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Elul: Scaling the Mountain to Reach G-d's Mercy

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » A Month of Preparation | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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There is a forty-day period of Divine benevolence and mercy which starts with the 1st of Elul and concludes with the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur).

After the fiasco of the Golden Calf, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and prayed for forgiveness for forty days. Finally, on the 1st of Elul, he was told to carve a second set of tablets and climb the mountain once again. Moses did so, and stayed on the mountain another forty days, during which time, G-d engraved the Commandments on the second tablets. On the fortieth day, Yom Kippur, G-d uttered the long-awaited words: “I have forgiven [the Jews] as per your request.”1

Since then, these forty days have been designated as days of repentance, days when G-d’s compassion is readily available.

At the End of the Day – You Only Remain With What You Earned

The High Holidays are indeed quite inspiring. The moving prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the holy atmosphere which pervades the synagogue on these holy days touches the heart of every Jew. Afterwards, the infectious joy and camaraderie of Sukkot and Simchat Torah sweeps us off our feet and lifts us to an inspired state of spirituality. However, if we want the impact of these wonderful days to remain with us throughout the entire year, we must prepare ourselves properly. Inspiration is fantastic, but it only lasts for the individual who has refined him or herself through a process of spiritual improvement.

This is what Elul is all about: a month of preparation.

The King is in the Field

Normally, it is extremely difficult, or even downright impossible, for the average citizen to receive an audience with the king. However, occasionally the king ventures into the “field” to visit his simple subjects, to get in touch with the common person. This is an opportunity for anyone to approach the king and have his or her feeling and requests heard.

According to the teachings of Chassidut, during the month of Elul, the King of kings is in the field, available and accessible to all. There is only one condition: you must muster the courage to approach the king. 

Footnotes

  • 1. For sequence of events see Rashi on Deuteronomy 9:18

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Tishrei
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Chassidut
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.