The Month of Elul: Busy Being Born
We are entering the month of Elul, the month which precedes the new year, Rosh HaShana. Rosh HaShana celebrates the world's creation and more specifically, the creation of the first man. In this respect, Elul is imbued with the characteristics and potentials of a pre-creation process, and in this light we can see Elul to be a month in which who we are, and who we have become can and should be examined and explored. We are all the children of Adam haRishon - the first man - and that makes Rosh HaShana the day of our creation, our collective birthday.
These next four weeks, then, are fertile ground for us, the fertile ground of our own selves, waiting to be plowed and planted, watered and weeded. By rolling up our sleeves, by getting ourselves dirty, as it were, we can begin to return to the person that G-d "had in mind" on the day of our creation.
The unique spiritual reality of Elul is captured in the saying, "The King is in His field." That is, the great king who resides far away in his impregnable castle, and who is never seen by his subjects, has decided to venture forth into the valleys and fields of his people. His visit is unannounced and without fanfare. He wants to surprise us, to see as we are, to touch us. No frills.
The simple metaphor being illustrated here is of G-d, infinite, omnipotent, vastly remote from His creation, deciding to check up on His final work of creation. In other words, on you and me. G-d wants to do away with the distance that time has wrought, and even with the formality of repentance, supplication and prayer. He just wants to see us as we really are, as on the day He created us. No psychic frills, no guilt, no regrets.
But on a deeper level our allegory is telling us something even more profound. The field where G-d seeks us is not at all distant from His abode. For this field in which we toil, this field in which our lives unfold, is none other than Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden, the very place in which we were created. This earth that we plow is not some profaned base material reality, but it is the very stuff from which we were fashioned. By returning to who we are, to what we are, we are reconnecting to the spark of the Divine within us. Our spirits sprout up from this earth and reach heavenward. It is we who are drawing near to the King. For the Almighty One never was remote. He never was inaccessible. It was we who created the illusion of distance. Through our own shortcomings the walls were built. Through our own failings the path to Him was littered with impediments.
While we wait to be created - again - we have the power to strip off all the extraneous baggage we've picked up along the way. When we go up before a flesh and blood king, it's the externals that count: pressed clothing, clean nails, polished shoes, proper etiquette. But standing before the King of kings, we need only to be ourselves, no trappings necessary. Just as we were born naked, as we busy ourselves in this month of Elul for our own upcoming birth, we need to strip away the dross. We need to trust in who we are. After all, the King is in the field, and we are G-d's children.
Tune in to the week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the month of Elul and the Supernal King in his earthly civvies, mixing among us mud-stained potato pickers. Yes, G-d wants to see us just the way we are. So it's time to drop the airs, and be ourselves! And speaking of positive attitude, this week's Torah reading of Shoftim describes the preclusion of certain preoccupied individuals from participating in warfare because, as Torah teaches us, negative thoughts can bring down negative results, and that must be avoided at all costs. Also, building the stone altar. From the dirt of this spot we were created, and through the dirt of the mizbeach - the altar - we can transcend our humble beginnings and lift our selves heavenward!