One of the most important qualities of this Shabbat, is that it is Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Even though we are judged by G‑d on Rosh Hashanah, we are given the seven days preceding Yom Kippur to correct our negative behavior that distanced us from holiness - to return to G‑d. Each of these seven days corresponds to each of the seven weekdays of last year, and each of the seven weekdays of the coming year. Shabbat Shuva …is a prototype for our year-round attitude…

The Rabbis taught that the verse, "Search for G‑d where He will be found, call Him when He is close" (Isaiah 25:6), specifically refers to these days. (Rosh Hashana)It is incumbent upon us to examine our deeds, both past and present and resolve that we will improve in our relations to G‑d and to our fellow man. On Shabbat Shuva we are able to do this same teshuvah, but in a way of rest and contemplation. On Shabbat there are added laws, forbidding actions that are permitted throughout the week. On Shabbat Shuva, even more than every Shabbat, we must especially think before each act if it is permissible or not. This is a prototype for our year-round attitude.

This week's portion opens "Listen [in Hebrew, 'Ha'azinu'] to the heavens, and I will speak, and hear [in Hebrew, 'shema'] earth the words of my mouth." In this verse, we have two words for listening: "ha'azinu" and "shema". "Ha'azinu", from the root word "ozen", meaning "ear", refers to hearing something close. "Shema" refers to hearing something from a distance. We understand that Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai and passed it on to his generation and to all future generations, including us. After the passing of thousands of years, how can Moses expect us in our era to be "ha'azinu" - close to the heavens and holiness, and also "shema" - far from the world and its falsehood? A person who is connected to Torah can change reality…

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answers that by learning and fulfilling the Torah and its commandments, a Jew is raised to the level of the Torah, which is higher than all of Creation, including heaven and earth. A person who is connected to Torah can change reality, both in his or her personal life and in the world at large (as the Torah further mentions, bringing the blessing of rain, etc.) When a person is involved in Torah, he or she is close to heaven and can easily fulfill G‑d's desires while being far from earth. Every person who has been trying to improve himself or herself during these days is certainly connected to Torah, and therefore close to heaven. This closeness will subsequently push him or her to even higher levels of doing teshuvah.

This same verse can also be read: "Listen, heavens, and I will speak; hear, earth, the words of my mouth." Moses is addressing and commanding the heavens and earth, because when we do G‑d's will, the entire Creation does our will. Particularly now, when we are making positive resolutions for the future, the Almighty will subject the heavens and earth to us, fulfilling our needs for a good and sweet year. Moses will come and teach all of the secrets of the Torah to the Jewish people…

Rebbe Elimelech notes that the Zohar says that when Mashiach arrives, Moses will come and teach all of the secrets of the Torah to the Jewish people. This is what Moses tells the Jews: "Listen to the heavens, and I (Moses) will speak" - I will teach you the secrets! Even now, when Jews are really involved with Torah, nothing is hidden from them. Simply said, the Torah is our ticket to a good and sweet year.

The special clothes worn by the High Priest when entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur are used only once. Why? Because, they serve as a reminder to us that when we do our service on Yom Kippur, we have to be like a new person, with all of our sins washed away by our teshuvah. The Mussaf prayer of Yom Kippur states, "He (the High Priest) enters into wherever he enters and stands wherever he stands".

Why does it not say clearly, that he goes into the Holiest of Holies? Rebbe Michel of Zlotshuv teaches that what a person accomplishes spiritually on Yom Kippur - how much they are forgiven, how much they become purified - is conditional on what they accomplished before Yom Kippur. This is the meaning of the above statement: in relation to what he accomplished before, during the previous year, and especially during the previous week, and especially during the prior Shabbat, and in particular on the day before Yom Kippur, is where he is allowed to go.

May each and every Jew be signed and sealed for a good and sweet year! Shaul

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