Erev 27 Elul, 5752

Translation by Sichos in English

1. It is customary to “Open with blessing.” This principle applies throughout the year and particularly so in the month of Elul when it is customary to exchange blessings. It applies to a greater extent in the final twelve days of the month of Elul when each of these days corresponds to one of the months of the year and has the potential to elevate our conduct of that month. Similarly, these twelve days serve as a preparation for the twelve months of the coming year.1

We have, moreover, already past the first Shabbos after which Selichos is recited and we are approaching the second Shabbos. For this year is unique in that Selichos are recited in two weeks. This reflects the uniquely positive nature of the present year, a year when “I will show you wonders,”2 i.e., not only did wonders take place, but they were openly perceived.

There is also a unique significance to the present day, the sixth day of Selichos.3 Six is two times three. As mentioned our atonement is threefold including “pardon, forgiveness, and atonement.” Six represents a twofold portion of this threefold atonement. Furthermore, the sixth day of the week is significant for it commemorates the creation of man.

This comes in addition to the uniqueness of our present period within the scope of Jewish history. It is after the time when the AriZal stated that “it is a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom” and after the time when the Alter Rebbe brought these teachings down into a form in which they could be understood by an ordinary person. In particular, we are fortunate to have been born in the era of the Previous Rebbe, an era which began from the moment of his birth. Even those individuals who were born previously can consider themselves to have been born in his era, for it is customary among Chassidim to consider the day when they came to Lubavitch as their birthday.

There is a connection between the above and the portion of this week’s Torah reading connected with the present day, the sixth aliyah of Parshas Nitzavim.4 This reading contains the verse “For this mitzvah which I am commanding you today… is not in the heavens… nor is it across the sea.”

This verse is problematic. Seemingly, the concept it is communicating is self-evident.5 At the time Moshe made this statement, the Jews had been observing the Torah for almost forty years. Moshe himself stated that it was not until the present time that they had acquired “eyes that see, ears that hear, and a knowing heart,”6 i.e., only then was their sensitivity to the Torah fully developed. Nevertheless, their previous experience should have been sufficient to show them that the Torah was not merely a spiritual service reserved for the “heavens,” or deeds only to be observed in a far-off place in the world — “across the sea.” Instead, their forty years of Torah observance in the desert7 should have shown them that the Torah is meant to be lived and applied in our lives in this material world.

This difficulty can be explained as follows: Indeed, the Torah is “in the heavens” and indeed, the Torah is “across the sea,” a reference to the ultimate state of fulfillment when “the knowledge of G‑d will fill up the world as the water covers up the ocean bed.” And indeed, the true state of Torah is above even the heavens and the sea. Nevertheless, the Torah — as it includes these spiritual peaks — has descended into our material world. And, as the portion from the Torah reading concludes, “The matter is very close to you, in your hands and in your mouth, so that you may perform it.”

And this lesson is amplified by the message of the present day which is associated with the service of teshuvah.Teshuvah has the potential to atone for all matters, even deficiencies in Torah, for Teshuvah establishes an internal bond with G‑d. And therefore, when G‑d was asked what should a person whose conduct has been lacking do, He replied, “He should turn in teshuvah and he will be granted atonement.”

In this context, the intent is the higher rung of teshuvah and therefore, the atonement is also on a more complete level. Not only are no traces of one’s sin mentioned in judgment — at this time, after much of the month of Elul and five days of Selichos have passed, this is self-understood, but also one’s sins are transformed into merits.

This is particularly true in the present age, when we have completed all the service required of us, and all our efforts should be concentrated on the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah.Needless to say, at this time, a Jew stands above judgment entirely and his connection to teshuvah is only to the higher rung of teshuvah, the teshuvah directly related to G‑d.

A Jew need not be concerned about his judgment for the coming year. From Rosh ChodeshElul on, and even previously, from the Fifteenth of Av,9 he was assured for a kesivah vachasimah tovah, that he be inscribed for a good and sweet year. And thus our service in the present days involves atonement and the higher rung of teshuvah. This causes the service to be permeated by happiness, and indeed, unbounded happiness, ad d’lo yoda.This happiness should be even greater than the celebrations of Purim, even the Purim of this year, whose celebrations were greater than those of Purim of the previous year.10

A Jew is a master of time. And he has the power to bring about a good inscription (chasimah tovah), a good final inscription (gmar chasimah tovah) and a good note (a guten kvitel) in the present days. And thus he can immediately proceed to the unbounded celebrations of Simchas Beis HaShoeivah and Simchas Torah.

And through the above, we will merit a fusion of the material and the spiritual. All the spiritual peaks of the Torah which are “in the heavens” and “across the sea,” will be revealed in our thought, speech, and action. For “The matter is very close to you, in your hands and in your mouth, so that you may perform it.”11


Preparation is significant for as the Previous Rebbe explained, before a Jew does anything (or even thinks or speaks anything), he should prepare himself.

As explained on a number of occasions, niflaos, “wonders,” represent a higher revelation of G‑dliness than “nissim,” miracles.

