The portion Nitzavim, whether joined with Vayelech or not, is always read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah, our Day of Judgment. How we make this Shabbat "kodesh" - separate, special and holy from the week - is going to have a big effect on all of next year. Rosh Hashanah is, literally, the head of the year. Just like the head controls the body, how we act on the "head of the year" controls all of the physical and spiritual blessings we will be receiving for the coming year. We must resolve not only to not waste a minute of this precious Shabbat, but also to begin before Shabbat to plan where we will be, with who we will be, and how we will spend our time to utilize this formula to the maximum.

G‑d is the one who blesses the month of Tishrei....

The message of Netzavim in relation to the upcoming New Year, is found in its first verse, which begins, "You are standing today, all of you, before G‑d, your Lord". This refers to all of the Jewish people - not just our entire number but also every level, spiritual and physical, within us. As the verse continues, "heads of your tribes, your elders, your police, every Jewish person, your children, your wives, the strangers in your midst, your tree cutters until your water carriers". We are all, no matter whom, standing strong and confident, certain that the Almighty will judge us favorably. On every Shabbat before the beginning of a new month, the Jewish people bless the month. The Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah is the exception.

There is a statement from the Baal Shem Tov that G‑d is the one who blesses the month of Tishrei, of the High Holidays, and it is with this strength that we, the Jewish people, are able to bless every other month. What is G‑d's blessing? "You are standing today." What is today? "Today" is Rosh Hashanah and the judgment will be good.

On the verse "You are standing today before G‑d", the Chozeh of Lublin asks how we can stand before G‑d? This is a hint to us that repentance is higher than all of the commandments, because it fixes all the commandments which were not done correctly. That is why the verse says you are standing before the name of G‑d, which is the source of all the commandments. This is what is expected of us, to examine ourselves and rectify our bad actions, until we exist on a plane that is above the world and before the revelation of G‑d connected to the world. Then all the blemishes created by our misdeeds will disappear.

The Shelah writes that repentance is related to the sefira of bina within each one of us - our knowledge of ourselves, unadulterated by all of the influences of the world. Everyone will say, "You're fine." Don't believe them! The beginning is to take a fresh look.

A Jew once came to visit the grand rabbi Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin seeking a plan on how he could return to the Jewish fold, to the service of G‑d. The Rebbe invested time in setting him up with a unique daily schedule, and specific instruction on how to fix his inappropriate actions. When the visitor heard all of this he began to object that he has his own personal needs and time requirements and other pressing responsibilities and that the program that the Rebbe was suggesting was just not convenient at all. Rebbe Yisroel answered him as follows, "Repentance has to be done exactly the way we do our sins. When a person does a sin, he doesn't take any time to consider that what he is doing is going to make him lose his portion in the World to Come. This is exactly how we are supposed to return to G‑d: without considering that perhaps through it we will lose some of the pleasure of this world!"

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul