Over the years, the Rebbe often brought to our attention the parable that the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, brings in Likutei Torah concerning the month of Elul.
Firstly, it is important to note that this parable is brought in the maamorim, discourses, of Parshas Re’eh. We see Likutei Torah has 62 and a half columns of Chassidus devoted to Parshas Re’eh. This is the longest, or one of the longest, sections in the entire Likutei Torah. How many columns does Parshas Shoftim get? None! The obvious question is: When the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, divided the maamorim, why did he apportion so many columns to Re’eh and not a single column to Shoftim?
The Rebbe explains that Re’eh is a parsha of revelation. Re’eh means “Look, See.”
Anochi – “I,” reminiscent of Matan Torah; Nosei – am giving; Lifneichem – to your countenance, straight in your face; Hayom – today (as opposed to night); Brocha – blessing. We see how Re’eh is all about revelation.
Parshas Shoftim, on the other hand, means “judges.” Why do you need judges? Because there are arguments, so you need judges to decide and officers to enforce the decision. Moreover, in the beginning of the parsha, we find the words “divrei rivos,” referring to quarrels that are in the cities. Therefore, says the Tzemach Tzedek: “If that’s what you want, to have arguments and quarrels – no Likutei Torah!” So Re’eh gets 62 and a half columns, while Shoftim doesn’t get even one.
Parenthetically, how difficult is it to learn one column of Likutei Torah? I once heard from Reb Yoel, who left us not long ago, that one column of Likutei Torah is just as difficult to learn as one blatt (two-sided page) of Gemara. I might add that I believe it is even more difficult.
This parable of “the King in the field” is in Parshas Re’eh, even though in many years, if not in most years, Elul begins during the week of Parshas Shoftim. One of the maamorim towards the beginning of Re’eh opens with the verse from Shir HaShirim, “Ani Ledodi V’Dodi Li” (which spells out the acronym of Elul), and there the Alter Rebbe discusses the parable of melech basadeh – “the king in the field,” to help us understand what Elul is about.
The Alter Rebbe describes this allegory as follows:
Before the king arrives back to the city, the people of the city come out to greet him in the field. The Alter Rebbe uses the terminology: “Rasho’in kol mi sherotzeh” – whoever wants to is allowed to greet the king. The Rebbe always quotes the Previous Rebbe’s addition to this phrase: the word “v’yecholin” – not only are they allowed, but they also have the ability to greet the king – “l’hakbil ponov.”
When they come to greet him, the king accepts everyone “b’sever panim yofos,” amicably, and shows everyone a smiling countenance. However, once the king enters the city and returns to his royal palace, not everyone can come in to see him. Only a select few individuals or people of special stature have this privilege.
This is an allegory for the month of Elul: During Elul, everyone is able to go over to the King, to G-d Almighty. Once Tishrei starts, however, it is more difficult. Then you need an appointment, a rendezvous, and not everyone even gets an appointment with the king. There’s a whole process to receive an audience with the king, and even then, it’s only an elite group who get this opportunity.
The message of the Alter Rebbe is very clear – one should take full advantage of the month of Elul.
We will continue with more details concerning this moshol – G -d willing, next week.