Although we have just recited the evening service, the preparations for the recitation of Selichos should start at this time. Indeed, despite the fact that Selichos should be recited in the early morning, we find certain communities who followed the custom of reciting Selichos at night, after midnight.

This portion shares an intrinsic connection to Rosh HaShanah as explained in many sources.

Although the hypothesis that the Torah is “in the heavens…” is immediately negated by the verse, the fact that they are mentioned at all is also significant. To explain this by referring to concepts in the Oral Law: Even ideas which the Talmud later rejects are still part of the Torah and were given to Moshe on Mount Sinai.

Here we see a sequence of three. However, these three qualities should be fused in a single approach.

The desert was an intermediary between Eretz Yisrael, the Jews’ destination, and Egypt, the place in which their journey originated. This process of transition is repeated every day in a Jew’s life. He begins his day in Egypt, in the boundaries and limitations of this world. And he must leave Egypt, experience the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and proceed to Eretz Yisrael.

Teshuvah brings an unlimited dimension to the service of Torah which is otherwise, characterized by limitation. And yet this unlimited dimension should be drawn down into our observance of the Torah and mitzvos as they exist within our limitations.

There is, however, an aspect of service with mesirus nefesh which surpasses the service of observing Torah within the limits of this world. Thus Rav Yosef Karo was informed that he was to die Al Kiddush Hashem, in Sanctification of G‑d’s Name. Afterwards, he was punished — and he himself writes that it was a punishment — and he was not privileged to carry out that elevated service. In his subsequent years, he authored his classic Torah texts, the Beis Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, it would have been considered a higher personal level of personal service to die Al Kiddush Hashem.

Our Sages associate this date with Yom Kippur, the day associated with the highest and most innerfelt experience of teshuvah. We recite five different prayer services on Yom Kippur and each represents teshuvah for one of the five different levels of the soul.

There is a unique dimension of eternality associated with the celebrations of Purim as reflected in our Sages’ interpretation of the verse, “And the memory [of these days of Purim] will never cease from among their descendants.”

Significantly, the Alter Rebbe cites this verse as the basis for the entire Tanya and quotes it on the title page.

Erev 26 Elul, 5751

Translation by Sichos in English

1. In regard to every new concept, one must “open with blessing.” Indeed, in Pnimiyus HaTorah, the word “opening” refers to the development of a totally new concept. This represents one of the differences between the manner in which Sages are quoted in the Talmud and the manner in which they are quoted in Pnimiyus HaTorah. In Pnimiyus HaTorah, when a Sages makes a statement, the expression used is “Rabbi — opened,” i.e., he opened up a new means of Torah expression. In a larger sense, this applies in all realms of Torah study, for every Torah concept should constantly be regarded as “new,” as our Sages said, “Each day the words of Torah should be new in your eyes.” Nevertheless, this newness is particularly evident in regard to Pnimiyus HaTorah.

The above is particularly relevant at the present time, the conclusion of the 25th of Elul, the anniversary of the creation of the world. The Baal Shem Tov relates that the world is recreated at every moment1 from absolute nothingness. Although the existence of the world appears to be maintained in a continuous manner, in truth every entity is brought into being from absolute nothingness. This concept receives even greater emphasis on the anniversary of the world’s creation.2

2. There is a famous analogy used by the Alter Rebbe to explain the importance of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward to Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz,3 which describes the crushing of the center jewel of a king’s crown to form an elixir that served as a remedy for the king’s son who had fainted and was critically ill.

This analogy refers to the Jews as they exist in exile. Any exile represents the very opposite of a Jew’s nature, which is to live in connection with G‑d, to be as a son at his father’s table, as it were.

In particular, the concept of exile is more acute, because every Jew can be likened to an only son of G‑d, King of Kings. Therefore, when he lives in exile, it is much more severe than an exile which a common person must suffer. For him, the exile is a drastic descent of the most serious order.

(In this context, we can understand the expression “the true and ultimate redemption.” The redemption is referred to as true, because it represents a revelation of a Jew’s true nature.)

There is a connection to the above and the portion of this week’s Torah reading connected with the present day, which describes the ingathering of the exiles. As it states, “And G‑d your L‑rd will return your captivity and He will again gather you in from all the nations.” Kibbutz, the Hebrew for “gathering in,” has the connotation, not only of collecting different entities, but of establishing unity among them.

Kibbutz (קבץ) is also numerically equivalent to the expressions of blessing used for each of the Patriarchs בכל מכל כל. In regard to Avraham, it is written, “And G‑d blessed Avraham with everything” (בכל; Genesis 24:1). In regard to Yitzchak, it is written, “I have eaten of all” (מכל; ibid., 27:33). And regarding Yaakov it is written, “I have everything” (כל; ibid., 33:11).” Since these are the Patriarchs of the Jewish people, it is understood that these qualities are communicated to each of their descendants and every Jew will have this threefold quality of blessing in the fullest possible manner. We can be certain that every Jew has turned to G‑d in teshuvah4 and gathered in his thought, speech, and deed which were “in exile,” and thus become worthy of these blessings.

