1. There is a well-known Sichah of the Previous Rebbe (published in Likkutei Dibburim Vol. I p. 230-231) which describes the spiritual mood and behavior which began on Shabbos Mevorchim Elul in Lubavitch. He relates how, from Shabbos Nachmu on, there were study sessions established after Maariv to fulfill the command of the verse “Arise, cry out at night” (Eichah 2:19).

On many occasions, the Previous Rebbe stressed that the recollection of previous times was intended, not for the purpose of remembering and retelling a story, but that those experiences be relived and expressed in our deed and action. Consequently the purpose of recalling the nightly study sessions in Lubavitch is to emphasize that after Shabbos Nachmu it is necessary for everyone to increase their study of Torah after Maariv.

In that Sichah, the Previous Rebbe continues: “When Shabbos Mevorchim Elul arrived it was already possible to feel the atmosphere of Elul... In Elul, the atmosphere changed.” In Lubavitch, Shabbos Mevorchim Elul brought about a change not only in the individual or even in a group, but in the atmosphere, in the general mood of the entire city.

Each individual has a number of needs: air, food, clothing, and shelter. Clothing is more necessary than shelter, food more necessary than clothing, and air most essential of all.1 Chassidic thought explains that it is because the world was created in a manner of kindness that the things most essential for life are more readily available. Since air is most necessary, it is free and available to all.

The same applies to the atmosphere of Elul which could be felt from Shabbos Mevorchim on. Certain of the customs mentioned in that Sichah, such as reciting Tehillim, etc. require a certain amount of effort. However the atmosphere of Elul was felt by merely breathing the air. Thus, unless one did in fact not breathe, one would feel the atmosphere of Elul. This in turn would affect the manner in which one recited Tehillim, increased the study of Torah at night, etc.

From this we can derive a lesson: From Shabbos Nachmu on, we must increase out study of Torah. This concept is based on the statement of our sages: “From the 15th of Av on, one who adds nights onto days in the study of Torah, will add life to his life.”2 This is particularly significant at present, since a number of days have passed since Shabbos Nachmu and the fifteenth of Av.

We must also begin feeling the “atmosphere of Elul.” In a simple sense, this should affect one’s service throughout Elul, “the month of accounts,” the month in which we prepare for the new year, ensuring that we be inscribed for a good and sweet year.

The above applies to the service of Elul every year. However, each year there is a unique lesson. This year, a Shemittah year, that is “a Shabbos unto G‑d,” is characterized, as Shabbos is, by the quality of pleasure. Everything that is done on Shabbos is permeated with pleasure;3 one’s eating, one’s sleeping, etc. Just as there is a difference between the Shabbos and the other days of the week, a similar relationship exists between the Shemittah year and the six previous years. Hence, there is a greater potential this year to fulfill the directives mentioned above.

Since the abovementioned Sichah was recited, written, published etc. by the Previous Rebbe, it is obvious that its directives are applicable to everyone who reads Yiddish. Moreover, the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel requires us to spread the Previous Rebbe’s teachings even to those who do not understand Yiddish. The teaching from the abovementioned Sichah that we should spread out is simply this: The longer nights after the fifteenth of Av should be utilized for the learning of Torah.

The reward a person receives for this — “long life” — can be understood in a broad sense. It applies not only in term of one’s entire life span but also in a daily sense, “one’s days become long.” It is possible that in a limited amount of time a Jew can accomplish what would normally take him much longer. This is the meaning of long life. Not only is his lifespan increased, but every moment of his life becomes longer and more meaningful.

The above applies to every individual and also the community at large. In the case of the latter, there is an added power and merit. The Rambam writes that each individual can with one action, tip the balance and bring salvation to himself and to the entire world. Thus if many people carry out many positive deeds, they surely generate great power and merit. Likewise, the blessing that is drawn down through their study of Torah is also great. This will all hasten the coming of salvation to the entire world, when “these days will be transformed into days of joy and festivals” with the coming of Moshiach and the construction of the eternal Temple, speedily in our days.

