There is a minhag, brought in the Mishnah Berurah (581:2), to recite the kapitel of L’Dovid Hashem ori during the month of Elul through Shemini Atzeres. The primary topic that the tefilla discusses is that Hashem is the strength of our lives and that we do not have to fear anyone for He will protect us from our enemies. The obvious question is why this kapitel was designated to be recited in the month of Elul? What does that have to do with Elul? Wouldn’t a kapitel devoted to teshuvah have been more appropriate?
During the month of Elul we are supposed to prepare for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah. As we know, our primary avodah on Rosh Hashanah is to willfully accept Hashem as our king. Only then can Hashem allow Himself to act as our king.
One cannot expect to wake up on Rosh Hashanah in the morning and presume that he will be ready to accept Hashem as the one true king of the world. It is a difficult avoda that requires preparation. And that precisely what Elul is for. Our avodah during the month of Elul is to prepare ourselves to accept Hashem as the king of the world, so that when Rosh Hashanah arrives we will be ready to do so.
Perhaps we can suggest that the minhag of reciting L’Dovid Hashem ori during the month of Elul is to accomplish this very task of preparing us to accept Hashem as our king. The hard reality of this world is that we have enemies who seek our destruction. Many of them do not even mask or hide it; they have it in their charter. One of the main functions of a king is to ward off the threats from enemies and protect his nation. By reciting the pesukim, which discuss the threat of our enemies and how Hashem will protect us from them, we are filling our hearts with the appropriate feelings necessary to accept malchus Hashem. When we accept our king, He will assume the responsibilities of a king saving us from our enemies, as well as from all the other tzaros and sicknesses that plague us.
To this extent, we recite a kapitel whose main focus stresses that Hashem is our strength and that He will protect us from our enemies. For as we mentioned, security from enemies, is one of the main things that a king provides for his nation.
The ultimate geulah will be similar to Rosh Hashanah except that when Hashem reveals His kingship to the entire world, everyone will accept Him as the one true king. Similarly, before that revelation there will be an Elul period as well, preparing us for that coronation.
Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l in his sefer Ikvisa D’Meshicha writes that everything that will happen to Bnei Yisrael from the beginning of time until the end is found in Parshas Ha’azinu. There the Torah writes that during the time before the geulah, first we will see that it will appear as if all is lost, the enemy will get stronger, and it will seem that nothing can save us (Devarim 32:36). Then we will be able to see that everything is reliant on Hashem (Devarim 32:39).
The Chafetz Chaim quotes a Yalkut Shemoni in Eichah that says in the times of the churban Beis Hamikdash, Yitzchak Avinu said to Hashem, “Ribbono shel Olam, perhaps the children will never return?” Hashem responded, “There will be a generation that will be metzapeh (anxiously await) for my malchus and immediately they will be redeemed, as it says, ‘V’yesh tikvah l’acharisech…v’shavu banim l’gevulam.’”
The time right before the geulah will be an “Elul,” which will prepare us for accepting malchus Hashem. This is the avodah of Elul, and our avodah during the time right before the geulah. We must open our eyes and realize that we are living in this time. There is nothing else that can save us from the severe predicament that our nation finds itself in right now, except Avinu Shebashamayim.
The Vilna Gaon said that the kapitel “Lamenatzeach mizmor l’Dovid” contains seventy words, and each word represents the last seventy years of the galus. We are now in the final stage, which is represented by the pasuk, “Hashem hoshiya hamelech ya’aneinu b’yom kareinu – Hashem save, may the King answer us on the day that we call out to Him.” Our avodah during this month and this period of time is to accept our King and daven to Him, and He will answer us and bring the geulah.