To focus on the verse “And G‑d your L‑rd will return your captivity”: This implies that there is an exile, “captivity,” and there is “G‑d.” Furthermore, G‑d becomes “your L‑rd,” i.e., E‑lokecha(translated as “your L‑rd”) can also be interpreted to mean “your strength and your nature.” And when a Jew makes G‑d his strength and his nature — and this is accomplished for Torah study, for Torah, Israel, and G‑d are one — he steps beyond the exile and experiences redemption.

This relates to the concept that it is in the Era of the Redemption when the wedding bond between G‑d and the Jewish people will be consummated.5 (This is particularly relevant in the month of Elul for in this month, the love relationship between G‑d and the Jews is stressed as reflected in the connection with the verse, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”)

To explain: The concept of union is reflected in the Rambam’s conclusion of his description of the Era of the Redemption, “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover up the ocean bed.”6 The ocean is unique in that it covers up all the living beings that inhabit it to the extent that all one sees is the ocean. Similarly, through Torah study, a Jew enters into an all-encompassing bond of unity with G‑d to the extent that he loses his self-concern entirely. He is totally at one with G‑d and this oneness encompasses every aspect of his being.

* * *

3. The Torah reading of the previous week mentions the concept of bringing bikkurim, the first fruits offered in the Beis HaMikdash. The most choice fruits from the seven species of fruit for which Eretz Yisrael was blessed were brought. (Among these seven species is also a pomegranate. This relates to the first day of Rosh HaShanah when it is customary to eat pomegranates as a sign of blessing.7 ) Each Jew has the potential to make every entity in this world bikkurim. And these bikkurim must include every aspect of our experience to the extent that everything which a Jew does can be seen as a thanksgiving offering brought to G‑d in the Beis HaMikdash.

And this will lead to the fulfillment, in a simple and literal way, of the verse “And G‑d will return your captivity.” “A verse never departs from its simple meaning.” And the meaning of this verse is clear, that G‑d will gather in the Jews from all four corners of the world to Eretz Yisrael and there they will be able to bring bikkurim, the offerings of the first fruit, in Jerusalem with joyous song and a proud declaration of thanks.

And this will lead to an extended meaning of the verse, “And this is the blessing with which Moshe blessed them,” that every Jew will receive a blessing from Moshe who will arise in the Resurrection.8 And the Jews will stand in regal garments as the Megillah relates in regard to Mordechai9 and — to continue the reference to Mordechai — “will seek peace for all his people.”

And when the Jews gather together their thought, speech, and action and direct it toward G‑d, it will evoke a response from Him.10 And “G‑d your L‑rd will return your captivity,” bringing the Jews to Eretz Yisrael from the four corners of the world. May this take place in the immediate future.



1. And indeed, the entire concept of time is also brought into being anew for, time itself is also a creation.


2. There is another point of connection to the beginning of the creation at this time, for the first day of Selichos is always a Sunday, the day on which the creation began.


It is seemingly difficult to understand why the Alter Rebbe communicated the concept in the form of an analogy. Both he and Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz could have grasped the concept equally well had he explained the idea itself.


This is reflected in our Sages’ statement that if one sees a Torah scholar commit a transgression, one should not look askance at him, for he has surely repented. Although our Sages made this statement about a Torah scholar, there is a point of relevance to all Jews, because “all your children shall be students of G‑d.”

(Our Sages comment on that verse, a Torah scholar “increases peace in the world,” for the word baneich, “your children,” should be read as boneich, “your builders.” This does not, however, change the relevance of the verse’s simple meaning. Whenever our Sages offer an alternative expanded reading for a verse, the intent is not the simple meaning is not applicable, but rather, that both the simple meaning and the expanded meaning of the verse are applicable.


The wedding relationship between G‑d and the Jews also relates to Shabbos as reflected in the phrase, “Come my beloved to greet the bride. Let us welcome the Shabbos.” And the Shabbos is associated with the Era of the Redemption, the “era which is all Shabbos and rest for eternity.”


This relates to the very beginning of the creation, for on the verse “And the spirit of G‑d hovered over the waters,” Rashi comments, “This refers to the spirit of Mashiach.”


The pomegranates are eaten at the beginning of the meal. As the Previous Rebbe explained in regard to the apple dipped in honey, since the Alter Rebbe states that it should be eaten at the beginning of the meal, this means after eating of the HaMotzi. In this manner, there is no question regarding reciting a blessing after these fruits, for they are included in the Grace after Meals.


This blessing will be of a higher quality than those which Moshe gave previously, for this blessing will be given after Moshe has gained the level of perfection associated with the service of “And to earth, you shall return.”


The words the Megillah uses as a preface to the mention of Mordechai’s regal garments, “And Mordechai went out before the king,” also relates to every Jew. Each Jew “goes out” to perform the service of G‑d, the King of the world, to transform this world into a dwelling for Him.


We see this in our Sages’ statement that when a Jew studies, “the Holy One, blessed be He studies opposite him.” Furthermore, when the Jews make a decision in Torah law, e.g., choosing to follow the School of Hillel or the School of Shamai, the halachah is decided accordingly in the heavenly realms.