1. Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu is between Yom Kippur and the Yom Toy of Sukkos, and there is a connection between all three. Yom Kippur is called “Shabbos of Shabbosim.” Yom Toy is associated with the concept of Shabbos, it being termed a “festival of holy assembly;” for on Yom Toy we draw from the level of “holy,” which is the concept of Shabbos — “the holy Shabbos,” and “You shall guard the Shabbos because it is holy for you.”1 Thus the connection between Shabbos, Yom Kippur and the Yom Toy of Sukkos is that they all contain the concept of Shabbos.

These three things are also connected in the quintessence of their content.

The quintessence of Yom Kippur is atonement, as emphasized in its name, the “Day of Atonement” (Kippur means atonement). Atonement is procured through the service of teshuvah (repentance). The quintessence of Shabbos is also teshuvah, as seen from its name, Shabbos having the letters ‘tashev,’ meaning return; for the service of Shabbos is ‘teshuvah iloh’ — the highest level of repentance. And since as explained above, Yom Toy is comparable in many respects to Shabbos, it too is associated with teshuvah. Parshas Ha’azinu is always read on the Shabbos preceding or following Yom Kippur,2 and the concept of teshuvah is specially stressed on the Shabbos on which this parshah is read.

This year Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu follows Yom Kippur, and it has a special distinction compared to a year when it precedes Yom Kippur. Teshuvah is of the loftiest level — “beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in this world.” For through teshuvah one rectifies previous deficiencies in one’s observance of Torah and mitzvos, making one beloved before G‑d as if he never sinned. Indeed, one’s reward after teshuvah is greater than if one had never sinned at all.

This is the general concept of teshuvah. However, on ‘Shabbos Shuvah,’ which is loftier than all other Shabbosim, which themselves contain the concept of teshuvah (as above, that Shabbos is the same letters as ‘tashev’ — return), the service of teshuvah is on an extremely high level. Nevertheless, on Yom Kippur, which follows Shabbos Shuvah, the service of teshuvah is loftier still, in consonance with the dictum “one ascends in holiness.” Hence, on Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu, which this year follows Yom Kippur, we must say that the teshuvah of this Shabbos is higher than even that on Yom Kippur, since also then we must “ascend in holiness.” Whereas when Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu precedes Yom Kippur, the teshuvah of Yom Kippur is on a loftier level (“ascension in holiness”) than the preceding teshuvah of Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu.

“All days (of the following week) are blessed from the (preceding) Shabbos.” The Shabbos between Sukkos and Yom Kippur blesses the following days of Sukkos, especially the first day which encompasses all the rest of the days of Sukkos.3 Thus the distinction of Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu (the level of teshuvah even loftier than that of Yom Kippur) is expressed in the blessing that flows from this Shabbos to the days of Sukkos.

2. The Previous Rebbe once went to his father, the Rebbe Rashab, on the day after Yom Kippur,4 and asked him: “What is the service one should perform now?” His father answered him: “Now we must begin doing teshuvah!” Although Yom Kippur has just passed, the service of teshuvah begins now.

The story is perplexing. The Talmud (Kerisus 25a) relates the following: “They said of Bava ben Buta that he would offer a suspensive (conditional) guilt-offering5 every day, except on the day following Yom Kippur.” Since a person can never be sure whether he is free of sin (i.e. a person can inadvertently sin without knowing), Bava ben Buta would bring a suspensive quilt-offering each day to atone for sins that he may have committed without knowing. But, since Yom Kippur atones for and eradicates the very idea of sin, including even doubtful ones, he did not offer such a suspensive guilt-offering on the day after Yom Kippur. If so, how could the Rebbe Rashab say that on the day after Yom Kippur one must now repent — has not Yom Kippur completely eradicated any trace of sin?

The answer will be understood through the explanation of another question. In the prayers of Yom Kippur, we recite the confessional prayer several times. On Yom Kippur, Jews are on a level comparable to angels, and therefore, “we are accustomed to wear clean white clothes on Yom Kippur to be similar to the ministering angels.” Likewise, we do not eat or drink then — like angels. But if so, why do we recite the confessional prayer? Such a prayer is applicable when men are on the level of humans; but when they are as angels, completely removed from any sin, surely the confessional prayer is inappropriate?! Especially since Yom Kippur is associated with the loftiest level of the soul, Yechidah, which has no connection to sin at all. Why then do we say confession for sins on Yom Kippur?

