The Month of Elul
"I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."
(Song of Songs 5:3)
The month of Elul, the month which precedes Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the "Days of Awe", is best described by the verse from the Song of Songs, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Songs 5:3) The Hebrew words of the same verse, "Ani ledodi vedodi li" form an acronym which spells the word "Elul." This love and intimacy between G-d and His people Israel characterizes the special nature of the month of Elul. As we begin to intensify our efforts to take stock of ourselves and to draw near again to G-d, He has, as it were, through the holy Jewish calendar, sent us a reminder that, come what may, we are meant for each other: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." (ibid) Not only has G-d bid us this greeting of love, but were taught that during the month of Elul, G-d's good will toward His beloveds is such that He can be pictured as a King who has left the foreboding confines of His palace to step out into the fields and villages and seek His subjects. In other words, before you and I have even begun our journey back toward G-d, He has come to us.
Rosh Chodesh Elul - the new month of Elul is always sandwiched between two Torah readings, each with its own special message for the month of Elul. Parashat Re'eh, ( Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), which we read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh Elul contains the following words: "You are the children of HaShem your G-d." (ibid 14:1) Yes, we are G-d's children and G-d our Father will never forsake us, come what will. Furthermore, the portion of Re'eh begins with a choice; a warning and a challenge: "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of HaShem your G-d, which I command you this day; and the curse, if you don't listen to the commandments of HaShem your G-d, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known." (ibid 11:26-28)
G-d loves us as a Father, knowing that we will at times make wrong choices. But despite our errors and despite the traps that we might set for ourselves, G-d will not turn away from us: "You are the children of HaShem your G-d." (ibid 14:1) But lest this assurance lead to complacency on our part, we are told the following in the opening verse of the Torah portion of Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) which we will be reading on this upcoming Shabbat: "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your gates, which HaShem your G-d has given you, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment." (ibid 16:18) Moshe is instructing the children of Israel as to how they should organize themselves as a society when they enter and settle the land of Israel. But the fact that the Hebrew word for "you shall" in the verse is expressed in the singular leads our sages to understand this verse also on the level of the individual: a person's "gates" through which he takes in the world and through which he communicates to the world are his two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and his mouth. These seven gates define who he is in relationship to G-d and to others. We as individuals must place judges and officers at these seven portals in order to keep us on the right path, making the right choices. This is our instruction for entering the month of Elul. G-d is busy seeking us. We must seek him through our own adherence to His word.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, and join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven as they discuss the spiritual treasures that await us in the month of Elul. And be sure to tune in again this upcoming week as Rabbi Richman reveals new insights into Elul, the month that grabs us by that hand and leads us back to our Beloved.
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