Parshas Netzavim-Likkutei Torah-Rosh Hashanah

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Atem Nitzavim Hayom Kulchem…”

 [Likkutei Torah p. 44a]

Parshas Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh Hashanah. In acknowledging this phenomenon, the Alter Rebbe examines an inner meaning of this Parsha and its perennial relevance, along with the message it contains for us regarding the upcoming High Holidays. The Mamar begins with a discussion on the ten levels of individuals enumerated in the first Pasuk. These ten levels represent the ten different levels of Jews, from the highest to the lowest. The message imparted by the opening verse is the required unity of all the different types of Jews as a preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Yet why is this unity of specific importance to Rosh Hashanah and its Avoda? The Alter Rebbe explains that this unity is necessary in order to make a covenant with Hashem, a pact between the Jewish people and His Majesty. This covenant withstands any impediments that may arise between the Jewish people and Hashem, as it is an eternal essence-bond, transcending rhyme or reason and no act can ever compromise its hold. This covenant occurs on Rosh Hashanah and is annually perpetuated through the recital of the verses of Malchiyos and Zichronos and the blowing of the Shofar. The Shofar represents the inner cry which awakens and draws down the internal love of Hashem for His people and regenerates the inner bond and covenant between us for the coming year. Through so doing, we merit a Kesiva Vechasima Tova to all Klal Yisrael.


Explorations of the Mamar

  1. Who are the ten types of Jews enumerated in the Parsha and what is their significance?
  2. What High Holiday message does Parshas Netzavim have to tell us?
  3. Why is the unity of Jews a prerequisite for the coronation?
  4. How do the Shofar and the recital of the verses in Musaf arouse within Hashem a desire to be king?



The Question:

The verse states, “Atem Netzavim Hayom Kulchem Lifney Hashem Elokeichem, Rosheichem Shivteichem Zikneichem Veshotreichem, Kol Ish Yisrael. Tapchem Nisheichem, Vegercha Asher Bekerev Machanecha Meichotev Eitzecha Ad Shoev Meimecha.” “You are standing all today; Your heads of tribes… from the wood choppers to the water carriers.” The question is asked: What day does the word “today” in the verse refer to?  Why doesn’t it record a more specific date? Furthermore, there are a total of ten levels of Jews enumerated in these two verses. What is the meaning of these ten listings and for what purpose does the Pasuk mention them? Plus, this Parsha is always read before Rosh Hashanah, alluded to in the word “Atem Netzavim Hayom”, as the term Hayom signifies Rosh Hashanah. As such, what connection does this Parsha and verse have with Rosh Hashanah?


The unity of all Jews:

Rosh Hashanah is the day of “Zeh Hayom Techilas Maasecha Zichron Leyom Rishon” [the day commemorating the purpose of creation]. On this day all the sparks of Neshamos stand and are elevated to their original source and root before Hashem. The ten spectrums of individuals listed in the verse correspond to the ten soul powers contained within each soul. Just as every soul has three intellectual powers and seven emotional traits, there are likewise ten different characteristics found amongst the Jewish people. The Jewish people are in truth considered one soul which is collectively called “Kelalus Neshamos Yisrael.” It is this general soul of Israel that is then split into ten different levels and characteristics, some lower and some higher. On Rosh Hashanah all the different levels return to their position of unity in the general soul level and hence even the lowest level souls now unite and become one with the higher level souls. This is hinted to in the verse “Vayehi Bishurun Melech Behisasef Roshei Am,” that the unity of the Jewish people is required for Hashem to become King.


The ability for all Jews to unite – Every Jew helps complete another:

One of the central principles of the realm of Holiness is that each level incorporates part of its antecedent, parts of other levels found in Holiness [i.e. Chesed Shebegevurah; Gevurah Shebichesed]. As a result, lower levels thus contain a higher root while higher levels contain a lower root. There is no true head or tail, much like a circle which has no discernible starting point. Likewise for the Jewish souls: Every lower level soul is rooted above a higher level soul. Thus each soul possesses a superior element not contained in any other soul. It is for this reason that the Sages in Pirkei Avos repeatedly state that one is to feel humbled before all people, as every Jew contains within him some advantageous aspect absent in another Jew and hence every Jew needs the other in order to have a complete spectrum. Thus, even the lower level Jews and souls contain a superior quality not found in those of higher levels. This is similar to the difference between a head and a foot: although the head is undoubtedly higher and of greater importance, it would be immobile and stagnant if it weren’t for the feet. Plus, the legs balance the head in a straight posture and help keep it supported. Indeed, without the legs the head would be extremely limited, regardless of its inherent supremacy over them. The same applies to all the Jewish people. Even one who considers himself head and shoulders above his peers is still dependent on those “lower” Jews to complete him and make up for what he lacks. Through implementing this into our perspective, one will be able to unite and become one with other Jews thereby allowing Hashem’s Shechina to reside within our unity. However, one who thinks that he is truly higher than his friend and that his friend is in no way higher than him causes himself to fall within the side of Kelipa.


