Elul—Being Proactive

Elul—Being Proactive

Have you ever experienced difficulty feeling inspired on the High Holidays? The entire month before Rosh HaShanah, Elul is traditionally known as the time to spiritually ready ourselves for the Days of Awe. In this ma’amer, the Rebbe sets forth a clear plan to develop a relationship with G-d during Elul, so we feel ready when the High Holidays come around.
Part one of five of the ma’amer Ani L’dodi, 5726 (1966)

Part Two: He Doesn’t Wake You, He Waits For You

Part Three: He Awaits you, Wherever You Are

Part Four: Not Just What You Do, But Who You Are

Part Five: It Was You All Along

בְּסִיעֲתָּא דִשְׁמַיָא. שַׁבָּת פַּרְשַׁת רְאֵה, מְבָרְכִים הַחוֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל ה’תשכ”ו*
A Relationship of Two    
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” in Hebrew, “ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” the first letter of each word spells “Elul.”   “אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי(1)” רָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת אֱלוּל(2),
Elul is the last month of the Jewish calendar and the month preceding Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos (in Tishrei).

What is the connection between Elul and being our beloved’s?

In his ma’amer of the same title in Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains the connection between Elul and, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”  

וּמְבוּאָר בְּלִקוּטֵי תּוֹרָה בְּהַמַאֲמָר דִיבּוּר הַמַתְחִיל זֶה(3) הַשַׁיְיכוּת דְאֱלוּל לְ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי(4)״,

“I am my beloved’s,” means initiating the relationship with G-d. This happens in Elul. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, G-d, in turn, shows us love back, “And my beloved is mine.”  

כִּי בְּאֱלוּל הוּא אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַתָּא, ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי,״ וּבְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרִים הִיא הָהַמְשָׁכָה מִלְמַעֲלָה לְמַטָה (אִתְעַרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָא), ״וְדוֹדִי לִי.״

Initiating the relationship is referred to in Chassidus and Kabbalah as is’arusa d’l’tatta. G-d reciprocating love is referred to as an is’arusa d’l’eyla.

The difference between the two is as follows: When we initiate by making an effort to develop the inspiration to do a mitzvah or take on a positive resolution, G-d reflects this effort by giving us more inspiration to help us along.

When G-d initiates the inspiration: when we feel inspired out of the blue for no reason. We then have the choice to take that inspiration and react. Usually, that kind of motivation is short-lived.

The G-dly expression that is experienced on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is a result of our efforts to develop our relationship with G-d during the month of Elul.  

וְהָהַמְשָׁכָה שֶׁבְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרים הִיא עֲל-יְדֵי אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַתָּא שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” reflects the theme of Elul because Elul is the preparation for the G-dly expression that we can experience on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאֱלוּל הוּא רָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי [שֶׁגַם ״וְדוֹדִי לִי״ נִכְלָל בְּרָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת אֱלוּל], כִּי אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַתָּא שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל (״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי״) הִיא (גַּם) הַקְדָמָה לְהָהַמְשָׁכָה (״וְדוֹדִי לִי״) שֶׁבְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרים (5).

“And my beloved is mine,” is the part of the verse that refers to G-d reflecting love on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, this part of the verse is also part of the acronym for Elul (v’dodi li). This tells us that G-d’s reciprocation is a direct result of self-initiated love.  

וְצָרִיך בִּיאוּר, כִּי מִזֶה שֶׁהָאוֹתִיוֹת ו’ ל’ (רָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת ״וְדוֹדִי לִי״) הֵם מִתֵּיבַת אֱלוּל עַצְמָה, מַשְׁמָע, שֶׁחוֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל הוּא לֹא רַק הַקְדָמָה לְ״וְדוֹדִי לִי,״ אֶלָא שֶׁבְּחוֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל הוּא גַּם הָעִנְיָן דְ״וְדוֹדִי לִי.״

The month of Elul is the time to actively initiate a relationship with G-d and try to feel real love for Him. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the time to experience emotions for Him as He inspires us and “reacts” towards our efforts.
Above the Rules    
The Alter Rebbe explained in his ma’amer that Elul is the time when G-d expresses His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy the same way He did when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Mount Sinai the second time.  

ב) וּמַמְשִׁיךְ בְּהַמַאֲמָר, שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא זְמַן י”ג מִדוֹת הָרַחֲמִים(6).

The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are the characteristics listed throughout the Torah and are said during tachanun: merciful, compassionate, patient, etc.Chassidus explains that G-d’s Attributes of Mercy are rooted higher than His attributes of “intelligence” (chochma, binah, da’as) and the whole operating system of creation (seder hishtalshelus). They are an expression of G-d which is beyond the parameters of logic.

