is not independent. To be sure Hashem wants us to stand on our own two feet. But Hashem loves us and He wants us to arouse His love for us and He wants His joy to be aroused in our songs and prayers. We receive the shefa in daily portions so that we should be conscious that we need Hashem at every moment each day, and that He wants to give Himself to us each day.
The daily manna would melt once the sun got hot, so it had to be gathered each morning. The secret lies in understanding why we have needs- to make us aware that we need Hashem and to arouse our faith an trust in Hashem that He is giving us each day exactly what we need according to His kindness. And most of all to know that Hashem is giving us the opportunity to be in a deep and loving relationship with Him.
This is what the Rabbis had in mind when they said that the Torah is given only to those who eat the manna- meaning that they consume their daily portion with faith [and do not try to save any for the next day]. To receive the Torah, to receive the depths of life, to be in a relationship with the deepest essence of Hashem, we have to be like those who 'ate' the manna each day, with gratitude and faith; without worrying about tomorrow they made full use of their daily portions. Their faith and songs of gratitude freed them from their bodily attachments and concerns, allowing them to be fully present to receive Hashem's daily gift of Torah- His essence in words; and then even their bodies happily contributed their energies into serving Hashem.
The Holy Milkman and His Holy Horse
This morning I heard a lovely story at the Yeshiva, from my friend Reb Moishe. Some of you might be 'young enough' to remember the times when milk would be delivered each day or two by the milkman who would make his rounds with horse and wagon. through summer and winter the milk would be delivered and placed at your door early each morning. Back in those days there was a chassidic milkman, Reb Itche Dovid Denburg, זצ"ל. Some of his customers lived three flights up. In those days, in our section of Montreal, the stairways were outdoors. When there was a heavy snowfall it was quite a treacherous task to carry heavy glass bottles of milk up and down those slippery staircases.
Early one cold and snowy winter morning Reb Itche Dovid slowly and carefully made his way up to a third floor flat. He placed the bottles of fresh milk at the door and very slowly went back down the slippery stairs. Lo and behold! His horse was gone. The milk wagon was there but there but the horse was nowhere to be seen. Someone either stole it or unhitched it and scared it off. Luckily this happened near the end of Reb Itche Dovid's milk run. He just had one or two more deliveries to make down the street, which he did without the horse. Then he went back to the wagon and got his 'Tallis and Tefillin' and went to shul for the morning prayers. He daavened to Hashem and praised Him for all the good that He has bestowed upon him. He daavened for all the things he needed so that he could continue to serve Hashem and fulfill His Will in this world. 'Hashem I need my horse back so that I can make an honest living and feed my children - Your children'.
When he finished his prayers he said l'chaim to his friends, put on his heavy winter coat and boots to walk back home outside in the cold snow filled streets. Lo and behold! There was his horse waiting for him outside the shul! Apparently the horse got away from the thief and made his way to the shul. The horse already knew that at the end of the milk run he and Reb Itche Dovid would go to shul!
Now hear the most amazing part of this story. Many, many years later my friend Reb Moishe related this story to a man who was married to one of Reb Itche Dovid's great grandchildren. When he heard that even our holy milkman's horse knew to go to shul every day, he was so inspired that he didn't miss a single day of going to shul for the next three years.
And so we come back to the 'nesirah'- the painful detachment- whose real purpose is to lead us to a deeper relationship with Hashem.
May we all be blessed to remember and fulfill all the commitments we made this past year, especially all the tzedakkah commitments we made and may have forgotten. Tzedakkah is an act of compassion and is considered like offering a sacrifice to Hashem. In our being compassionate we arouse heavenly compassion upon ourselves.
"Tzedaka is called an opening. It is the first opening, it creates opportunities." Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan II 4,2.
May we be blessed to sincerely thank Hashem for all the wonderful Shabbatot we got to celebrate this past year, for every mitzvah we were able to perform, for every moment of friendship and love and for every moment of joy.
Let us not forget to forgive each other even for those things in which we are the ones who were ‘right’. Let us not forget to personally ask for ‘mechillah’ forgiveness from all the people that we may have hurt in any way; and we pray that their hearts will open to forgiving us......Amen.
Screenshot - Choose Life
Reb Shlomo zt”l taught: “On Rosh Hashonna, the day of the creation of the world, our closeness to G-d is so awesome that unless we take the whole thing - it just doesn’t go. Rosh Hashonna, the day when G-d created the world is such a deep day, mamesh the deepest depths there is. All of me has to be ready to take all of G-d, mamesh all of it.”
אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לפני ה' אלוקיכם
Parshat Nitzavim, (this week’s very short parsha consisting of only 40 verses) is always read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah. ATEM NITZAVIM HAYOM... You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d, to pass through [to enter] in the covenant of Hashem your G-d, and His oath....
Past and Present – Today
אַתֶּם - YOU – that is, every one of us as individuals, from our greatest leaders to our most simple, holy simple heart-warming wood choppers and thirst-quenching water carriers.
נִצָּבִים – Standing as complete integrated beings from head to toe.
הַיּוֹם – Today – we learn from our holy Rebbes of the Zoahr, is Rosh Hashanah, the “day of judgment."
כֻּלְּכֶם All of us are standing together, – as a truly united community of individuals and not only those of you who are present here today, but also every Jewish soul until Moshiach is coming.
All of us, whatever state we are in, in a state of “mochin de’gadlus”- higher consciousness or in “mochin de’katnus”- small mindedness; in our creative states, and in our simple labor states. As leaders, as followers, as wood choppers, as water carriers, all of us are to stand before G-d, in true unity, always and most particularly on Rosh Hashanah.
לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹקיכֶם – In the presence of Hashem- present from within your deepest depths, facing the deepest depths of Hashem. It must be all of you, individually and collectively, in true humility- even before the simplest lowest yid.
As we gather together on Rosh Hashanah to coronate Hashem, we need to reach doing tshuvah m’umka d’liba - in the deepest depths of our hearts. There you are truly humble. Only there and then is ‘knesset Yisarel’ - the community of all the souls of Israel – complete and in harmony, not even one yid is allowed to be missing.
The ‘knesset Yisrael’ within each one of us is complete only when we include every single yid. If even only one is ‘chas v’shalom’ missing, my tshuvah is not yet ‘m’umka d’liba’ – from the depth of my heart.
Oh G-d, please remind strongly and deeply
with loving embrace, healing embrace
that we are "standing before You"
help us to embrace love and truth
to embrace You, and You us
Give us please grant us the strength to return to You
to reaffirm our commitment to You
to our brothers and sisters
to our parents to our holy children
to Your Torah with joyous strength and love
Please bless us with the coming of Mashiach
quickly in our days
bless us with the rebuilding of Your Holy Temple
as the Rebbe would say we say Moshaich Now!
Amen Kein Yehi Ratzon
As we have been learning the last few weeks, sefer Devarim the fifth book of the Torah contains the three farewell speeches that Moshe Rabbeinu spoke to all of the children of Israel during the last five weeks of his life, just before we entered into the Land of Yisrael. In these last three talks he reviews almost all of the mitzvot and all the major events of our life as the Jewish people. He teaches us with love and concern, yet he also rebukes us, concerning both our past and our future, telling it to us 'like it is'!
Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher of Torah – Hashem’s 'Rayah Mehemnah' - the faithful shepherd of Israel is forever concerned about the well being of all of Israel, of every single Jew until Moshiach is coming. He encourages us and admonishes us to be real ‘yidden’. He knows that the journey is seldom easy. As soon as you think you have ‘arrived’ you discover that there is so much more to do. Yesterday’s horizon is today’s starting point, with new and often more difficult challenges. Along the way we may falter and fall, all too often. With each fall our self-confidence is badgered a bit more. We may look around and see that among those not engaged in spiritual struggle, there is wealth and power and they seem to be living a good life, no less and maybe even more than those who are struggling to live in accord with Torah and mitzvot.
Beware of Despair
And so it may come to pass, “when he hears the words of this curse, that וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ- - he blesses himself in his heart, saying: 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the freedom / stubbornness of my heart…” This person thinks that he can do whatever he wants and he will be spared of any negative consequences.
Quite differently and interestingly, the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel* translates וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ- - as ‘he despairs in his heart!!! and says I will be fine though I will do whatever my heart compels me to do. He has made so many mistakes etc. that he has fallen into ‘yai’ush’ – despair; he no longer believes that he can be a righteous individual, the struggle is too difficult and the rewards too elusive.
It is not difficult to understand this phenomenon. We are all quite familiar with it. However, the verse does use the phrase וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ- - which literally does mean that he blesses himself in his heart! What is the relationship between this “blessing” and “despair”?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l explains that we all live off the Divine plenty, which can be received in two ways: When one walks and lives according to the Torah, he receives his life vitality from the sources of Kedusha – holiness. However, on the side of Kedusha, the Divine flow is given only to one who deserves and it is delivered in measure commensurate with one’s behavior and good deeds.
