Month of Elul:
A Time of Introspection

Pic of
Soldier at Kotel

It is said that the "gates of prayer" are open right now during this month of Elul, and even one void of spirituality can attain closeness to G-d. Prepare yourself for the coming ofthe "Days of Awe", our awesome new year holidays. How can we relate to this auspicious time in which we can connect to our Creator? Consider a child who was warned not to go into a dangerous place, but the distraction of something leads him to peril. The parent, looking from afar, watches their child go through a traumatic experience and escape with only a few minor scrapes. Surely the parent yearns to lovingly console their child. However, a child may be hesitant to approach a parent in fear of being "in big trouble". The little-one may not understand that any anger the parent might have had is replaced with relief that their child has escaped safely! When the child sees their parent warmly approaching them, they feel a type of shame for not trusting their parent, and inevitably run to greet their parent. The parent feels relieved, and the child finds great comfort in the closeness that results.

Pic of Parents walking Child

Likewise, we are children to Hashem, Who has warned us of the hazards of unethical behavior. How often do we get distracted with greed or covetousness, that leads us to putting our souls at risk? Hashem, from on high, beholds our actions and feels the stress of our plight, as we struggle through our lives. Certainly Hashem yearns to lovingly console us. However, we know that we are not perfect, and hesitate to approach the Master of the Universe in fear of retribution. If only we would realize that any anger Hashem has can easily be transformed to mercy, providing that we can get though our dilemma successfully! When we realize that Hashem tenderly awaits us to return, we feel remorseful, and willingly pour out our hearts in gratitude. Hashem is contented with our efforts, and we experience great encouragement with the unity that ensues.

Now we can understand why we were thrust us into exile. It was not because Hashem hates us, quite the contrary, because we are loved!  Just as a parent will discipline a child by withholding something they desire, our misbehavior prompted a drastic action- the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash [Temple]. Hashem has given us "time out" to figure out where we have gone wrong in our decisions, to learn from our mistakes so that we can grow and become great.

Elul is a time of contemplation and introspection. In the face of tragedy, have we become bitter or gotten better? Have we improved our midot [character traits] this year or faltered? Which have we thought of more, ourselves or others? Have we cut down or uplifted someone else? Hopefully, all of our answers will be positive, and we are all truly striving to become better people. This spiritual growth ultimately leads us to become closer to our Creator and each other.

The first day of Elul marks the start of a special event. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to plead for forgiveness of the incident with the Golden Calf. He prayed for 40 days, which ended on Yom Kippur. Moses' selflessness established this month as a time when it is conducive for acceptance of prayers. It is said that during the period from 1 Elul until after the holidays, any heartfelt prayer arouses Hashem's compassion, making this whole time a wonderful opportunity to connect to one's Creator. What an incredible time for meaningful and heartfelt prayer, when Hashem is guaranteed to be listening, and is even waiting patiently for our supplications.

As Elul continues, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. It is indeed a spiritual season, culminating in the joyous last day of Simchat Torah, the day after the week-long holiday of Sukkot. This last day is Hashem's way of keeping us close for just one more day before we go back to the tedium of work and mundane activities.

Amidst our internal examination, the very meaning of one's life and accomplishments can be put into an entirely new perspective. The Book of Life will be opened on Rosh Hashana: Will we be worthy of living another year on this earth? We are judged as a group, young or old, rich or poor, good or bad: Jew standing next to fellow Jew. May we merit that we should all continue to be alive in order to remain part of this Nation called Israel. What a gracious gift from Hashem! As we get ready for our "graduation" in the ethereal sense, may we find consolation in the month of Elul knowing that our prayers will be heard and that every effort in our self-improvement will be acknowledged.

May this month be meaningful to your quest to find a connection to Hashem,

Ketivah Vachatimah Tovah [May you be written and sealed for good],
The Jewlight Staff.

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