Experiencing G‑d’s Transcendence in This World
We are meeting in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
The nature of repentance, teshuvah in Hebrew, is explained by the Maggid of Mezritch1 in an interpretation of the phrase which opens the Haftorah recited on this past Shabbat:2 שובה ישראל עד הוי’ אלקיך — “Return Israel to G‑d, your L‑rd.”3
The Maggid focused on the verse’s use of two different names for G‑d and explained that, according to the Kabbalah,4 each reflects a different dimension of G‑dliness.
“G‑d” is a translation of the Name Havayah (v-u-v-h),5 which refers to G‑d’s transcendent dimension, the aspect of G‑dliness that lies beyond the limits of our existence. In contrast, “your L‑rd” is a translation of Elokecha (אלקיך), which refers to the dimension of G‑dliness that permeates our world. Indeed, this Hebrew word can be understood to mean “your strength and your vitality,” i.e., the G‑dly life-force that sustains every created being individually. Hence, the Maggid taught, a Jew’s teshuvah should bring him to the appreciation that Havayah, G‑d’s transcendent dimension, is Elokecha, “your strength and your vitality” — that G‑d is his own life-force, the source for his success and well-being.
Repentance Motivated by Love
Our service of teshuvah is enhanced by the influence of the past month, the month of Elul. Our Sages6 note that the name Elul (אלול) serves as an acronym for the Hebrew words אני לדודי ודודי לי, meaning “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,”7 an expression of the loving relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people. During this month a Jew appreciates that he is “my Beloved’s”; he can feel G‑d’s manifest closeness, and can sense how this relationship encompasses every aspect of his personality.
A Body as a Unit; A Couple as a Unit
The above concepts apply not only to our spiritual lives, but are reflected — as are all aspects of the Torah and its mitzvot — within our existence in the world at large. When a person appreciates that his life-force and that of all the other created beings around him is transcendent G‑dliness, he becomes conscious of an all-encompassing Divine unity which permeates the totality of existence. Although the world contains a manifold number of diverse entities, there is a fundamental oneness pervading them all.
The human body likewise comprises various organs with differing potentials and functions; e.g. the brain and heart each have their own functions. Nevertheless, all these different functions and potentials are fused together as a single organism. One does not stop to calculate that he spent so much money caring for his head, and so much for his heart, etc. For it is natural to consider our bodies as a single organism and indeed, our bodies and souls together as one single entity.
This concept should be extended until it is mirrored in our relationships with others. On a family level, husband and wife are two different individuals, yet their relationship should be one of unity. Although each of them is occupied with his or her individual concerns, using the unique gifts which G‑d has given him/her, the fulfillment of one brings fulfillment to the other. Moreover, they share all aspects of their lives including a single bank account, for although they are two different individuals, they are unified in a loving relationship of mutual trust.
Togetherness in the Business World
Furthermore, this unity should be extended beyond one’s family until it also affects one’s business relationships. The business world revolves around the concept of competition. This competition, however, should be expressed in a Jewish way, not through trying to overpower another person or cause him loss, but by developing a partnership that challenges each of the partners to fully utilize his or her potential in the most complete manner possible. A relationship in which each individual complements the other, will foster sharing and trust between the partners.
The relationship between the various partners will surely be characterized by sharing and trust, reflecting their joint commitment to ahavat Yisrael, the commandment to love a fellow Jew as one loves oneself.8 And thus, they will not waste their time unduly trying to calculate and divide their respective shares. On the contrary, being busy with success, they will both be actively contributing to the flourishing of their joint enterprise. Through pooling their creative efforts, the partners will grow closer together and develop ever deeper bonds.
This trust should be developed to the extent that even the expense account is shared in a family — like manner. For the entire Jewish people are in fact one extended family.
Caring and Sharing
Such concerted effort will stimulate further growth, and will lead the partners to diversify, expanding into other countries. These efforts will surely be crowned with success and simultaneously will expand each person’s individual horizons.
This success should of course be reflected in the ultimate purpose of one’s business — using one’s wealth to help others, by giving tzedakah, “charity.” One’s gifts should be continually increased, and these increases should come willingly and naturally, for he will have established tzedakah as one of his primary concerns. Therefore, just as he uses all his potentials to see that his business concerns flourish, he will also devote his full potential to seeing that his involvement in tzedakah thrives. With each day and with each moment that he grows older, he should grow wiser and more sensitive to the needs of others. From one day to the next, therefore, he should be more willing to give. And this will be expressed in dollars and cents; simply put, the check that he actually writes today will be larger than the one he planned to write yesterday.
