September 9, 2015
Menachem Ziegelboim in #989, Interview, Rosh HaShana, Tishrei

For Rosh HaShana, the days of judgment and coronation, as well as days of making resolutions for the new year, it seemed only appropriate to speak with Rabbi Yitzchok Arad, rosh yeshiva of Daat, and one of the popular speakers in Chabad.  We discussed timely matters, and mainly dealt with questions and uncertainties as far as aligning the content of the Rosh HaShana prayers and everyday life in an ever changing world

PHOTO BY MEIR ALFASIAs the year winds down, our attention is focused on a spiritual accounting.  There was no better time to speak with RYitzchok Arad in his modest office at Yeshivat Daat in Rechovot.

R’ Arad also runs a network of schools for personal training according to Chassidus.  He knows how to combine deep ideas from hemshechim like 5672 and 5666 and daily life, which is constantly banging up against the rocks of gray reality with all its difficulties, challenges, pitfalls and disappointments that we experience.

With his quiet voice and even temperament, R’ Arad is able to resolve the quandaries, quiet the storms and skillfully navigate, bringing the soul to inner awareness and understanding, that we are indeed marching in the right direction on the way to Geula, both the personal and the collective Geula.  Even if there are difficulties and problems, they are part of the process.

The t’fillos of Tishrei consist of our personal, material needs, crowning Hashem over the universe, and asking for the Geula.  What should be the focus of our concentration?

There’s the fantastic sicha of the Rebbe about Chana’s prayer.  On the one hand, the t’fillos of Rosh HaShana have to do with the coronation of Hashem; on the other hand, we address material matters of enormous import such as who will live and who will die, who by fire and who by water, etc. In that sicha, the Rebbe notes that we see that a Jew is more inspired by the paragraph of “who will live and who will die.”  He cares more about his material matters than spiritual matters like coronating Hashem.

The Rebbe reconciles this by saying that an inseparable part of the complete revelation of Hashem’s coronation over the universe includes a Jew’s material needs.  For a Jew’s interest in material things is not because of the personal pleasure he has in them, but because he wants to establish Hashem’s kingship over these material things too. 

The Rebbe quotes the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov on the verse in T’hillim, “Hungry as well as thirsty, their soul enwraps itself in them,” that when a Jew is hungry or thirsty and seeks material items to satisfy these feelings, his desire actually originates from the inner root of the soul, in order to sift out the spirituality that lies within the physical, thus establishing Hashem as king over these things as well.

So our bittul to and coronation of Hashem does not contradict our involvement in material matters; on the contrary, they complement one another.

What is the central motif of the t’fillos of Rosh HaShana?

The t’filla which is the clearest and most pointed is the request for the Geula and coronation of Hashem, crying out with our inner voice, the essence of the soul, that Hashem be revealed in the world.  This inner point is supposed to impact us in a profound way; to cry out with the inner cry of the shofar from the depths of our heart and ask, “Rule over the entire world with Your glory,” referring to the Geula shleima.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be left with the “rule over the entire world in Your glory” while not being busy coronating Hashem in our own small world, each person being a miniature world.  There exists the phenomenon in which people declare Hashem’s kingship over the entire world, over this one or that, but somehow not over themselves.

The Alter Rebbe in chapter 43 of Tanya, after speaking about yira ilaa (supernal awe) and how all of existence is nullified to G-dliness, says, “And no man should except himself from this principle that also his body and nefesh, ruach and neshama are utterly nullified.”  Meaning, this idea that a person nullifies everything before G-d requires that he remember that along with the principle as a whole there is also his own individual existence, his own space, which has to be nullified.  So along with the deep cry for the collective Geula, we need to be busy with our own avoda, to crown Hashem as King in our personal avoda.  This is also Geula, a personal Geula which will bring about the collective Geula of the Jewish people.

When you talk about “bringing it into my personal avoda,” how is that done?

In the t’filla of Rosh HaShana we ask, “May everything that has been made know that You have made it; may everything that has been created understand that You have created it; and may everyone who has the breath [of life] in his nostrils declare that Hashem the G-d of Israel is King and His kingship has dominion over all.” This is the knowledge that Hashem is the King of the universe and He is to be found in every place and rules over it.

This knowledge ought to “come down” into our daily lives.  In our personal lives, in our private world, where we are responsible for our family, our immediate surroundings, our community, etc. we need to make sure that this part of the world is run in such a way that Hashem is to be found and rules there.  This means, that everything is run according to Torah, mitzvos, Chassidus, in the most complete way, with real Ahavas Yisroel, and with the unity which characterizes the Geula.  Each of us needs to contemplate his own crowning of Hashem, to what extent he allows Hashem to rule in his personal life and the life of his family, environment and community, and living it so that Hashem is there openly.