Likewise, on weekdays, we recite the blessing “Pardon us” in the Shemoneh Esreh, which follows and is the culmination of the previous prayers, including the ‘verses of praise’ and the Shema. At such a stage in our prayers, when we are as ‘servants before the Master’ — surely it is then inappropriate to beg forgiveness for sins. Would it not be more fitting to beg such forgiveness before any of the prayers such as the ‘verses of praise’ and Shema?

However, a person’s spiritual standing is not static, and he is expected to rise ever higher. Those things which on a previous level were not considered sins, are now, on his higher level, considered to fall into the category of sin — for which forgiveness must be asked. Therefore, on weekdays, the blessing “Pardon us” is said specifically in the Shemoneh Esreh, for only then, when he has reached the peak in prayer and stands as a servant before his Master, does he realize that there are things which, although previously permissible, now need forgiveness.

So too with the confessional prayer recited on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, when Jew and G‑d are united together, precisely then does a Jew realize that his previous standing must be considered as imperfect, and therefore needs forgiveness and atonement. Although his previous conduct was then considered permissible, now, when his repentance brings him closer to G‑d (“the spirit shall return to the G‑d Who gave it”), his standing is such that previous conduct is found wanting, and must be atoned for.

All Jews are on such a lofty level on Yom Kippur. The Kohen Godol, (High Priest), who served in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, was the emissary of all Jews, and as such, his service of atonement was the service of all Jewry. Hence, on Yom Kippur all Jews are completely united with the very Essence and Being of G‑d.

Now we can understand why the Rebbe Rashab said that on the day following Yom Kippur we must repent. Since all Jews are elevated to the loftiest heights on Yom Kippur, it is demanded on the day following Yom Kippur that their service of teshuvah be loftier still. For although prior to Yom Kippur their standing was such as not to demand such a lofty service, now, after the elevation of Yom Kippur, they are able, and must, reach a higher level through the service of “the spirit shall return to the G‑d Who gave it” (the service of teshuvah) — consonant with the dictum “one must ascend in holiness.” And on the Shabbos following Yom Kippur, when everything accomplished on Yom Kippur is elevated yet further, the service of teshuvah must be loftier still.

There seems, however, to be a contradiction here. Niglah, the exoteric part of Torah, seems to infer that the teshuvah of Yom Kippur is the peak of perfection, and one cannot go higher than that. How then, can we say that on the Shabbos after Yom Kippur a teshuvah loftier still is demanded?

We cannot answer that while it is true that Niglah does indicate such a position, the Esoteric part of Torah teaches us that one can go further than the teshuvah of Yom Kippur. For the service of teshuvah is part of Halachah, affecting actual deed — and the Halachah can only be according to one view.

But the answer is that although a person does not understand such a paradox, nevertheless, there are matters in Torah which stem from a source beyond comprehension and understanding. Indeed, the peak of comprehension of G‑d is the understanding that He cannot be comprehended!6 In other words: In general, the study of Torah must be with understanding and comprehension, with intense intellectual effort. There are however, some matters, which even after thorough study, one realizes are beyond proper comprehension; and this realization is itself the comprehension. The need for yet a loftier level of teshuvah even after Yom Kippur is one of these matters.

The lesson derived from all this is as follows: One must involve oneself, through the ‘campaigns,’ in spreading Judaism and Chassidus to the ‘outside.’ However, some people say that they do not have to venture forth into the ‘outside,’ for they consider themselves to be perpetually on the lofty level of Yom Kippur. They are comparable to angels, and their task is not to involve themselves with the outside. They are occupied in prayer and Torah study the entire day, and have nothing, and wish to have nothing, to do with other matters.

The counter to this claim comes from the concept of saying the confessional prayer on Yom Kippur. Despite a Jew’s lofty level on Yom Kippur, his service is the confession of sins. We find that the saintly Arizal used to say the confessional prayer (said everyday), for he included himself with the congregation of Israel. Although the gulf between the level of the Arizal and that of all other Jews was immense, he nevertheless joined together with other Jews in saying the confessional prayer.

So too with all Jews. One may indeed be on a level similar to Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, just as the Arizal included himself with all Jews, so too one must involve himself with other Jews and influence them in the ways of Torah and Chassidus. Indeed, this is similar to each individual reciting the confessional prayer even though it may be Yom Kippur, when he is on the loftiest level.

The reason being as follows: As explained previously, precisely because of the lofty level of Yom Kippur, a Jew realizes that his previous service was wanting, and thus a confession of sins is necessary. For on Yom Kippur a Jew is united with the very Essence of G‑d, and on such a plane, all previous service is found deficient and must be atoned for. But precisely because a Jew is then united with G‑d, he knows and understands the true purpose and goal of his creation. G‑d wanted a dwelling place for Himself specifically in this corporeal world, and it is the Jew’s mission to make it so. And the way to accomplish this is through spreading Judaism and Chassidus to the outside — to make the world a fit dwelling place for G‑d.

Now we can understand the greatness of Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu of this year which falls out between Yom Kippur and Sukkos. It is demanded of a person that he involve himself in the mitzvah campaigns unique to this time — Lulav and Esrog, Sukkah, joy on Yom Tov etc. The fact that this Shabbos is after Yom Kippur, when the level of teshuvah is loftier even than Yom Kippur, and a Jew’s unity with G‑d is on the highest level — this itself emphasizes the importance of involvement in such campaigns. For the loftiness and greatness of this Shabbos makes a Jew realize that through the spreading of Judaism and Chassidus one fulfills the will of G‑d to have a dwelling place in this world.

Through involvement in the above we merit G‑d’s blessings in all things, especially in success in the dissemination of Judaism and Chassidus. This then brings the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.

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3. There is a special lesson to be learned from the day of the month on which Shabbos Parshas Ha’azinu falls this year — the 12th of Tishrei. In a previous farbrengen (Shabbos Shuvah), we mentioned that Naphtali was born on the 5th of Tishrei. Hence, his Bris Milah (circumcision) eight days later was on the 12th of Tishrei. And just as a person’s birthday is special for then his ‘Mazal’ is on the ascendancy, so too the day of his Bris is special, for “the beginning of the entering of this holy soul (into the body) is effected through the mitzvah of Milah.”

Likewise, Avraham’s circumcision was on Yom Kippur (Pirkei d’R. Eliezer Ch. 29), and therefore the 12th of Tishrei was the third day after his Bris Milah. On that day “G‑d appeared to Avraham,” and informed him that he would have a son Yitzchok. Avraham, our Sages tell us, recognized his Creator when he was three years old, and was circumcised when he was 99 years old. Yitzchok however, was born to Avraham after Avraham was circumcised, and he himself was circumcised on the eighth day. He was the first Jew to be born a Jew. Therefore Yitzchok is called “the head of the circumcised,” for he was the first to be circumcised on the eighth day — and milah in its correct time (i.e. on the eighth day and not later) is a very great thing.

The birth of Yitzchok was completely above nature, for both Avraham and Sarah were, in the normal order of things, far beyond the age of child bearing. As the verse states (Bereishis 21:7) “Who would have said to Avraham that Sarah could suckle children?” And the notification by G‑d to Avraham that they would have a son was not just that alone, but rather, “I will multiply your seed.”

The lesson from this is as follows: A Jew, when venturing into the world to spread Judaism and Chassidus, may see that in the normal way of things, it is impossible to change the world. The story of Yitzchok’s birth provides the answer. One must not be impressed or affected by the natural order of things, for the news of the birth of Yitzchok, the birth of yet another Jew, was higher than nature. Then, undaunted by the external appearance of things, one endeavors to spiritually circumcise a fellow Jew (and if necessary, to convince those who are literally not circumcised to fulfill this mitzvah). The circumcision (spiritual or otherwise) of even one Jew, effects the promise that “I will multiply his seed” — for through this one Jew others will also be brought closer to Judaism.

Likewise, a Jew must not be affected by non-Jews and non-Jewish attitudes in his work to convert the world to holiness. When a Jew does his work properly, G‑d assists him in everything — as G‑d assisted Avraham at the time “G‑d appeared to him” on the 12th of Tishrei.