Unity-The prerequisite for the Coronation:

Rosh Hashanah is the day of general Teshuvah in which the souls of all Israel return to their source and root. On this day we become one within Hashem’s unity. Yet what is the importance of this unity specifically to Rosh Hashanah? This is explained through the fact that on Rosh Hashanah Hashem remembers and recreates his covenant with us, the Jewish people. In order for this covenant to take place, the Jewish people need to be represented as a united whole. [This is similar to a peace treaty between two countries in which it is not possible to make a treaty if one of the countries is split with internal fighting. Rather the country must unite as one entity to come forward for the treaty.] 


The covenant:

The verse continues and states that the purpose of the gathering of all these Jews is to “Leavarecha Bebris,” to pass us through a covenant. A covenant is similar to a pact made between two friends to solidify as fact that their bond and friendship will never cease. When love is dependent on some external factor, the loss of that factor can cease the friendship. If however that matter would last forever, then the friendship would too. The covenant pact is created due to a fear that perhaps the reason behind their friendship will end, or an external occurrence will interfere, and hence cause their love to cease. The pact thus ensures an everlasting love, resistant to any internal or external force. This is because they have fashioned a strong and powerful knot of love to connect and unite with each other in a manner which surpasses all logic and reason. Although in a relationship, offensive remarks and acts of betrayal, break the connection of love, as a result of the covenant, their love is forced to be eternal and to cover over any negative acts of hurtfulness from one side or the other. Furthermore, the great bond that has been enabled through the covenant actually creates and causes the two sides to be considered as one body, and just like one’s self love will never end, it will not end from upon his friend. It is for this reason that a covenant is called a “Kerisus Bris,” a cutting of a pact, for in those times when a covenant was made they would split a carcass in half and walk in between, signifying their new alliance to be considered like one body. This exact form of covenant was created by Hashem with us; that He will be with us regardless of any and all impediments, and His love for us will be above reason and logic. This covenant was aroused through the 13 attributes of mercy which Moshe drew down after the sin of the golden calf. The saying of these 13 attributes of mercy aroused this eternal love within Hashem and caused all the sins that separated us from Him to be forgiven and removed, and since “a portion of G-d is His nation,” we are considered one with Him. So how do we evoke and recreate this covenant on Rosh Hashanah each year? Through the blessings and verses recited in Musaf, as well as the blowing of the Shofar.


The meaning of Malchiyos, Zichronos, Shofros:

Although the holiday prayer of Shabbos and Yom Tov typically contains seven blessings (three in beginning, three in the end, and the blessing of Kedushas Hayom in the middle), nevertheless on Rosh Hashanah the Sages instituted nine blessings to be recited within the Musaf on both days. The three middle blessings are called מלכיות/זכרונות/שופרות Kingship/Remembrance/Shofar. The middle blessing of Kedushas Hayom contain the verses of Malchiyos/Kingship, and together with the Shofar blessings, are said in order to reveal the will of G-d to be King over us for the coming year.[1] The Remembrance blessing reminds G-d of the above covenant that He made with us. This reminder actually reaffirms the connection between us and G-d and thus makes His Kingship over us a possibility, for a King can only truly rule over a nation that can relate to Him. For example, a human is not termed a King over the animals which he naturally rules, rather he is termed a ruler. So too, and even more so, without us having a relation to G-d, Kingship over us is not a possibility. Thus it is the remembrance of the covenant which makes the Kingship possible. Nevertheless, what actually acts as the conduit for this covenant to take affect is the blowing of the Shofar.


Affecting the Covenant through Shofar-The inner cry of the soul:

The question still remains, however, as to how the simple blowing of the shofar has the power to affect our entire future year. The answer lies in the fact that the sound of the Shofar arouses the desire and pleasure Hashem has in reigning over us.[2] The Shofar represents the inner cry of the G-dly soul of a Jew, yearning for its attachment and return to G-d.[3] It is a cry from the deepest chambers of the heart and from the very core of the soul. The cry is so deep that it cannot possibly be expressed through words, for no word or combination of words could ever accurately portray such emotion. It is therefore expressed as a mere sound, a Kol Pashut, which is the sound of the Tekiah. It is this cry that arouses the love of Hashem for us and the covenant that he made, and causes the eradication of all concealments created by sin and grants the Jewish people a sweet good year in material and spiritual matters. 


A parable of the Baal Shem Tov:[4]

The Shofar represents the inner cry of the G-dly soul of a Jew, yearning to return and re-attach itself to G-d. It is similar to a disobedient child whose sins had distanced him from his father. The child is then given an opportunity to re-unite with his father and is so overcome by feeling of remorse and longing that he cannot verbalize any words. Instead, a simple, pure cry bursts out from the very depths of his soul. The moving cry of the soul inevitably touches the father’s heart and he decides to forgive and reaccept his son. The child is the Jewish soul who has become distanced from G-d due to its experiences in this world. It has lost its ability to communicate with G-d and can merely emit a simple yet powerful cry from the depths of its being. The cry represents regret for the past as well as determination for the future. This cry elicits G-d’s mercy and He chooses to forgive and reunite with him.


