“He became King over Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gathered” (Devarim 33:5)
Chazal relate (Rosh Hashanah 34b) that on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem asks Bnei Yisrael, “Recite pesukim of Malchuyot before Me, so that you may coronate Me upon yourselves.” The word Malchuyot (prayers of kingship) is written in the plural form as a reminder that He is King of all worlds, above and below. I would like to add that this plural form indicates a command for all of Am Yisrael to coronate Hashem, through brotherliness and unity. When the nation is a whole unit, joined in achdut and love, as one man with one heart, they can truly crown Hashem as their King.
Unity among our nation is reflected by great joy on High. All the neshamot of Am Yisrael are interconnected, created with a Divine image (Pardes Rimonim 32a). When they crown Hashem as King, they do it “when the heads of the nations gathered.” But when friction and faction split the nation, Hashem’s Name cannot rest upon them. They are then unable to coronate Him.
The last letters of the phrase יחד שבטי ישראל, adding one for the phrase itself, are numerically equivalent to the Name י-ה-ו-ה , with each letter spelled out, as well as to the word אדם, adding one for the word itself. When unity reigns, Bnei Yisrael become transformed, and Hashem’s Name is sanctified, finding a comfortable resting place among the nation. The words of parashat Nitzavim (Devarim 29:9) “You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers – all the men of Israel” are enacted to perfection. On Rosh Hashanah, the hues and shades which comprise our nation converge before Hashem, merging into a brilliant tapestry of loyalty to His Kingship.
In Pirkei Avot (4:4), we read, “Be exceedingly humble in spirit.” The Ba’al HaTanya (Likutei Torah, Nitzavim) expounds: “Each person has traits which his friend lacks. Therefore, everyone needs each other. The form of our nation can be compared to the human body. The head is obviously the most important part of the body. Nevertheless, it is the legs which support the entire body. Blood would be let from the feet in order to cure the upper limbs. Therefore, the head cannot be complete without the feet.
“All of Bnei Yisrael are one solid unit. Even if one considers himself the head and his fellow Jew the feet, he cannot attain perfection without his friend’s contribution. What he lacks, his friend provides. Therefore, it is fitting for everyone to subject himself to his fellow man. This approach will encourage achdut with one another, as well as unity with Hashem, Who has no beginning and no end. But one who separates the importance of the head and the feet, believing he is superior to his fellow Jew, falls under the clutches of the Sitra Achra, the one in control of the world of separation.
“Rosh Hashanah is the time when the neshamot of Am Yisrael return to their source. This is ‘when the heads of the nations gathered.’ The ‘head’ is a reference to man’s thoughts, which may have strayed into forbidden territory. With Rosh Hashanah, they become unified for Hashem’s sake.”
Moshe Rabbeinu was equal to all of Klal Yisrael (see Mechilta, Yitro 1), simple and significant alike. The head represents the people of stature, while the feet represent the ordinary folk. Regarding Moshe, the pasuk says (Bamidbar 12:2), “Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.” How did Moshe, head and shoulders above the rest of mankind, maintain an approach of humbleness? Through feelings of modesty and self-effacement. He understood that without the backing offered by the simple people, who were considered the feet of the nation, he would never have succeeded in becoming the head. This is in line with the words of the Ba’al HaTanya, cited above. It is the feet which stabilize the body and uphold the head; they are crucial for the entire system to function optimally.
Hashem’s order to Moshe after the sin of the Golden Calf encapsulates this idea. There, He stated (Shemot 32:7), “Go, descend – for your people… has become corrupt.” Chazal interpret this to mean (see Berachot 32a) that since Bnei Yisrael damaged their spiritual level, Moshe, too, had to descend in his spiritual level. All that he had achieved was only in their merit. With their sin, they caused a breach in the unity of the nation, they effectively cut off Moshe’s legs, so to speak, and he could no longer bear the title of “head.” We find that as long as Hashem was angry with Bnei Yisrael, He did not display the same level of love toward Moshe as previously (see Rashi, Devarim 2:17). Only after Hashem forgave their sin, did the Shechinah return to Moshe.
When Moshe descended Har Sinai, he began kissing the people in order to re-connect with them. He desired to return the connection between head and heel. When Moshe had been in Heaven, he had reached the level of the angels. He was greater than the nation of sinners by light-years. In order to return the body of our nation to its former status, he had to reconnect the head with the feet. This is what he accomplished by kissing the people. By doing this, he lowered his dignity. But to him, it was well-worth the price of the nation’s unity, which was eventually restored. The entire nation is one single unit, as explained previously by the Ba’al HaTanya.
With the nation’s sin, Moshe felt a deficiency in himself. He therefore lowered himself to their level and kissed them, bringing them closer to him, so that they would rise once again, and he would, too.
The first part of Moshe’s blessing is “He became King over Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gathered.”The secret of Am Yisrael’s survival is the unity which they share, young and old alike. Together, they comprise the Jewish nation.
