As we get closer and closer to Rosh Hashanah, we should try to prepare ourselves in every possible way. We should make a cheshbon hanefesh and determine for which behaviors we need to do teshuvah. We should also try to participate in chesed projects for the Gemara tells us, “Kol ha’mracheim al habrios, merachamin alov min HaShamayim – Whoever has mercy on his fellow man will be shown mercy from Heaven.”
We also should forgive those who have wronged us, for Hashem judges us midah kneged midah. Therefore, if we look away from the misdeeds of others, Hashem will look away from our sins.
Prayer is also extremely important. As we know, Elul is an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me.” If we attempt to come close to Hashem, Our Beloved, He reciprocates in full measure. Prayer is one of the most direct means of coming close to Hashem.
We should ask Hashem to rev up our teshuvah motors and in Shemoneh Esrei we should ask Him to forgive us when we say, “S’lach lonu” and to give us the knowledge to know what needs to be improved when we say, “Atah chonein laadom daas.” We should pray that others, too, be motivated to repent and better themselves.
“U’tshuvah, u’tefillah, u’tzedakah maavirin es roah ha’gezeirah.” Thus far, we have looked at the first two items that repeal evil decrees. Now let’s take a serious look at the third one, tzedakah.
Aside from saving us from death – “tzedakah tatzil mimaves” – charity can make us wealthy as the Gemara says, “Aser bishvil shetisasher – Give tithes and you will become wealthy.” So before Rosh Hashanah, when Hashem distributes our annual income, so behooves us to beef up our tzedakah output.
You might think to yourself, “Wait a minute! I know many people who diligently give charity and are not wealthy!” The commentators address this objection. The Chofetz Chaim writes that a person isn’t rewarded with reward unless he gives in proportion to his means.
He cites the Gemara, which relates that the daughter of Nakdimon Ben Gurion was found picking barleycorns out of dung in order to survive. It asks how such a fate could have fallen the daughter of a great philanthropist and answers that Nakdimon gave a lot – but not according to his ability.
The Marchazu suggests a different explanation. He maintains that one isn’t rewarded with wealth unless one gives charity happily. The Torah says, “Lo yeirah levavcha b’sidcha lo – Let it not hurt your heart when you give charity to him.” Many people give grudgingly or with a frown. In order to receive Divine reward, we must give tzedakah with a smile.
My favorite explanation comes from the Hafla’ah. He stresses that the Gemara promises “shetisasher,” that one will become wealthy by giving charity, and Pirkei Avos says, “Eizehu ashir? Hasame’ach b’chelko – Who is wealthy? He who is satisfied with his lot.” Thus, explains the Hafla’ah, the reward of charity is a sense of satisfaction and well-being.
Indeed, the navi Malachi promises that if we give charity, Hashem will open up the skylight in Heaven, “v’harikosi lachem bracha ad bli dai” – which the Gemara explains means that Hashem will shower reward upon the baal tzedakah until his lips tire from saying, “Enough” – i.e., a poetic expression of fulfillment and wellbeing, according to the Hafla’ah.
In the zechus of our multi-pronged attempts to get ready for the Day of Judgment, may Hashem bless us all with a kasiva v’chasima tovah u’mesukah.