Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

As the days draws nearer to Rosh Hashana, and we’re about to enter one of the holiest times of the year, a feeling of awe follows us throughout these days.

Throughout the year and especially throughout the last month people and especially Jews all over the world have been repenting and contemplating their ways in preparation to go before the King. What I noticed and what I believe, is that one cannot just prepare a month before Rosh Hashana, one month before their court date, in order to be prepared and receive a good verdict. A person who is concerned about their future and their life, does not wait for the last minute or a month before, to do good deeds. And therefore when the month of Elul arrives, the hard work that has been done all year long takes on an even greater level of effort.

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I also find that the challenges that a person has a month before Rosh Hashana are more concentrated than throughout the year. It’s like at the end of the month when a certain amount of items need to be sold there’s more pressure to get this done.

Hashem gives us challenges and sends us different trials throughout the year and Hashem tries to spread out the work throughout the year so we won’t collapse or even give up trying. However, when the year is coming to an end and Hashem sees that we still have work that was not done within ourselves, then the trials and challenges sometimes are more intensified in this last month before the Judgment Day arrives. And G-d does this in his infinite wisdom and mercy, in order that we have a fair chance when we come before Him in the heavenly courts.

I, like my fellow Jews, have been tested many times. I’ve mentioned in the past that not every person has the same capability of withstanding challenges. This is true on a physical level and on a spiritual level as well. Some souls have a greater capacity for handling the trials that come their way and others have a weaker ability. Hashem sees this and tests them in different ways so that everyone can withstand the challenges and be able to cleanse their souls.

When one withstands a challenge, one of two things can happen. You can become stronger because throughout the challenge you were able to see Hashem and connect your pain to a greater force. You understand that all this is from above for the purpose of helping you get to a better place in worshiping Him. Or we can take the challenge and fall from it and be depressed and angry at G-d and question why this is happening to me; and not connect this challenge to a higher Force. Some may blame others, or believe that things are not fair and then each experience hardens our heart and brings us down and further away from Hashem.

I’ve had my fair share of challenges this past month. I felt like an EKG machine, reading my heart beats that are racing, and the monitor goes up and down rapidly. That’s how intense my challenges were this month. So as hard as it is to have many great and hard challenges and you feel like you’re racing and running, still this means that your heart is functioning very well. It’s racing like on a treadmill, but that’s a good thing for the soul. Hashem tests us and he makes us stronger the same way physical exercise makes us stronger. When we overcome our challenges, as painful as they may be, and connect the experience to Hashem, that it’s all from Him, we realize that he’s just making us stronger and He’s giving us a bigger heart.

It says in the Torah that Hashem hardened Pharoh’s heart. And it says in the prophecies, Hashem will remove our hard heart and give us a new heart. All the speech about the heart is talking about these challenges that Hashem gives us throughout our life. When we get a bigger heart we have more room in our hearts and if we realize that all these trials are Hashem’s exercise for us to be healthier and have a better heart, a more feeling heart for others, and for Hashem, despite all our pain, we will become so much healthier and closer to Him.

However, if we harden our hearts and get angry at Hashem for the trials that we have, then with each experience our heart becomes harder and there’s less room and capacity for us to feel. Therefore, as we approach the greatest holidays of the year, the greatest time when we have become so close to Him, Hashem looks at our heart. He looks to see what’s in our hearts. Is there a stone; is it hard from the experiences that we had? Or is it bigger, with more room to see that everything He sends our way is just to make us closer, and better people.

We don’t have prophets today and we don’t know who to trust, but if we listen to the messages that come our way and find Hashem in everything, we will have a great heart.

Hashem spoke to Betzalel who built the Mishkan in the desert. He had a great heart, a listening heart. We too will be able to hear Hashem and be able to hear the things He wants from us. We will become closer to Hashem and we will be a vessel on Earth to serve our creator. G-d will be able to send good things our way to help all of Am Yisrael with our big hearts. And in that way we will have a lot of room to hear Hashem’s word.

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Michal can be reached at michal@jewishpress.com