In parashat Vayeitzei, we read (Bereishit 28:12), “And he dreamt, and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold! angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it.” Yaakov’s ladder is an analogy to our people. When a ladder is “set earthward,” i.e., when there is unity among all strata of society, then “its top” can reach “heavenward.” The simple man, considered the foot, helps the tzaddik, who is then capable of reaching the very heavens. The “angels of G-d” are the tzaddikim and the simple people, the “head” and the “heel” of our nation.
Both the last word in the Torah, ישראל and the first word, בראשית, contain the word ראש (head) within them. Even one who is “at the end of the line,” seemingly insignificant, is considered a head, just like the one who stands at the helm of our nation. The head gains support from the feet. Without the support of the little guy, the big boss would be out of business. The “head” and the “foot” are interconnected and draw strength from one another.
Rosh Hashanah is the day when everyone is elevated to the status of “head.” The words (Devarim 29:9) “You are standing today” refer to Rosh Hashanah, when Am Yisrael stand before Hashem in judgment. The word Nitzavim (standing) is a form of praise for the nation. All of Am Yisrael, the young and old, stand together, united as one, with no distinctions between the classes, to crown Hashem as their King. This causes them to emerge innocent in judgment.
The words “your heads” is an allusion to the head of the body, whereas “your water-carriers” refers to the foot, for water travels downward. When Am Yisrael demonstrate the stability that comes with harmony, the simple and the significant bring merit to one another. This gives Hashem the ability, as it were, to inscribe and seal them for a year of life. The recitation of Malchuyot teaches that just as a king cannot rule without a nation (see Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 3), so too, can the tzaddikim rule the nation only when the people express their support.
When Am Yisrael stand in unity on Rosh Hashanah, crowning Hashem together, the heads of the nation, those who are the thinkers and intellectuals, connect with the ordinary folk. This elevates the level of the lower people, akin to the feet, to that of the others, who are like the head. Without the simple people, the heads cannot grow in Torah knowledge. We find that Moshe attributed his stature solely to the merit of Bnei Yisrael.
The word יחד (together) is numerically equal to twenty-two, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet with which the Torah is written. When the Torah giants connect to the simple people, they merit understanding Torah concepts. This is in line with David Hamelech’s assertion (Tehillim 119:99), “From all my teachers I grew wise, for Your testimonies are a conversation for me.” David was humble enough to learn even from those of smaller stature than himself. He merited kingship because he humbled himself before everyone and was ready to learn from anyone. Since he fulfilled the end of the verse (Devarim 33:5) “when the heads of the nation gathered,” he merited the beginning, “He became King over Yeshurun.” David Hamelech merited Torah and royalty, for he exemplified the maxim (Derech Eretz 8) “The Torah is acquired only by one who is humble of spirit.”
During the Yamim Noraim, it is imperative to correct matters between man and his fellow man. This will enable us to stand before Hashem as one cohesive unit. When a person does teshuvah regarding only matters between himself and Hashem, his teshuvah is incomplete, for his deficiencies in matters between himself and his fellow man prevent him from becoming bonded with them, and from together coronating Hashem as King.
Korach “took himself” (Bamidbar 16:1) to the side, disputing Moshe’s authority. He was punished measure for measure, separated from the nation forever, swallowed by the ground. He was drawn into Gehinnom, as he drew himself away from the people.
Not only did Korach incite a rebellion, he caused a rift in the Torah itself, by mocking the mitzvot of tzitzit and mezuzah. While achdut in Am Yisrael and adherence to the Torah brings about the fulfillment of the maxim “Hashem, the Torah, and Am Yisrael are one” (see Zohar II, 90b), when there is conflict among the nation, there is a schism between the other factors in this equation, as well.
The Ba’al HaTanya expounds on the pasuk “You are standing today.” He says, “This parashah is always read before Rosh Hashanah, alluded to in the word “today.” The day of Rosh Hashanah is the day of man’s creation, a day when all the nitzotzot of the neshamot stand at attention before Hashem.
“The heads of your tribes… from the hewers of your wood to the drawers of your water…” Ten distinct classes are mentioned here. This corresponds to the ten levels of man’s soul. Each person is on a distinct level, together comprising the congregation of Bnei Yisrael, divided into ten categories.
This indicates how important it is to correct matters between man and his fellow man. Dissention is liable to prevent Hashem’s coronation on the Day of Judgment. Man was created on Rosh Hashanah (Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 782). Hashem connects man to the Upper Worlds, as stated in our holy sefarim (see Zohar II, 75). From him, all worlds gain sustenance. Since the days of Adam Harishon, every generation stands before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah. All the nitzotzot of the neshamot of Klal Yisrael become elevated then. When there is, chalilah, dissention among the nation, the Shechinah is terribly pained, for blessing is prevented from coming upon the world.