2. In the abovementioned Sichah, the Previous Rebbe writes that the Ma’amarim recited Shabbos Mevorchim Elul would generally begin with the words: “Ani LiDodi ViDodi Li,” “HaShamayim Kisi,” or “Re’ey Anochi Nosain.” Every matter connected with Torah and Mitzvos is extremely precise. Hence, there is a direct connection between these three verses and the month of Elul.4 Since “Ani LiDodi ViDodi Li” is an acronym for the word Elul, (and therefore connected with the entire month) it was the most frequently used verse. For this reason, the Previous Rebbe lists it first. The verse “HaShamayim Kisi” begins the Haftorah recited when Shabbos falls on Rosh Chodesh. Hence, it is appropriate for such occasions. “Re’ey Anochi” is the verse which begins the Torah reading of Parshas Re’ey which is frequently read on Shabbos Mevorchim Elul.5 (When Rosh Chodesh Elul falls in the week of Parshas Re’ey, Shabbos Mevorchim Elul is Parshas Eikev. When Rosh Chodesh Elul falls in the week of Parshas Shoftim, Shabbos Mevorchim Elul in Parshas Re’ey.) According to the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that everything we see or hear must serve as a lesson in the service of G‑d, it is necessary for us to learn a lesson from the fact that this year Shabbos Mevorchim Elul is Parshas Re’ey and Rosh Chodesh Elul falls on the third day of the week of Parshas Shoftim.

There is a direct connection between the verse “Re’ey Anochi Nosain...” and the third day of the week. In the narrative of creation, the expression “and G‑d saw that it was good” is repeated twice on the third day. The Tzemach Tzedek explained that the repetition refers to a two-fold good: “Good to the heavens and good to the creatures.” Not only is it necessary to serve G‑d, but we must also work with our fellow Jews, to the point of “loving your fellowman as yourself.” This is connected with the verse “Re’ey Anochi” which is translated as “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing.” The word for I — “Anochi” — refers to the essence of G‑d. Blessings can be drawn down from that level through the service of “good to the heavens.” The service of “good to the creatures” adds to that blessing. The Previous Rebbe explains that when G‑d sees unity among the Jewish people, it brings him great pleasure, as a father derives pleasure when he sees his children join in unity. This unity generates greater blessings than even the angel Michoel can elicit.6 Thus, the increase in Torah study begun Shabbos Nachmu (good to the heavens) must be shared with others (good to the creatures). This is related to all of the Mivtzoyim: Mivtzah Ahavas Yisroel, Mivtzah Chinuch, Mivtzah Torah, Mivtzah Tefillin, Mivtzah Mezuzah, Mivtzah Tzedakah, Bayis Maley Seforim-Yavneh V’Chochamehah, Mivtzah Nairos Shabbos Kodesh, Mivtzah Taharas HaMishpachah, and Mivtzah Kashrus.

There is another wondrous aspect connected with the above verse. This verse uses the expression “this day.” Our sages declared “when the expression ‘this day’ is used, it refers to something that is eternal, existing today as always.” The blessing which G‑d gives in this verse is eternal. In Torah, blessings are given “measure for measure,” as our sages declared: “The measure which man uses, is used for him.” Therefore, in order to accept this eternal blessing, we must carry out a service which is, to whatever degree possible, eternal. On the surface, this appears difficult. Mitzvos are by their very nature limited. They apply and are limited to a specific time and place.7 However, though the actual performance of Mitzvos is limited, their essence is eternal. For example, the Mitzvah of Tefillin8 is limited in time. At night, and similarly on Shabbos and Yom Tov, one cannot put on Tefillin. However, the intent behind putting on Tefillin — the subjugation of one’s heart and mind9 — is eternally relevant and must continue even during those times when we don’t actually wear Tefillin.

Another manner of performing Mitzvos in an eternal manner is by influencing another person to do so. In this way, one will also influence one’s children and grandchildren, providing a chain of effects that will continue. Thus, through these activities, it is possible to bring about an eternal blessing.