In practical terms. One must work to bring all Jews closer to their heritage, consonant with the lesson of the 12th of Tishrei, when Avraham was informed of the coming birth of Yitzchok. Likewise, in consonance with today being the Bris of Naphtali, this work must be done with great enthusiasm and alacrity. The quintessence of Naphtali is “Naphtali is a hind let loose — swift in running.” And, as the Shulchan Aruch states, a Jew must be ‘swift as a deer’ in his service to G‑d.

May it be G‑d’s will that we merit soon the ‘Kinor’ (harp) of eight strings. The harp in the Bais Hamikdosh had seven strings. That of the future redemption will have eight strings, connected with Bris Milah which is performed on the eighth day. This is accomplished through every Jew increasing his observance of Torah and mitzvos, thus bringing himself and the entire world to redemption — the coming of our righteous Moshiach, quickly in our times.

4. On the verse (Devorim 32:3): “When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd, ascribe greatness to our G‑d,” Rashi comments: “...When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd, you ‘shall ascribe greatness to our G‑d’ and praise His name. From this our Rabbis said that one must answer ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom’ after (the recital of) the blessing in the (Bais) Hamikdosh.”

There are a few puzzling points in Rashi’s commentary. The verse on which he bases his commentary states only “ascribe greatness to our G‑d.” From where does Rashi infer that this refers to the answering of ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom’? Likewise, from where does Rashi infer that this refers specifically to answering the blessing in the (Bais) Hamikdosh?

Indeed, the plain meaning of the verse seems to be that wherever G‑d’s name is mentioned (“When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd”), one must praise G‑d (“ascribe greatness to our G‑d”).

Even if there is some refer specifically to the glory of His kingdom” between answering this in reason to say that it does answering of “Blessed be — what is the connection the (Bais) Hamikdosh to Parshas Ha’azinu (where it is stated)? Parshas Ha’azinu is the words of Moshe Rabbeinu to the Jewish people. If, when Moshe Rabbeinu would mention G‑d’s name, the Jews did not “ascribe greatness to G‑d” (for according to Rashi it refers to the answering in the Bais Hamikdosh) — why is it stated in the parshah which is comprised exclusively of Moshe’s words to the Jews.

Furthermore, the Sifri says that we learn from this verse to answer Amen to a blessing.7 Why then does Rashi not interpret this verse as the Sifri, that the words “ascribe greatness to our G‑d” means to answer Amen after a blessing. Why does he insist that it refers to answering “‘Blessed be the glory of His kingdom’ after (the recital of) the blessing in the (Bais) Hamikdosh?”8

Some authorities explain that Rashi does not follow the Sifri’s interpretation, because it does not accord with the terminology of the verse. The verse states “ascribe greatness to our G‑d,” and the answering of Amen after a blessing (as the Sifri says), is not an ascription of greatness, but rather an expression of assent and belief in the words of the blessing. Hence, Rashi says “ascribe greatness to our G‑d” refers to the answering of “Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom” — which expresses the greatness of G‑d.

Likewise, they explain that Rashi emphasizes that this refers to the answering in the Bais Hamikdosh specifically, for the verse states “When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd.” This, they maintain, refers to the Ineffable Name, which could only be pronounced in the Bais Hamikdosh.

However, all is not yet clear. Rashi’s commentary is based on the plain meaning of the verse — and there is no reason in the plain meaning to presuppose that “the name of the L‑rd” refers only to the Ineffable Name. The name “L‑rd” is mentioned innumerable times in Scripture, and in the vast majority it does not necessarily refer specifically to the Ineffable Name.

In addition, notwithstanding these explanations offered on Rashi, we are still left with the puzzle of the connection between the answering of “Blessed be the name...” in the Bais Hamikdosh, and Moshe’s words to the Jews in Parshas Ha’azinu.

We will understand the explanation of all the above through clarification of yet another question. Parshas Ha’azinu was said by Moshe Rabbeinu on the last day of his life, at the end of the Jew’s forty years in the desert. Why did Moshe Rabbeinu wait forty years to inform the Jews of the commandment “When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd, ascribe greatness to our G‑d”? Moshe taught the Jews Torah during all the forty years, and surely he mentioned G‑d’s name many times when learning Torah. Why then, only on the last day of his life, did he see fit to inform them of the obligation of ascribing greatness to G‑d when His name is mentioned?