Nothing Succeeds like Generosity
Many successful businessmen have a separate account for charity so that, regardless of the fluctuation of their personal finances, they will be able to give tzedakah at all times. Often the responsibility of dispensing charity from this account is entrusted to the secretary. The secretary should be confident that he or she can write a generous check, knowing that the employer is inclined to give generously and with an open hand.
Generosity of this kind will bring added success in one’s business ventures. For on the verse rag, rag — “You shall surely tithe,”9 the Sages taught עשר בשביל שתתעשר — “Tithe so that you will become rich.”10 Such generosity coupled with the awareness that “G‑d is one’s strength and one’s vitality,” endows him with an infinite capacity to develop his many and diverse potentials and thus be blessed with success in all his endeavors. This realization should motivate him to share with others and this act of sharing will in turn bring him further success which will be crowned with happiness and contentment.
Shabbat: Material Pleasure, Spiritual Bliss
This contentment is deeply experienced on Shabbat, the day which G‑d gave the Jewish people for rest and pleasure. This pleasure is unique in nature. Although it is expressed in a physical way, inasmuch as one eats well and dresses in fine clothing, the contentment received is from the spiritual nature of Shabbat.
This is reflected in our Sages’ expression,11 hame’aneg et haShabbat, which literally means, “one who brings pleasure to the Shabbat.” A Jew shows how the happiness and contentment expressed on Shabbat is not only spiritual, as reflected in his thought and speech, but is also drawn down into the material realm, even to his actual food. And such efforts bring pleasure, as it were, to the Shabbat itself.
This pleasure is shared by the entire family who join at the Shabbat table, as they sing the Shabbat melodies together and happily respond Amen to each other’s blessings.
A Year of Wonders in All Things
The above blessings are highlighted by the unique nature of this new year, 5752. Its Hebrew equivalent, תשנ”ב, serves as an acronym for the words הי’ תהא שנת נפלאות בכל — “This will surely be a year of wonders in all things.”12 We have seen, and we will see, wonders in material success, in health (so that the profits from one’s business endeavors need not be spent on medical bills), in our personal matters and on a global sphere. Each one of us is thus granted the potential to broaden his activities in an unlimited manner and to do so with success and good fortune.
A Helping Hand for Russian Émigrés
Among the unique wonders of this era is the mass exodus of Jews from countries in which emigration was previously restricted. Now, thousands of Jews are being given the opportunity to emigrate and to do so with dignity. Many have settled in the United States and in other countries, and a large proportion have made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, our Holy Land. They should surely be given the means to enjoy prosperity and success, both material and spiritual, in their new homes. And the privilege and merit to help them achieve such prosperity has been granted to every one of us.
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The above is particularly relevant at present in the days following Rosh HaShanah, when we, together with the entire Jewish people, have received a Ketivah VaChatimah Tovah: we have just been inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, a year of wondrous success, including the ultimate good — the coming of the Redemption.
1. HaYom Yom, entry for 3 Tishrei.
2. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuvah, from the first word of the Haftorah, which highlights its connection to the service of repentance.
3. Hosea 14:2.
4. See Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 6.
5. The term Havayah is derived from a rearrangement of the letters of the Name (v-u-v-h) which, because of its holiness, is not pronounced in the usual manner.
6. Abudraham, Seder Tefillat Rosh HaShanah, on the authority of classical expositors of the Torah; Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar Rosh HaShanah, sec. 1.
7. Song of Songs 6:3.
8. Leviticus 19:18; Maimonides, Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment #206.
9. Deuteronomy 14:22.
10. Taanit 9a.
11. Shabbat 118a.
12. Bakol (“in all things”) is one of the three expressions of blessing associated with the Patriarchs — bakol, mikol, kol, as we recite in the Grace After Meals (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 93, see Bava Batra 16b-17a). 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; Genesis 27:33). And regarding Yaakov it is written, “I have everything” (כל; ibid., 33:11).
And, in fact, each of the Patriarchs was wealthy and they all were exceedingly charitable. Since they are the Patriarchs of the Jewish people, it is self-understood that the above blessings are transmitted in every generation to all of their descendants, men, women, and children.