During the davening and the shofar blowing, people are inspired to make good resolutions.  The problem is that after the davening, or the next day, or the next week, our good intentions wane and we don’t follow through on these good resolutions.  What can we do about this?

Rosh HaShana, according to Chassidus, is not just the beginning of the year, but the head of the year.  Just as the head contains and governs the life force of the entire body, so too, the head of the year contains the entire year within it.  As the Alter Rebbe brings in Igeres Ha’kodesh, every year on Rosh HaShana a new life force is drawn down to the world and only afterward is it “distributed” over all the days of the year.

True, every year we make new resolutions and we aren’t always successful in carrying them out, but we need to remember that Rosh HaShana is a new channel for a new life force in the world.  If so, new possibilities are open to us, a new world, new revelations, as well as new strengths.

The Alter Rebbe innovates that there does not exist one long chain of time and what was, is what will be; rather, every year a new chapter in time is opened in the world.  A new channel of abundance is opened which brings something new with it, new abilities, a new plan and new opportunities.  All this ought to inspire us so that even if until now, things did not go as we would have wanted, now there are new possibilities and a new revelation.  On Rosh HaShana, we are given all the powers and revelations for the entire year.

When we bless and wish “we should be the head and not the tail,” it means that we have the choice how to implement the good resolutions that we made.


What does “we should be the head and not the tail” mean in our avoda? Is it symbolic or does it have a deeper meaning?

As mentioned, Rosh HaShana refers to a head, not only to the beginning of the year.  A head represents chochma which is bittul – ko’ach ma – the power of self-nullification.

The Alter Rebbe arranges the order of the Jewish holidays according to the s’firos and he says that Rosh HaShana corresponds to chochma and Yom Kippur to bina.  Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos correspond to the first three middos of chesed, g’vura, and tiferes.  Chanuka and Purim correspond to Netzach and Hod.  According to this order, Rosh HaShana is chochma which is the source of the power of bittul.

Our obvious avoda on Rosh HaShana is kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim (accepting the yoke of heaven), i.e. giving ourselves over to Hashem in a manner that is not bound by the rational.  We give the essence of our soul over to Hashem.  That is the concept of kabbalas ol in the work of the simple slave, giving oneself over completely.

At the same time, we need to remember that there is a very important point in our avoda of Rosh HaShana which is “may we be the head and not the tail,” i.e. revealing the head within us.

Which means?

Not only revealing the “head” which is Hashem, but also revealing the “service of the head” within us, that point which directs, affects, and leads us every day, every hour.  That we live in a way of “head” and stop living like a “tail” that has nothing in and of itself and merely reacts to and is led by others and is dragged along.  This is part of the resolution we need to make.  This is the job of a Jew, to be a head and this is by revealing the head within us. 

How do we attain that?

By every person investing time to learn Torah, to learn Chassidus, to engage in deep self-contemplation, so that every resolution a person makes will “descend” internally and become settled within the person.

The Alter Rebbe brings in Tanya that Hashem’s kingdom, the Sh’china, rests and is revealed in a place of chochma (the power of bittul).  When speaking about the head, what we are really speaking about is the chochma of the head, a person’s power of bittul.  The vessel we have with which to contain Hashem’s malchus in the world is our “being the head.”

That kabbalas ol which a Jew accepts on Rosh HaShana, and the going out of his self-hood through the blowing of the shofar with mesirus nefesh to Hashem, needs a “vessel” to contain it so that it can “descend” into daily life throughout the year.  This “vessel” does not come from above the person, but begins with and is invested into chochma.  The bittul within the chochma.

When we make a resolution “to be the head and not the tail,” that means to put our heads into learning and meditation, in choosing what is right and how the world ought to be run, and not operating from a place of “tail” which represents the feelings of “I deserve it” or “I don’t deserve it.”  This will enable the act of coronation of Hashem to affect our daily lives.

If we toil mightily on Rosh HaShana with a cry for the Geula and with kabbalas ol, but don’t create vessels through consistent effort, learning and contemplating maamarei Chassidus that pertain to our avoda, then the good resolutions won’t make it “down” to the real world of everyday life.

The way to bring Geula to our personal lives, so that our lives are lived the way they should be, is by learning Torah in general, and Chassidus in particular.

You see this idea in the Rebbe telling us to live the Geula now by learning inyanei Geula.  Learning is the most direct and easiest way to live and to integrate any concept.  This is how we live the Geula, and the same applies to Rosh HaShana, by learning Chassidus in general and how the world ought to be run on the level of the details of our personal lives.

Does being the “head” contradict bittul and kabbalas ol?

Being the “head” is to have kabbalas ol.  It’s to be dedicated to something beyond ourselves.  In other words, there is a way of being the head and a way of being the heart, i.e. being busy with myself and my feelings; as Chazal say, “there is one who loves, one who fears.”  Feelings are an expression of our ego, while intellect in general looks outward and sees things objectively and in a truer way.

We can also say that intellect in general is directed upward, while emotions are directed downward, towards ourselves and the world around us.

A Chabadnik is a person with chochma, bina, daas, as the Alter Rebbe innovated, a person whose mind rules his heart and emotions.  That, more than anything, serves as a basis for kabbalas ol.  When a person turns over his ego and needs to Hashem, this is a deep, inner bittul.  Such a person knows that his entire existence is not predicated on himself, but on Hashem.  This is mochin – recognizing that it’s all G-d, and if everything is Him, then He rules over me for He rules over all of existence.

The head is that which chooses, that which initiates and takes responsibility for choosing.  Taking responsibility means choosing where we take ourselves and how we select our emotions, as opposed to the approach of “when my feelings come, they come; I can’t do anything about them.”

When we seek to be a head and not a tail, we understand that the mind also rules our emotional world, for the mind rules the heart by its very nature.  This is where we need to take responsibility for ourselves and see to it that our everyday reality is one of coronating Hashem and making our lives Geula’dik in every respect.

Surely you know that the mind is cold by nature, it doesn’t get shaken, while the heart is tumultuous and roils with emotion.  How can the mind control it?

In Chassidus it explains that there are two parts to the brain.  There is the chochma and bina, and another part which is daas, the place of connection.  Chochma and bina are “cold mochin” and they give a person the proper perspective, an analytic view about how things are supposed to be.  They provide the correct information about reality so decisions can be made about how to do things correctly.  Chochma and bina help us examine and learn what is and isn’t right, what ought to be in our lives, for they are far more objective than emotions.

Emotions are subjective.  We can provide subjective interpretations about the reality around us which are not necessarily factual.  If so-and-so insulted you and you feel so offended that you don’t want to see him anymore, even though he has the same right to exist as you do, that comes from a place of bad feelings and not a settled mind.

That is the difference between an intellectual perspective and an emotional stance where the ego is involved.

Then comes the next stage.  In Chassidus it explains that chochma and bina are not enough and the main thing is daas.  Daas is what connects us to emotions, which ultimately establishes the parameters of our emotional world.  Daas is the part in which we take the objective realm of the mind and work to internalize it to the point of feeling how the ideas of the mind pertain to us.  Then the change in the realm of emotion slowly begins to occur.

When we take the intellectual ideas that the mind helps us understand, and work to internalize them with daas, we help the intellect achieve internalization to the point of implementation in everyday life which slowly changes the emotions. 

The conflict between emotions and intellect exists because that is how Hashem created the world.  But our lives must be directed by the “command center,” which is the head and the brain that are followed by the main task of integration which is associated with daas, internalizing the intellectual idea until we sense the reality of it, by davening with the concept that you learned and then acting accordingly.

This is the reason why, in the future, when Hashem’s malchus is revealed in the world, everyone will be wise and know Hashem, for then “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like waters cover the sea,” which demonstrates the level of bittul there will be in the time of Geula, because of the mind expansion of that time when everyone will be very wise.


We spoke earlier about giving over our desires to Hashem in absolute kabbalas ol, an avoda which is highlighted on Rosh HaShana.  Doesn’t that sound far-fetched, to give our egos away entirely? Isn’t it impossible?

True, it’s not easy, but this is why the Rebbe invested enormous energy into educating us toward attaining it.  There is no contradiction between our personal abilities and talents and the need for them to be subservient to Hashem.  We can see this with the Rebbe’s shluchim.  In the Rebbe’s last address to the shluchim at the Kinus HaShluchim 5752, he said that every shliach has to have both together – he must be completely battul to the one who sent him, while being a leader in his environment by using his mind, talents and everything he’s got, to carry out the Rebbe’s wishes.  Although this seems contradictory, it’s not; it’s complementary.

As true as this is for the shluchim, it is true for every Chassid, as the Rebbe wants everyone to be a shliach.  Every person needs to be a shliach to bring Geula to the world, and if we are shluchim of the Rebbe and Hashem in the world, we definitely can combine both of these traits without contradiction.

If we think about this concept that I am a shliach in the world to reveal the Geula, to reveal Chassidus in the world and to reveal the kingdom of Hashem in the world, along with being devoted to this mission I will also conduct my own life with all the tools Hashem gave me.

