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The Shelah (1560-1630) notes that all yamim tovim are related to the parshiyos read close to when they occur. Although the Torah’s division into weekly readings came many centuries after the giving of the Torah, Divine providence guided that division to coincide with the special sanctity of each holiday.

As we know, Rosh Hashanah is the Yom HaDin when Hashem judges every creature in the universe. That’s why, on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, we always read Parshas Nitzavim, which starts, “You stand this day, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d – your heads, your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel; your young children, your women, and your proselyte who is within your camp, from the chopper of your wood to the drawer of your water.”


These 10 categories include Jews of all disparate levels and “You stand this day” refers to Rosh Hashanah (as per Targum Yonoson’s translation of “the day came” in Iyov 2:1 as “the day of the great judgment came”). Although we are judged for our very lives on this awesome day, nevertheless we remain “standing” firmly upright in anticipation of being vindicated in judgment.

To ensure this positive result, however, we must (in addition to doing teshuvah) fulfill what is stated in Nitzavim’s opening verses – to “stand, all of you,” in true unity. We must not only tolerate Jews on lower spiritual levels but appreciate that they are just as integral to the Jewish people as we are.

Our superior Torah knowledge and virtuous conduct may cause us to view ourselves as “heads”, leading us to wonder what connection we have with Jews of lower spiritual attainments. Kabbalah explains, though, that the Jewish people are like one great spiritual body. A physical body includes sophisticated limbs such as the head, which contains the brain, and also lower limbs such as the feet. The brain is obviously more important than the feet, but it depends upon them to function. The head can’t go anywhere without the feet. The body’s other limbs are likewise interdependent; only all of them together allow the body to function perfectly.

The same is true of the great spiritual body that comprises the Jewish people. The “head” – the great Torah leaders – are dependent upon all lower “limbs” of our people for their spiritual completeness.

In fact, we may even be mistaken in our estimation that we are “heads.” Jews who appear to be lower than us in terms of Torah knowledge and observance of mitzvos may actually possess qualities far superior to our own on other levels. They may have committed greater acts of kindness or self-sacrifice to maintain their Jewish identity or remain firm in their faith in Hashem. Not only can we learn from every other Jew, but we depend upon every one of them, and all of them complement our own perfection.

That’s why it’s so important to foster Jewish unity before and on Rosh Hashanah. We need every Jew as we come before Hashem to plead for a good and sweet new year. If we unite, we will ensure that we all receive Hashem’s blessings in abundance. We wish all our readers, among the entire Jewish people, a k’siva v’chasima tova.

(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the central Lubavitch Youth Organization and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press.