Every month of the Jewish calendar has its own character and personality. Especially here in the Land of Israel, our lives and seasons are attuned to the calendar. The month that we are entering now Elul, the season of reconciliation. It is a time of quiet, when the crops have been planted and are nearing harvest.
We are reminded that the deeds and thoughts that we have sown among each other are also coming to fruition. We contemplate the results of what we’ve done and said, and sometimes we see that the outcome is not as we would have wished it to be. Perhaps we fought with the neighbors over the dirty stairway in the building. Or perhaps we spoke rashly to a co-worker. Perhaps we neglected to say a kind word to a child when it might have made a difference. During this month our Jewish soul is just about jumping out of her place and wanting to run everywhere she can, doing good deeds and asking for forgiveness from everyone.
The last month of the year is completely different from the last year of the secular calendar. “Only 30 more shopping days left.” I’m sure you’ve all heard those words in any country in the world during the last month of the calendar year.
The month of December was always a fascinating time back when I lived in the States. “Just today, ladies and gentleman. Yes! Just today!” was a typical opening for a 10% reduction on some item, and a sale on a pretty dress you dreamed of all year long, and just waited for that end of the year sale. And then it all ended with New Years, leaving precious little behind in its wake, other than the disheartening return to facing the routine soul-numbing life as usual.
Everything is different when the Jewish month of Elul arrives. It, too, is 30 days before the Big Day that comes at the end of the year, Rosh Hashana. It is not a time in which we strive to find some sort of balance between shopping and dropping. It is a time of love, yearning, reconciliation, forgiveness, and return. This time of year is the time when G-d’s closeness to us is most easily grasped.
Elul is compared to the time of year that Hashem, by way of parable, is compared to a human king who resides in his palace and is virtually inaccessible to the average person. Once a year, the king tours his kingdom with the goal of getting to know his subjects. Anyone can go to the royal personage and tell him whatever is on his mind and in his heart knowing that the king is there to hear him.
Every time Elul comes around and I am reminded that the king is in the field outside just waiting to hear from me. I get excited like a small child who was granted the honor of meeting the mayor of the city on behalf of all the children in the school. I think of how I will dress, and what I will say, will the right words come to me, will I be too nervous to actually say what I am supposed to say? After all it’s so natural to be nervous and worried about our behavior when going in front of a high official. And here in Elul the situation is much simpler. On one hand our king is the highest ranking official in the word, and as far as nerves go, well we probably wouldn’t make it for even one moment in His presence. And yet G-d himself presents himself, so to speak, on a very simple level so that anyone can just go up to him and talk – despite our being so insignificant next to G-d’s infiniteness.
This month gives me so much hope and strength. Rosh Hashana isn’t just a date on the calendar; it’s about our special book up in heaven that has not yet been written and sealed. No one can know what will be written in our book since it will only be written on Rosh Hashana. True, our deeds and actions throughout the past year is all written down in our book. But every action we make during this month can change anything and everything. Especially if someone is waiting for some good news, health, wealth, or anything major in their lives, it can all be determined in these few weeks. Sometimes just by one more prayer from the heart or from one good deed that we do, those actions can tilt the whole scale from bad to good and thus change our whole book of life for the better.
May we all merit speaking to our holy King in person, and may all of our deepest desires be fulfilled with health and happiness. Amen
Leshana tova tekatevu vetaichatemu.