This is related to what was mentioned above in regard to increasing the study of Torah both on an individual and communal level. This can be accomplished by forming a Kollel — a collection of individuals — dedicated to the study of Torah. The study of Torah must be carried out in such a manner that it will also effect the performance of Mitzvos, particularly the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. Thus, the two services will hasten the Messianic redemption, as the verse declares “Zion will be redeemed through judgment (interpreted as a reference to Torah study) and those who return to her through Tzedakah,” speedily in our days.

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3. Pirkei Avos Chapter VI, Mishnah II states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb, proclaiming and saying,... and anyone who occupies himself with the study of the Torah becomes elevated, as it is stated: From Mattanah [“the gift of the Torah”] to Nachaliel [“the heritage of G‑d”], and from Nachaliel to Bamos [“high places”].” The above statement raises a number of questions: Not only through the study of Torah, but through the performance of all Mitzvos a person becomes elevated. A Mitzvah is etymologically related to the word ‘Tzavta’ which means connection. This is the highest state of elevation possible. If so, why did the Mishnah single out the study of Torah? Also, on the surface, anyone who studies Torah, even if he doesn’t “occupy himself” with Torah study, becomes elevated. Whenever we study Torah, we must make a ‘brachah’ praising G‑d for “choosing us from all the nations, and giving us His Torah.” This blessing is made even when someone is called to the Torah and does not know the meaning of the passage read.

These questions can be explained as follows: The intent of R. Yehoshua ben Levi’s statement is not to state that one cannot become elevated through the fulfillment of Mitzvos. Rather, he intended to emphasize that even when someone studies Torah and concludes with a different opinion than the one accepted by the Sanhedrin as Halachah, he can become elevated. The value of his study is not negated by their decisions. Even when one’s opinion is that of the minority, his study elevates him. This applies only to the study of Torah. In regard to the fulfillment of Mitzvos, one must carry out the Halachah as decided by the majority.

An example of this concept can be seen in regard to the disagreements between Bais Shammai and Bais Hillel. Our sages declared that when Bais Shammai’s teaching conflict with Bais Hillel’s, they should be disregarded totally. The Talmud (Berachos 10b) relates that R. Tarfun told his colleagues that when he changed his course of behavior to follow the teachings of Bais Shammai he endangered his life. His colleagues replied to him that he deserved to have lost his life because he disregarded the teachings of Bais Hillel. However, this refers only to the observance of Mitzvos. In regard to the study of Torah, Bais Shammai’s teachings are also valuable. One must also recite a blessing before studying them.

Another example of this concept is the statement of Akavya ben Mahalalel (Eduyos 5:7) to his son prior to his passing. He told him to “withdraw the four opinions which I used to declare.

And his son said to him: Why didn’t you withdraw them? He answered him: I heard them from the mouth of the many, and they heard [the contrary] from the mouth of the many. I stood fast by the tradition which I heard, and they stood fast by the tradition which they heard. But you have heard [my tradition] from the mouth of a single individual [Akavya himself, as opposed to the Sages] and [their tradition] from the mouth of the many. It is better to leave the opinion of the single individual and to hold by the opinion of the many.” In this case as well, his statements refer only to practical action, but in the realm of study, the words of an individual are also considered important. For this reason, R. Yehoshua ben Levi uses the expression “all who occupy themselves with the study of Torah.” The word all is an inclusive term referring even to someone who develops a conclusion that differs from the Halachah. Since such a person is occupied in Torah study, he too becomes elevated. This does not apply if someone merely reads Torah and has not devoted effort to his studies. Only one who has been occupied in Torah study, who has applied himself and worked to understand the concepts is elevated, even if the Halachah differs from his opinion. The verse R. Yehoshua ben Levi uses as a proof alludes to the basis for his statement. Torah is Mattanah — G‑d’s present. It is inconceivable that from a present given by G‑d a human being will suffer. Quite the contrary, it will by nature lead him to Bomas — high places.