It may not be common or simple but it is not something meant exclusively for special people either.  If we learn Chassidus and try to live according to the model that the Rebbe wants for us, as we learn in the sichos and letters of the Rebbe, we can definitely combine the bittul and kabbalas ol while being leaders.  That is what the Rebbe demands and wants of every single one of us without exception.  This is something we can commit to on Rosh HaShana.

Can you bring this down into terms of our everyday lives?

We said back at the beginning that our approach ought to be not only asking Hashem to “rule over the entire universe,” but first and foremost being a part of it, by crowning Hashem over our personal and family lives.

The approach of shlichus is “u’faratzta” and “spreading your wellsprings outward” with a double sense of bittul, both for the one who sent us and for the one we are sent to.  But we have to remember that shlichus is primarily within ourselves, within our homes, ensuring that we coronate Hashem over our family members, that our relationship be what it should be, that the chinuch be proper, that the home be a Chassidishe home, that our personal world be run as it ought.  A Chassid needs to know that this is also shlichus.


You give lectures on marriage and chinuch all over the country.  You know what problems people are dealing with.  When you speak about this lofty sense of shlichus with devotion and bittul in everyday life, does that not sound unrealistic considering the realities people have to deal with?

I don’t think you need to present it so negatively.  When you take a look at things, you definitely see how things are progressing, how we are marching toward the Geula.

We see a level of hiskashrus to the Rebbe that was never seen before.  In our schools, on every level, boys and girls are learning and devoting themselves, more than ever, to the Rebbe’s teachings and instructions with utter bittul.  I do not think it is correct to describe the situation so negatively.

Maybe, as we move toward the end of the year and the life force of Hashem in the world is winding down, as it were, it’s a time to think about what is missing and to do t’shuva so as to be able to move forward, but definitely not in a panic or with a feeling of hopelessness.

In education too, the approach can’t be one of fear of the negative but rather, how can I fortify the good even more.  Along the lines of what the Rebbe says in the D’var Malchus of Parshas Massei 5751, that we are facing the Geula and we need to speak about Ahavas Yisroel not only to remove the cause of the galus which was sinas chinam (baseless hatred), but to get a taste of the Ahavas Yisroel of Geula when we will have the perfect unification of Jews.

This is the positive approach we need to take.  We can always increase awareness of respect between husband and wife, true love for children, behaving more in ways of chesed and giving and less criticism (of course, with the proper boundaries in place).  The goal is to strengthen the good as we get ever closer to the Geula.

If someone is weak in some area, this needs to be addressed, not ignored.  We want our homes to be run with love and peace and harmony.  There is no question that how parents conduct themselves has a deep effect on their children.  When husband and wife merit it, the Sh’china dwells with them and this is what the Geula is about, the Sh’china openly dwelling in the world.

So too for chinuch – by intensifying our love for our children and working to find their strong points, we are creating family harmony which is essential.  When we live the right way, we have achieved our personal Geula.

It’s not that there aren’t weaknesses and ups and downs; it’s that we are moving in the right direction.  The more we put in, the better place we’ll be in.


You have a series of workshops and classes on personal development according to the teachings of Chassidus.  Does Chassidus agree with the approach of strengthening the good points and developing a person’s potential which is what the field of personal development is all about?

Chassidus explains the verse “veer from evil and do good,” that the “veer from evil” is accomplished through “doing good.”  When you increase the light, the darkness automatically goes away.

This idea that a little light dispels a lot of darkness is certainly correct and this is the Rebbe’s method.  Although we find in maamarei Chassidus sources and discourses that address bitterness and brokenness, the Rebbe’s approach in our generation is to accentuate the positive and joy as well as speaking about the good and highlighting it.

The Rebbe keeps on saying that in our era we need to operate with joy, in a way of positive thinking.  It’s as though nowadays there is no place for bitterness; on the contrary, everything must be done happily for we achieve much more this way.  Even the repentance of the month of Elul, says the Rebbe, needs to be done with joy.

We need to focus our attention on anything that will help us progress in a positive direction.  In personal development, the emphasis is on developing a person’s inner strengths for the purpose of moving forward.  It’s less about dealing with mistakes and failures and more about thinking how to advance.

As to your question, the approach of the self-help world is definitely in line with what is explained previously in Chassidus, especially what the Rebbe teaches us.  Every approach which is based on positivity and advancement fits better with Chassidus than those which focus on failure and hardships.

We know that the more we invest in good, the more likely the progress.  It needs to be a path that leads to solutions for the full range of problems in all areas of life.  By intensifying the good, it will resolve the points of difficulty.

We certainly need to strengthen our belief that we have been given the ability to carry out the shlichus of bringing the true and complete Geula to our personal world too.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
See website for complete article licensing information.