The Char­ac­ter of Elul

The Jewish Voice - - JEWISH FEATURES -

It was on Rosh Chodesh Elul some 3,328 years ago that Moshe Rabbeinu climbed Har Si­nai again, car­ry­ing blank mar­ble tablets. Again he stayed up there 40 days and 40 nights, de­scend­ing at the end of Yom Kip­pur with the Tablets that were now in­scribed by Hashem with the Ten Com­mand­ments, the fun­da­men­tal laws for the B’nei Yis­rael, the laws that should have gov­erned the moral be­hav­ior of peo­ple around much of the world.

Elul is the month of divine mercy and for­give­ness for Hashem ex­tended His for­give­ness to the B’nai Yis­rael for the Chet Ha’egel, their wor­ship of the golden calf. Elul is the month of in­tro­spec­tion, of soul search­ing. It is the month of Teshuva, Te­filla and Tzedaka. In the read­ing of Par­shat Re’eh we are in­tro­duced to Ma’aser Ani, tithes for the poor to be given to them at fes­ti­val pil­grim­ages in Yerusha­layim. . The elim­i­na­tion of poverty is one of the 55 mitzvot in to­day’s par­sha. And yet, the pa­suk laments, poverty will never be en­tirely elim­i­nated.

Elul is the month in which we should be ask­ing for slicha, for­give­ness or par­don, from our busi­ness as­so­ci­ates, our cus­tomers, our mer­chants, our com­peti­tors, even our ri­vals, our rel­a­tives, friends and neigh­bors, for the money and time we caused them to waste, for our self­ish­ness, and for our dep­re­cat­ing lan­guage or worse—our de­cep­tions. If we don’t ask them the sins and grudges will carry on into the books of mem­ory on the Yamim No­raiim. Hashem can only for­give us for the sins of bein ah­dahm laMakom, not bein ah­dam lach­vairo.

Elul fol­lows Av, a month of mul­ti­ple tragedies and mourn­ing. But Elul is a month of as­cend­ing from the pits of history. On the first of Elul we be­gin to as­cend by blow­ing the sho­far as a wake-up call to do teshuva. The Sephardim re­cite Sli­chot while in our tra­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ra’amah, we be­gin the Sli­chot recita­tion four or five days be­fore Rosh Hashana…usu­ally on the Mozaei Shab­bat be­fore Rosh Hashana. Nonethe­less we re­cite the for­mi­da­ble capi­tol chof za­yin, Chap­ter 27 of the Te­hillim— Hashem Ori v’Yishi—On Elul and parts of Tishrei through Shem­ini Atzeret.

In the son­net, David Ham­elech im­plores Hashem: Achat Sha’alti me’et Hashem ohto avakesh, , “one thing that I re­quest of Hashem,” Shifti b’vait Hashem kol yemai chayai, “that I be per­mit­ted to dwell in house of Lord all my life so that I can be­hold His pleas­ant­ness and med­i­tate in His sanc­tu­ary.” And then he says: Ahl tah­ster panecha memeni, “Do not hide Your face from me when things go wrong,” David im­plores, “teach me Your ways and lead me in the path of right­eous­ness.”

And fi­nally it was in Elul that the world clock started tick­ing. Ac­cord­ing to our chachamim the world was cre­ated on the 25th of Elul. There­fore the first day of Rosh Hashana oc­curred on the sixth day of cre­ation and the first Shab­bat, the 7th day of cre­ation, took place on 2nd day of Tishrei. I never un­der­stood this cal­cu­la­tion inas­much the sho­far ser­vice on Rosh Hashana states Hayom harat olam, to­day is the birthday of the world. So maybe some­one can ex­plain it to me later. Thank you.

But Teshuva, Te­fillah and Tzedakah re­main the nec­es­sary ac­tions of Elul even if it is first stated for­mally in the Rosh Hashana sho­far ser­vice.

The word Elul orig­i­nated from Akka­dian. It has meant “har­vest.” The Tal­mud says the word Elul is sim­i­lar to the word for “search” in Ara­maic. The Tal­mud states that the word Elul could be ex­panded from an acro­nym to what Shlomo Ham­elech de­fined in Shir Hashirim as the per­fect re­la­tion be­tween Hashem and the B’nai Yis­rael, namely, Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li… I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. Many cou­ples have this ro­man­tic phrase in­scribed on their wed­ding rings.

It was in Chodesh Av when two of our Batei Mik­dash were de­stroyed, when Yerusha­layim was set aflame, when there was sinat chi­nam in the com­mu­nity, when moth­ers can­ni­bal­ized their own chil­dren. How hor­ri­ble!

Rav Sh­neur Zal­man of Liadi, the first Lubav­itcher Rebbe, wrote that Elul is a month process. At the be­gin­ning of the month we are of­ten back to back with Hashem and with other peo­ple…and by the end of Elul we both turn around and are now face to face. Hester panim and en­mity turn to ac­knowl­edge­ment, recog­ni­tion and the ac­cep­tance of new at­ti­tudes for both par­ties and hence new re­la­tion­ships.

On Elul we get an­other chance if we go the way of teshuva, te­filla, tzedaka, Jew or Gen­tile. I once asked Rabbi Grun­blatt if Amalekites were en­ti­tled to do teshuva and if do­ing this would have had any mean­ing. He an­swered, “ab­so­lutely.” At the end of De­varim it de­clares that sons are not re­spon­si­ble for the sins of their fa­thers nor fa­thers for the sins of their chil­dren…that is if they ex­press con­tri­tion and de­cid­edly change the pat­tern to one of good­ness and mitzvot.

So it is with ask­ing for for­give­ness. Don’t be shy. I have no qualms about ask­ing you for sl’icha. Teshuva is un­bounded, un­lim­ited. Any­one can do it if he or she is sin­cere. If the for­give­ness is granted, even ver­bally, it’ll bring you to a rap­proche­ment, to new re­la­tion­ships, new friend­ships and a higher level of ex­is­tence and readi­ness to face Hashem in the com­ing Yamim No­raim.

I not only for­give you and all those I wronged but wish upon you all the bless­ings we read in musaf: a chodesh of b’racha, sas­son v’sim­cha, yeshua v’nechama, par­nasa v’chal­kala, l’chayim u’l’shalom, lim­chi­lat chet v’lis­lichat avon. Chodesh tov v’Shana Tova Umvorechet.

David im­plores, “teach me Your ways and lead me in the path of right­eous­ness.” Elul could be ex­panded from an acro­nym to what Shlomo Ham­elech de­fined in Shir Hashirim as the per­fect re­la­tion be­tween Hashem and the B’nai Yis­rael, namely, Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.