The Temple Institute: Drawing Nearer to G-d



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Drawing Nearer to G-d

Elul 22 5765 /September 26, 2005
2005 The Temple Institute, Yitzchak Reuven - All Rights Reserved


"I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me" - Song of Songs 6:3


The final week of the month of Elul is upon us. As we have been emphasizing on our site, and on our internet radio Temple Talk show, the essence of the month of Elul is symbolized by the verse from the Song of Songs: "I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me." (6:3) This succinct line describes our relationship with G-d: Our love for G-d, and His love for us, is of equal strength and depth, concern and tenderness. Or at least it should be. And that's what we are working on each day of Elul. Each morning we blow the shofar, sounding a wake up call, exhorting ourselves to reexamine our relationship with G-d, to rekindle our love, to draw nearer to G-d than before. One way to do this is to distance ourselves from wrongdoing - from selfishness and carelessness - and by repairing and improving our relationships with others. The other way to draw nearer to G-d is by working on and improving our better qualities. Taking stock involves looking backward - at past deeds, and looking forward - to a new year replete with new opportunities.

Alongside this aspect of "I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me," Elul is described as the time when "the King is in the field." G-d the King of all creation, Himself, is seeking us out. Not content, as it were, that we should enter on our own into the month of Tishrei - whose first day is the holy day of Rosh Hashana - the anniversary of the creation of man, and into His palace - His Holy Temple - and stand before Him alone in judgment, He wants to seek us out, reacquaint us with Him, encourage us to prepare ourselves for the day of Rosh Hashana - the day that "all mankind will pass before You as members of the flock."

We have arrived at an apparent contradiction: on the one hand, we are G-d's "beloved," for whom He will surely provide and protect, forgive us our faults, and safeguard our future. On the other hand, G-d is King over all humanity. Who are we as individuals, that G-d should concern Himself with our well-being? After all, G-d certainly has greater concerns. Are we so brazen as to assume that G-d will regard each and every one of us in the complexity of our humanity on the very day that we emphasize and recognize His sovereignty over all mankind? Are we not merely insignificant members of the flock, at the mercy of His will?

In light of the recent hurricanes - Katrina and Rita - and the devastation they left behind, and in the light of the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and elsewhere here in the land of Israel - a disaster brought upon by the decree of evil men - one might wonder: am I truly G-d's "beloved?" If so, why am I being punished along with tens of thousands of others? If G-d loves me as an individual - then why am I being treated as just another item in a heartless inventory?

Of all the holy days on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashana is understood by our sages as being the day of hashgacha pratit - divine providence. Surely, every moment of our lives G-d sees our deeds, and our inner thoughts, but precisely on this day of Rosh Hashana, this day of "wholesale judgment," His attention is focused on each and every one of us as individuals: as individuals within the nation, and within our communities. As individuals amongst our friends and loved ones. And as individuals within ourselves. For while we are standing before G-d our King, and as He reviews our deeds, He is also standing right alongside us: as our beloved. And as our beloved he is part of the equation of who we are. Our relationship with G-d, as well as our relationships with our fellow human souls - strangers, friends and loved ones alike - make up our sum total as individuals. We never stand before G-d alone! And this is why G-d seeks us out via the wake up call of the shofar to repent and return to Him. This is why the King steps forth from His Sanctuary and enters into the field - to be there for all who seek Him, so that none will need stand before Him alone on the day of judgment. G-d attaches Himself to all who seek Him through repentance - and reviews our deeds on Rosh Hashana through the benevolent eye of our beloved.

A dear friend sent us an email last week. He had twenty four hours to gather together whatever he could, and evacuate his house in Houston. How, he asked, do I pack up a lifetime into a few cardboard boxes, knowing that what I leave behind may be gone forever? Deciding what is important and what is dispensable is precisely the question that preoccupies us in the month of Elul. Knowing that "I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me," that even in times of overwhelming calamity, G-d is so close to me even when He seems so aloof, and I am so close to G-d even when I feel so insignificant - fortifies us in our day of judgment. Possessing this insight grants us the strength to draw ever nearer to G-d.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a Sweet New Year,
And a long life of health and happiness!

Yitzchak Reuven

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500


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