But should one leave the path of Torah and stray so far that he loses his merit to receive his life sustenance from ‘Kedusha’, he may then receive it from the sources of ‘klipah’ and evil in the world. The life energy coming from these sources is not measured or limited according to one’s deeds. A very evil person might be far wealthier than a small time criminal. On this side it seems like one can live a prosperous regardless of one’s deeds. Only, this prosperity is just temporary.
So the sinner blesses himself in his heart, thinking 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the freedom / stubbornness of my heart…” In fact he thinks “I might even be better off,” because on this side one can attain much wealth and power, more than one deserves.
It looks like he is “blessing himself in his heart” – but this is not a blessing! It is “despair”! Every Jew in his deepest depth wishes to receive his life vitality from the side of Kedusha. If he has decided to receive it from the side of ‘klipah’ it is because he has fallen into despair, thinking that he can no longer do tshuvah and receive his life vitality from Kedusha. Having given up he follows the freedom and stubbornness of his heart.
REMEMBER – REBBE NACHMAN SAID “NEVER GIVE UP – IT IS FORBIDDEN TO DESPAIR!”
Rosh Hashanah letters from From Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l:
SONGS OF THE HOLY TEMPLE
New York, Elul 5748 - Reprinted from Cong Kehilath Jacob News
So, how long ago was last Rosh Hashana? How long ago were we together for 24 hours and at the end heard the trumpet of the Messiah? How long ago did we kindle the lights of Chanuka? How many minutes ago were we drunk on Purim and ate matza on Pesach? The truth is, it was a second ago; and the truth of the truth is, all the holidays are with us all year long. A Jew always blows a shofar, a Jew fasts all year, a Jew sits in the Sukka all his life, a Jew dances with the Torah into all eternities.
So we are inviting each other again for an even deeper Rosh Hashana / Yom Kippur, a more heavenly Sukkos, and a more beyond heaven Simchas Torah. When I was a little boy, I always asked my father, "Where are the songs of the Holy Temple?" And I never got a good answer because I could not believe that Jews can live without at least our- song from the Holy Temple, a song of King David, a song of beyond time and space, a song that reminds us that we are part of G-d.
A few years ago, late at night, I saw a frail Jew by the Holy Wall who drew my attention. He really prayed. I waited until he finished and he began telling me he had arrived that day from Russia after ten years in Siberia. I asked him, "How did you survive Siberia?" He said, "I was singing all the time."
Suddenly I had this flash and I asked, "Did you sing the songs of the Holy Temple?" And he was quiet for a long time. Tears of ten years of Siberia and maybe two thousand years of exile came out from his holy eyes. And he said, "My whole family are Chassidim from the time of the Baal Shem Tov, and my holy grandfather told me in the name of the holy Baal Shem Toy, that the way we chant prayers on the High Holidays is the way they were singing them in the Holy Temple - the way King David composed them."
That evening changed my life. Whenever I give a concert, I always include the prayers of the High Holidays. The melodies reach, like the Shofar, to the deepest chambers of our souls.
Just imagine Baron Rothschild, suffering from amnesia, standing on it street corner, dirty and filthy, begging for dimes. The first thing he needs is to remember is that he is Rothschild and then to wash up and change his clothes, and then to go back to his home.
All year long everyone in his own way is suffering from amnesia. We forgot what a Jew is, we forgot what a human being is, and we forgot who G-d is. Rosh Hashana when we blow the Shofar, we remember everything. On Yom Kippur, we wash up and on Sukkot we move back into our heavenly abode -- to the palace we are meant to live in.
There is war in the world and hatred because the world has amnesia and his forgotten what it is to be human. There is so much trouble in Israel because the whole world refuses to remember that G-d gave us the land. Let this Rosh Hashana wake up the world. Let this Yom Kippur clean us and the whole world. Let this Sukkos, when we bring sacrifices for all the seventy nations in the Holy Temple, restore dignity all the nations of the world.
There were never so many homeless people in New York as today and this phenomenon is actually all over the world. It is as if G-d is reminding us that if true humanity, true belief in G-d has no home in the world yet. Sukkos we are building a new home for G-d, for all of Israel and via Israel for the whole world. Let the New Year be the year we have been waiting for.
