This Shabbat is “Shabbat Bereishit,” when we read the very first portion of the Torah. As explained by the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the way we conduct ourselves on Shabbat Bereishit has an influence on our conduct of the entire year to come.
This week is also the Shabbat on which we bless the coming month of Marcheshvan. The name is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “drop,” as it is in Marcheshvan that the rainy season begins in the Holy Land.
Winter is the season for rain; summer, for dew to fall. But what is the difference between rain and dew?
Rain is dependent on man’s Divine service. In the merit of our prayers, G-d causes the rain to fall. If, G-d forbid, our behavior is lacking, He withholds His life-giving waters. Dew, by contrast, occurs independent of our actions. G-d causes the dew to regularly replenish the earth, without any effort on our part.
The physical phenomena of rain and dew expresses the essential difference between summer and winter. In the summer, when dew falls, the world receives G-d’s blessings from Above without our exertion. Winter, when rain falls, is a time when it is more difficult to obtain His blessings, as we must labor to be worthy of receiving them.
This Shabbat, when we bless the month of Marcheshvan, we imbue the “month of rain” with the power which will sustain it. It is the last Shabbat of Tishrei, the “chodesh hashevi’i” (the “seventh month” when counting from Nisan), that is “musba” (“satiated,” from the same root word as “sheva,” meaning “seven”) with all that is good. For only a month that is so full of mitzvot as Tishrei can impart the necessary strengths to the difficult month that will follow. Indeed, it is from Tishrei that we draw the ability to perform our G-dly service throughout the entire winter.
So rain or shine, it’s always time to do a mitzva.