If G-d expresses His mercy during Elul, then is our self-motivated inspiration self-motivated?

Although a personal effort is what drives the inspiration during the month of Elul, G-d grants us the ability to have that effort.  

דְהַגַם שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי,״ אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַתָּא, מִכָּל מָקוֹם, הָאִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַתָּא שֶׁל הָאָדָם, וּבִּפְרַט כְּשֶׁהוּא רָחוֹק מֵאֱלֹקוּת, הוּא עֲל-יְדֵי הִתְעוֹרְרוּת וּנְתִינַת כֹּחַ מִלְמַעֲלָה.

Our ability to exert effort and initiate a relationship with G-d (“ani l’dodi”) during Elul, is enabled via G-d expressing His Attributes of Mercy to every Jew, no matter how spiritually distant they may be.  

וְגִילוּי י”ג מִדוֹת הָרַחֲמִים שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל, דְגִילוּי זֶה הוּא לְכָל אֶחָד וְאַחֲת מִישְׂרָאֵל, גַּם לְהַרְחוֹקִים בְּיוֹתֵר(7), הוּא הַנְתִינַת כֹּחַ מִלְמַעֲלָה עֲל הָעַבוֹדָה דְ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי.״

The G-dly expression during Elul, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, is just G-d giving us the ability to initiate on our own. The Mercy G-d shows us doesn’t create a relationship, rather, personal effort is what starts the relationship, i.e., “I am my beloved’s.”  

אֶלָא שֶׁהַגִילוּי שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא (בְּעִיקָר) רַק נְתִינַת כֹּחַ (וְלֹא שֶׁהַגִילוּי מְעוֹרֵר אֶת הָאָדָם), וְהָעַבוֹדָה עֲצְמָה בָּאָה מֵהָאָדָם, ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי.״

The advantage of Elul over The Ten Days of Teshuva is:  

וְזוּהִי הַמַעֲלָה שְׁבְּאֱלוּל לְגַבֵּי עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה,

During the Ten Days of Teshuvah and especially Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, G-d’s expression of love towards us is what brings us back to Him. Our inspiration is a result of His inspiration.  

דְעֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה וְבִּפְרַט בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרים, הַגִילוּי הוּא בְּאוֹפֶן שֶׁהַגִילוּי מְעוֹרֵר אֶת הָאָדָם וְעַבוֹדַת הָאָדָם הִיא כְּמּוֹ תּוֹצָאָה מֵהַגִילוּי מִלְמַעֲלָה.

Elul, on the other hand, is the time when our effort is the main drive behind our inspiration. This is the time when, “I am my beloved’s,” the time when we initiate the relationship with G-d.  

וְעִיקָר הָעִנְיָן וְהַמַעֲלָה דְעַבוֹדַת הָאָדָם (עַבוֹדָה בְּכֹּחַ עֲצְמוֹ) ״אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי,״ הוּא בְּאֱלוּל.

Throughout the Ten Days of Teshuvah, our relationship with G-d is a reaction to the inspiration we feel. Throughout Elul, our relationship is self-initiated. During Elul however, G-d gives us the ability to approach Him and develop our relationship with Him, by expressing His Mercy.

*. ) יצא לאור בקונטרס ר”ח אלול – תש”נ, “לקראת ר”ח אלול .. ער”ח אלול, שנת ה’תש”נ”.
1. שה”ש ו, ג.
2. אבודרהם סדר תפלת ר”ה ופירושה פ”א. פע”ח שער כ”ד (שער ר”ה) פ”א. שעה”פ להאריז”ל עה”פ. ב”ח לטור או”ח הל’ ר”ה סתקפ”א ד”ה והעבירו. הנסמן לקמן ע’ רמה הערה 67.
3. פרשת ראה לב, א ואילך. וראה ד”ה אני לדודי תשמ”ו (לקמן ע’ רל ואילך) השייכות דמאמר זה (שבלקו”ת) לפרשת ראה והרמז לדף לב.
4. כמפורש בלקו”ת שם בהתחלת המאמר “והענין כי באלול כו'”, דזה שבאלול הוא אתערותא דלתתא כו’ הוא ביאור הענין דאני לדודי ודודי לי ר”ת אלול.
5. ועפ”ז יומתק מ”ש בהמאמר שבכדי שיהי’ ודודי לי בר”ה וביוהכ”פ צריך תחילה אתעדל”ת באלול – אף שמאמר זה מדבר בענין אלול, ולא בר”ה ויוהכ”פ – כי זהו ביאור על אני לדודי ודודי לי ר”ת אלול.
6. ראה מ”ח מס’ אלול פ”א מ”ג. פע”ח שם.
7. סה”מ ה’ש”ת ע’ 166.

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