A ROSH HASHANAH LETTER from Reb Shlomo ztz"l:
"So friends in these few days we still have left before Rosh Hashanah & on Rosh Hashanah itself, I bless you and me, I'm begging you and I'm begging myself -- let's get all the anger out of our hearts... all the jealousy...all the pettiness. You know if I'm petty with other people, G-d forbid, then G-d is petty with me.
But if I'm big enough, the more I open my heart for other people, the more I open the gates for myself. Friends, the blessing people give each other on Rosh Hashanah is so deep, so forceful, so very awesome. On Rosh Hashanah every person can open gates for another person if you really mean it. I want to bless you & me that we should open gates for our husbands, wives, children & the entire world this Rosh Hashanah.
Friends, I'm begging you, I'm begging you, don't be angry, not even with yourself. Just lets cleanse our hearts, lets cleanse our thoughts... our holy rabbis tell us, the greatest joy in the world is when you "forging", you rejoice when something good happens for another person. On Rosh Hashanah, the acid test is, how much are you praying for someone else? In the Rosh Hashanah prayers, it's never singular, always plural. Because I'm standing before G-d & I'm saying unless you give life to the entire world, please don't give it to me. Unless you make everyone rich, please I don't want to be the only rich man. Unless you give peace to the whole world, don't give me anything, unless you give it to my husband, my wife, my children, unless you give it to Yerushalayim.
Friends! Let this year be a real beginning not the same beginning we go through every year. Let's not begin the old record over again -- let there be a new record. New teachings. New words. New thoughts. Let every breath we take feel like we never breathed before. The holy Sochachover says when we blow shofar, G-d absolutely blows a new soul into us. Lets keep this new soul so holy & so beautiful & let's inscribe each other into the book of life. GOOD YOM TOV!!!
A Window To The Parsha By Rabbi Shlomo Katz
When someone says they are absolutely speechless, they actually mean the exact opposite. They have so much to say but can't possibly figure out where to begin. This is exactly the story of this Shabbos, the last of the year.
During each of the other eleven shabbos mevarchim, the shabbos proceeding a new month, we have the opportunity to recite thepassionate prayer of blessing the new month, Birkat Hachodesh. This prayer is filled with the most divine requests for a month filled with all the good wishes one could ever bestow upon another and on oneself. However as we approach the new year and new month of Tishrei, no such prayer is uttered
Why is this?
Very simple, we are all speechless. Do any of us have the faintest idea as to how much G-d has in store for us?
Reb Shlomo ztz'l would often bless people that not only should our own dreams come true, but rather G-d's dreams for us should come true. Such profound words, since most of us put limits on our own dreams. Comes the Shabbos before the new year and we all let room for what G-d has in store for us, hoping that we tap into his dreams for us. These dreams are beyond words.
This is the secret of receiving a new breath of life which we all are in such desperate need of.
Shanna Tove Umetuka,
Rabbi Shlomo Katz
אוצר רב שלום - Reb Sholom's Treasures
A JEW NEVER GIVES UP ON TSHUVAH
The holy Kubriner Rebbe zt"l said, that one who thinks that he cannot come back and be very close to Hashem after having faltered and having given in to temptation, has not yet stepped over the doorstep of Chassidut. Later he added, that he hasn't even stepped over the doorstep of Yiddishkeit! Pray that we never give up on ourselves that we never give up on each other. Pray for the wholeness and peace in Am Yisrael. Shalom al Yisrael v'al kol ha-olam! May we merit to welcome Moshiach quickly...Amen.
THE INGATHERING OF THE EXILES
To get out of our exiles is seldom easy and it can actually be extremely difficult. However, we must always remember that Hashem is always with us everywhere and is promising us His help.
"And Hashem will return your returnees, [lit. come back with your returnees]". Devarim 30:3 I found the following amazing teaching in Rashi's commentary:
"The verse should have said, "Hashem will BRING BACK your returnees." The Rabbis derive from here, that the Divine Presence, with all due reverence, resides with Yisrael, in the suffering of their exile, so that when they are redeemed, He ascribes redemption to Himself [as well]; He shall return with them.
One may also explain: The day of the ingathering of the exiles is so momentous and difficult, [it is] as if He, Himself, needs to carry, literally in His grasp, every individual from his place, as it says: "You shall be plucked, one at a time, B'nai Yisrael". And even with regard to the exiles of other nations we find this, "I shall bring back [lit. I will come back with] the returnees [amongst] the children of Amon ".