This Shabbat just before Rosh Hashana is unique. Normally during the last Shabbat of each month we bless the upcoming month. This is the last Shabbat before the month of Tishrei and yet we do not bless it. Chassidus explains that this is so, because G-d blesses this month Himself. This blessing can be found in the opening words of this week’s parsha, Nitzavim (this year we combine Nitzavim with Vayelech). It reads: “You are standing this day.” ‘You,’ refers to the Jewish people and the rabbis teach that ‘this day,’ refers to Rosh Hashana. The word, netzavim denotes a state of being straight and upright. G-d chose this word in order to convey that the Jewish people are standing firmly and upright in their obedience to G-d and will therefore be rendered a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashana – a day frequently referred to as the ‘day of judgment.’ Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) teaches that since Tishrei is the first month of the year and our blessings for the coming year are determined on Rosh Hashana, G-d’s blessing for this month has the ability to permeate all of the months of the coming year. Hence, this blessing at the beginning of this week’s parsha will bless all of us with an abundance of good for the duration of the coming year.
Next week is Rosh Hashana, the birthday of the world. On this day we celebrate the world’s Creation by rededicating ourselves to fulfilling its holy purpose. Chassidic philosophy explains that the physical world we live in is an anomaly in which it is possible for created beings to feel an illusion of being separate from G-d. G-d created the universe so that we could recognize His kingship in a place where it is all too easy to forget our divine source. To do so is to fulfill not only the purpose of Creation, but one’s own individual potential.
There is an old saying that there is “no king without a people.” In Judaism we have numerous ways of connecting to G-d through the mitzvot (613 to be exact), but on Rosh Hashana we primarily emphasize His divine attribute of kingship, or malchut. Every Rosh Hashana we crown G-d king anew and rededicate ourselves to being His subjects.
A king may need subjects to rule, but he is still separate from his subjects. I believe this is probably one reason many American Jews feel uncomfortable relating to G-d as a king. However, by asking G-d to rule over us we cause Him to delight in being our king. His joy at being our king will ensure that He rules over us not in the way of a disinterested monarch, but a loving leader who passionately cares about the well-being of His people.
This Shabbat we should all be blessed that the upcoming year should be one of sweetness, happiness, and abundance materially as well as spiritually. May G-d finally anoint our long awaited king – the Messiah or Moshiach and bring the world into a state of open and revealed goodness.