Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Alter Rebbe – the Baal HaTanya –in Likutei Torah explains the month of Elul with the following metaphor: The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and inner chambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest-ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.


The month of Elul, says the Alter Rebbe, is when the king is in the field.

When the farmer sees the king in his field, does he keep on plowing? Does he behave as if this were just another day in the fields? Of course not. Elul is not a month of ordinary workdays. It is a time of increased Torah study, more fervent prayer, more generosity, and charity. The very air is charged with holiness. We might still be in the field, but the field has become a holier place.

On the other hand, when the farmer sees the king in his field, does he run home to wash and change? Does he rush to the capital to school himself in palace protocol? On the contrary, the king has come to the field to commune with his people in their environment and on their terms.

In the month of Elul, the essence and objective of life become that much more accessible. No longer do the material trappings of life conceal and distort its purpose, for the king has emerged from the concealment of his palace and is here, in the field. But unlike the holy days of the year, when we are lifted out of our workday lives, the encounter of Elul is hosted by our physical selves, within our material environment, and on our working man’s terms.

Moreover, we have a chance, says the Rebbe, to ask the king for all blessings, and the king accepts our petitions and delivers on them in a good, sweet and prosperous new year.


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at [email protected].