The proper focus of Rosh Hashanah:

In accordance to the above Mamar, we learn a fabulous lesson as to the proper perspective of the purpose of the Rosh Hashanah Holiday, and the service demanded of us on this day. Many of our Jewish brethren place sole focus on Rosh Hashanah on the idea that their blessings in life are being reviewed by G-d and decided upon for the coming year. Each person prays and supplicates to continue to receive those blessing and end any suffering that he is experiencing in the past year. The above Mamar teaches us to change our focus and deal more with the core issues at stake on this day, which is the continuation of our bond and relationship with Hashem. On this day we must focus on rekindling the love for Hashem we have indebted within our very essence, and arouse that essential love within G-d that he has for us. With this we can understand a puzzling statement of the Zohar which states that those that pray on [Rosh Hashanah and] Yom Kippur merely for physical matters are similar to a dog that screams “give give” for their food. The reason for this is because Rosh Hashanah is a day a Jew is to arouse himself in Teshuvah out of love for the Shechina and desire to unite with it. One whose sole focus is on his own personal physical benefits shows he is uninterested in the actual relationship This is the attribute of the Eirev Rav and the gentiles that they are only able to serve G-d for reward and selfish motivations.[5] Using the parable of the Baal Shem Tov, it is compared to the following:


A Parable:

Yudel, by now a young adult in his mid-thirties, has been estranged from his father for several years. You see, Yudel was not exactly the almost obedient child, and in his teenage years had several rifts with his parents that caused his eventual leave from his home and he had lived alone ever since. By now, in his mid-thirties, he was married with several children and was looking to purchase a new home for his family. Taking a mortgage required huge sums of down payments which Yudel simply could not afford. His wife suggested he ask his parents, who they knew were well off financially and certainly could afford to assist them. At first, Yudel would not hear of the idea, as he had not spoken to them in years. Perhaps, said his wife, this would be a good time to reconnect with them, and at the same time receive help for our first home. Yudell, taking the advice of his wife, sent his parents a letter which was deeply thought through and written with emotion of his desire to meet with them and rekindle their relationship. The parents, overjoyed by their reborn son, accepted the invitation with happiness and excitement and set a date to meet in a quiet area where they could talk. Yudel prepared anxiously for the meeting, but was having trouble with his emotions and if it is truly the relationship he is requesting to fix or it is the money that is driving force behind his desire to meet with them. This parable can now take two approaches: Yudel, not able to truly arouse a desire to rekindle his relationship with his parents came to the meeting well prepared with a dry speech that included his request for help with a mortgage, and the parents saw right through it, seeing that this was the main purpose of his approach. Needless to say the parents did not agree to help their son at this stage. A second approach: Yudel worked on himself prior to the meeting and rekindled his love and desire to reunite with his parents. At the meeting, he was very emotional and the words flowed from his heart naturally. His parents seeing the true change of their son, were immediately emotionally responsive and rebounded with their child, their long lost love. Needless to say, when the request for help with the mortgage eventually came up in the conversation, the parents willingly accepted to help their son.

The message for Rosh Hashanah is clearly understood from this parable. Let us approach Hashem as one who we love and desire to bond with and then certainly he will grant us a Kesiva Vechasima Tova in all matters of life!



Lessons of the Mamar

  • View every Jew as containing some advantageous spiritual aspect over you. We are all one soul and every Jew has some spark of spiritual necessity that only he can give us.
  • Hashem created a covenant of love with the Jewish people and he will never part from us. Let us respond with that same love and never part from Him, always abiding by His teachings and commands.
  • Rosh Hashanah is the time we rekindle this bond through the blowing of the Shofar. Use the time properly and focus on achieving this bond while fulfilling this Mitzvah on Rosh Hashanah.








[1] The Sages state that Hashem said to the Jewish people “Say before Me verses of Kingship, in order to make Me a king over you.” This means that by reciting verses of kingship we influence G-d to delight in us and desire to be our King. What is the connection between the verses of kingship and making Hashem King over us? This can be compared to a Torah scholar explaining his opinion and citing Torah sources so that his words be convincing. Similarly, here we ask G-d to desire kingship and for the request to be accepted we cite precedents from the Torah -as these verses are introduced in the liturgy itself: “And in your Torah it is written, saying”. [Siddur im Dach, p. 238]



[2] Siddur Im Dach “Shaar Hatekios” p. 246



[3] Siddur Im Dach “Shaar Hatekios” p. 232



[4] This parable is based on a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov brought in Hashlama to Keser Shem Tov sec. 194; See also Siddur Im Dach “Shaar Hatekios”; Likkutei Sichos 2/405; Hemshech Vekacha 5637 ch.70 for a Mashal of the Berditchiver; The kabalistic meaning behind the sounds of the Shofar is brought in Kaf Hachaim 585/11 and 28; Shaar Hakavanos 99; Peri Eitz Chaim 26/3; Siddur Rashash.



[5] Reishis Chochma Shaar Hateshuvah chapter 1



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