Rosh Hashana willl be October 2-4, 2016, Visit our HIGH HOLIDAY LINKS
With the High Holidays swiftly dawning upon us, it would be inexcusable not to awaken ourselves to some of the thoughts and ways we ought to try to focus on during the month of Elul.
There are forty days from the beginning of Elul to Yom Kippur – these correspond to the second set of forty days which Moses ascended Mount Sinai, beseeching Hashem to forgive the Israelites after the Golden Calf and to return to dwell amongst His nation. After 40 days Moses was given the second tablets and the nation was forgiven, and every year we have the chance to connect to this purification and forgiveness on Yom Kippur. Jewish Tradition relates to the entire period of forty days as days of special favor for the Jewish people, and a time of mercy and love from Hashem. It is compared to the initial forty days of a fetus, which is considered the critical time span for its creation; so too do we have opportunity to recreate ourselves, and as a consequence our world, during these forty days if we take advantage of them.
The sages expound the letters of the month ELUL in various ways, all relating to its central theme of returning to our source, and to ourselves. The most well known is an acronym of the verse in Song of Songs – “I am (E) to my Beloved (L) (Hashem) and my Beloved (U) is to me (L)”. Connoting a rededication to our Better Half, to strengthening the relationship from where all our life and joy springs.
The focus of these days is not any new mitzvos, but rather to renew and reflect on the wealth of opportunities already at our finger tips; the most important and wonderful things are usually already under our noses.
The first words of the verse of how one who accidentally murders through carelessness is to flee to the designated Levite cities for refuge also begins with the letters ELUL. I heard from Rabbi Zev Leff that the connection is that one only murders through carelessness when the sanctity of life has been diminished to the extent that such foul ups become possible (that is why there was always an uneven distribution of cities of refuge, corresponding to the righteousness of the locale). Fleeing to the Levite city is one of the many examples the Torah proscribes to rehabilitate the fallen soul by placing him in a positive, nourishing environment (the parsha of Jewish slaves is another good example), for the Levites model a higher ethic of living, and a more spiritual and righteous community. So too, after a hectic year, and the travails of the three weeks of tragedy, and the distractions of the summer, Elul is our place of refuge to rehabilitate our dimmed neshamos (spiritual souls), and to repair our rusty relationships, and to sharpen our thinking, in order to be meritorious in judgment and to take out a new lease on life in the upcoming new year.
We, the Jewish people are blessed with so many opportunities to strengthen our yiddishkeit, and more importantly, our love and geshmack for yiddishkeit during this wonderful time. Just to name a few: Shabbos – a time of being free from the mundane, and a time to taste eternity in our lives, and we elevate to this lofty world every 7 days.
Davening: all we need to do is contemplate for a few moments that we are communicating with the Creator, as real as when we talk to our friend. (The Halachos related to Tefilla demonstrate this reality that the Shechina has, so to speak, presented itself before us, and is attentive to our communication – e.g. not walking before another who is davening, or not looking in front of you while saying the Amida)
Brachos (Blessings): dozens of times a day we can reflect how much good we have in our lives, and how Hashem is constantly providing us with all our needs and joys.
Torah: The greatest illumination in the whole of Creation, the Expression and Will of the Creator – If davening is our speaking to the Creator, Torah is the Creator speaking to us. Every word is a mitzvah greater than all the other mitzvos combined, and the sanctity and growth we gain from immersion in Torah is unparalleled in creation.
Chesed – every act of kindness is an opportunity for your neshama to touch another person’s neshama. Abraham excused himself from speaking with Hashem in order to do chesed with idolatrous Arab strangers – teaching us that this was even greater.
Tzedaka – we can become givers, thereby using our blessings to emulate The Creator, who is the ultimate provider and sustainer of all. All of these mitzvos involved with our secular affairs and possessions are also a precious opportunity to develop our trust and faithfulness to our Molder, our Father, our King. – After all we must develop our ability to grasp Hashem as King, for Rosh Hashana, in order to do our job of crowning Him on that day. – (This is especially challenging for our generation, now that Providence has greatly removed the image and concept of Kingship and Royalty from the modern western society.)
We hope that we all seek out this Elul as our city of refuge, and make a little time and a lot of heart to revive ourselves and be well oriented and strong for the Days of Awe.
Wishing everybody a favorable verdict full of new blessings for 5777.
-Beth Shifra Crew