Thus Rashi is forced to conclude that the proclamation of the name of the L‑rd in this verse cannot refer to the regular mentioning of G‑d’s name, but to a unique circumstance. Therefore, Rashi says that it refers to the obligation that “one must answer ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom’ after (the recital of) a blessing in the (Bais) Hamikdosh.”

And the five-year-old to whom Rashi addresses his commentary knows that there is special distinction attached to mentioning G‑d’s name specifically in the Bais Hamikdosh. On the words: (Shemos 20:21) “In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you” Rashi comments that “Where I shall give you permission to mention My Ineffable Name, there ‘I will come to you and bless you’ — I will cause My Divine Presence to rest upon you. From here you learn that permission was not given to mention the Ineffable Name except in the place where the Divine Presence comes, and that is the Bais Hamikdosh — there permission was granted to the Kohanim to mention the Ineffable Name at the ‘lifting of the hands’ to bless the people.” Hence we see proclaiming G‑d’s name in the regular manner cannot compare to that in the Bais Hamikdosh — for only in the Bais Hamikdosh could the Ineffable Name be mentioned. Therefore Rashi says that the verse “when I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd” — which, as explained earlier, must refer to a unique circumstance — means the utterance of the Ineffable Name in the Bais Hamikdosh. In such a situation, the command “ascribe greatness to our G‑d” applies — by answering “Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom.”

Although the verse does not mention the Bais Hamikdosh at all, nevertheless, because of the above logic, Rashi is forced to conclude that it refers to the proclamation of G‑d’s name in a special manner (the Ineffable Name) and in a special place (the Bais Hamikdosh).

Likewise, Rashi does not follow the interpretation of the Sifri that this verse refers to the answering of ‘Amen’ after a blessing. For answering Amen is a common place affair, after blessings made each and every day. And the verse “Ascribe greatness to the L‑rd,” commanded specifically at :the end of the forty years, cannot be said to refer to this.

Since this verse refers specifically to answering after the blessing in the Bais Hamikdosh, it is understood why this commandment was given only at the end of the forty years in the desert. During those forty years, this commandment was not relevant, for it refers only to the Bais Hamikdosh. Hence it was precisely on the last day of Moshe’s life, just prior to the Jews’ entrance to the land — where the Bais Hamikdosh would be built — that this command was given.

Only one point remains unsolved. What is the connection between this verse and the general context of Parshas Ha’azinu, which are Moshe’s words to the Jewish people?

Parshas Ha’azinu follows Parshas Vayeilech, the conclusion of which is (Devorim 31:16): “And the L‑rd said to Moshe ‘Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers...” Therefore, just prior to his death, Moshe commanded (31:28): “Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes etc,” in order to reprove them — which this reproof is Parshas Ha’azinu. The context of this reproof was that Jews must observe Torah and mitzvos, and if their service is deficient, punishment will be forthcoming. Thus it states (32:6) “Is He not your father who has acquired you, has He not made you and established you?” — to teach them the necessity for fulfilling Torah and mitzvos.

The verse “When I will proclaim the name of the L‑rd, ascribe greatness to our G‑d” comes as an introduction and preparation to this reproof. That is, the very concept of ‘proclaiming the name of the L‑rd’ demands that one’s conduct be such that one “ascribes greatness to our G‑d.”

This is similar to the juxtaposition of the first two paragraphs of the Shema. The first paragraph read is “Hear 0 Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One,” which is the acceptance of the yoke of heaven upon oneself. Then follows the acceptance of the yoke of performing mitzvos — tefillin, mezuzah etc. Then comes the second paragraph, which is reproof, talking of the punishment that will follow the non-observance of Torah and mitzvos.

So too in our case. “When I will call upon the name of the L‑rd, ascribe greatness to our G‑d” is the acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Then follows the acceptance of the yoke of mitzvos, the natural outcome of “Is he not your father who has acquired you...” Finally, follows the reproof which talks of the punishment that is meted out for non-observance of Torah and mitzvos.