This week’s music: https://youtu.be/vvNOi1j45yo
One of the great lessons which I can remember learning from Reb Shlomo Carlebach is his recommendation on how we should approach the month of Elul. Elul, as I have heard from Reb Shlomo Riskin, is a time for each individual to look at him/herself and deal directly with a personal fixing. Rosh Hashannah, on the other hand, is The Judgement Day for the entire world. It is undoubtedly a day of togetherness and community, while Elul, in a sense, is about me.
During this month we can become preoccupied thinking about sins which we may have transgressed throughout the year past. After all, we read,” Selichot,” prayers of forgiveness, we approach other to ask for personal forgiveness, simply we feel ourselves getting closer to Rosh Hashannah, The Judgement Day so it is natural that “regret” finds its place in the process.
This is not the focus of Elul, teaches Reb Shlomo. This month, instead of only looking at what I did wrong this year, I need to recall to myself those areas which I did right. I must look at both my mitzvot bein adam la’Makom (between man and God) and “bein adam la’chavero” (between man and his friend), itemize where, thanks to God, I contributed in a positive way to the world and work on strengthening those areas. The more I upgrade my positive traits, the better equipped I will be to pray for the world on Rosh Hashannah. I take my strengths and use them as holy tools of prayer.
In this month of Elul, God is close to us. “Hamelech basadeh,” The King is in the field, teach so many of our Chassidic Masters. “Dirshu Hashem b’himatzu,” Seek Hashem where He is found, “karuhu b’heyoto karov,” call out to Him when He is close (Yeshayahu 55.6). All year we are busy and find it difficult to stop and check in with ourselves and thus to look for Hashem, to listen to what He is saying to us. In Elul I use my spiritual strengths and accomplishments to feel a sense of worthiness that indeed I can call out to Hashem who has made it clear that He wants to be close to me. “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi Li,” I am to beloved and my beloved is to me. It is a two-way street. The speaking to and the listening are both traits that take place between myself and Hashem.
As a part of this essential spiritual practice of “checking in,” I started to think about those practices which many of us our privileged to take upon ourselves regularly in our lives and began to look for ways to up them a notch for the coming year. For this again I turn to the wisdom which we were blessed to receive from Reb Shlomo.
I go to pray three times a day. Very commendable, but am I on fire when I have the awesome privilege to converse with my Creator?
I keep Shabbat without ever questioning any other option and even appreciate the beauty of having this family day, cut off from the rest of the week, but am I investing in the honor of being able to come even closer to Hashem on that day every week?
I travel through Yerushalyim a few times weekly. Do I realize what an honor it is to be able to be there? Do I understand that with each few steps which I take anywhere in Israel, for that matter, I am once again fulfilling the “mitzvah of Yishuv Ha’Aretz,” of settling in the Land?
Finally, am I doing all that I can to mamash be the personal address for “caring central?” We need to care about each other in every way. This is especially blatantly true in these times where there is so much bickering, name calling, finger pointing and literally slanderous, murderous words being spoken within earshot of us all. We must fight this with strong and positive opposition. No I won’t listen to the hurtful negative things you want to say! Instead I will fill the airwaves with only positive vibes and words, with no exception. Rebbe Nachman when teaching about the verse in tehilim, ‘…haboteach ba”hasehm chessed yesov’venhu,” the one who puts his trust in Hashem, kindness will surround him, gives over that positive traits attract other positive. If I can only put out positive and happy vibes that is what will come running towards me.
May we all be blessed to contribute to the new day’s creation of a positive, happy, caring loving world.