Is it ever too late to resolve personal differences?

What would you do if someone had done something to hurt you and then asked for forgiveness?

What if someone you care deeply about did something to you that hurt you?

Would you forgive them? How many times?


This is Part One of the Rebbe’s ma’amer Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li, 5732 (1972).

Find Part Two here.

“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” the first letter of each word spells Elul.   אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי1 רָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת אֱלוּל2,
In Hebrew, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” is “Ani ledodi vedodi li.”
The Alter Rebbe’s ma’amer in Likkutei Torah of the same name explains,   וּמְבוּאָר בְּלִקוּטֵי תּוֹרָה בְּהַמַאֲמָר דִּיבּוּר הַמַתְחִיל זֶה3,
that Elul is a time to inspire ourselves, “I am my beloved’s.”   שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְתַּתָּא, אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי,
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are when G-d encourages us in return— “and my beloved is mine.”   וּבְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרִים הִיא הָהַמְשָׁכָה מִלְמַעֲלָה לְמַטָה (אִתְעַרוּתָא דְלְעֵילָא), וְדוֹדִי לִי.
The question arises, why does the Alter Rebbe’s ma’amer mention that Elul is an acronym in Hebrew for “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,”   וְצָרִיךְ לְהָבִין, דְבְּתְּחִלַת הַמַאֲמָר אוֹמֵר שֶׁאֱלוּל הוּא רָאשֵׁי תֵּיבוֹת אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי,
if immediately after that, he explains that Elul is the time of “I am my beloved’s” and “my beloved is mine,” applies to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.   וּמִיַד לְאַחֲרֵי זֶה מְבַאֵר שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא (רַק) אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי, וְ״וְדוֹדִי לִי״ הוּא בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרִים .
If Elul is both love and fear, why do we see elsewhere that Elul is “I am my beloved’s”—fear—and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are “and my beloved is mine”—love?
This question will remain unanswered for now while we explore the meaning of “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”
The Alter Rebbe’s ma’amer explains further that Elul is the time when G-d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are revealed.   וּמַמְשִׂיךְ בְּהַמַאֲמָר, שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא זְמַן הִתְגַלוּת י”ג מִדוֹת הָרַחֲמִים4.
The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy—the way G-d shows compassion to us even after we’ve sinned. According to the legality of Torah and the framework of Seder Hishtalshelus, we can be culpable. According to justice and truth, if we do something wrong, we may be at fault.

However, G-d is not limited to being a king or a judge; He is merciful. Mercy, looks past the strict letter of the law, past our preconceived notions, our image, and our identity to forgive the person—person-to-person. Similarly, G-d forgives us when we have a sincere change of heart and behave differently. G-d’s mercy, however, is infinite like He is—He won’t ever decide He’s out of patience and give up on us.

The Alter Rebbe explains that G-d’s mercy is expressed to everyone—even the most distant people.   וּמְבַאֵר שֶׁהַגִילוּי דְי”ג מִדוֹת הָרַחֲמִים בְּאֱלוּל הוּא לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד, גַּם לְהַרְחוֹקִים בְּיוֹתֵר5.
The same way people would go to fields to greet the king on his journey to the city—   וּכְּמוֹ מֶלֶךְ שֶׁקוֹדֶם בֹּואוֹ לְעִיר יוֹצְאִין אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר לִקְרָאתוֹ וּמְקַבְּלִים פָּנָיו בַּשָׂדֶה,
there, anyone who wants is able and is permitted to meet and greet him.   וְאָז רַשָׂאִים [וִיכוֹלִים6] כָּל מִּי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְהַקְבִּיל פָּנָיו,
And he, in turn, receives them all with a beaming, friendly, and smiling face.   וְהוּא מְקַבֵּל אֶת כּוּלָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת וּמַרְאֶה פָּנִים שׂוחָקוֹת לְכּוּלָם.
Now the Rebbe asks another question to deepen the first question.

The first question was:
If Elul is a time of intensifying our love and awe, how come there are other sources that say that Elul is a time of increasing our love and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time of love?

How does this idea fit with what is written in the Tur,   וְצָרִיךְ לְהָבִין, אֵיךְ זֶה מַתְאִים עִם מַה שֶׁכָּתַב הַטוּר7,
that from Rosh Chodesh Elul onward, we blow the shofar every day to alert the Jewish nation to do teshuvah.   שֶׁמֵרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל וְאֵילָךְ תּוֹקְעִין בְּשׁוֹפָר בְּכָל יוֹם כְּדֵי לְהַזְהִיר אֶת הָעָם שֶׁיַעֲשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה,
As in the verse, “Will a shofar be sounded in the city and the people, not quake?”   שֶׁנֶאֱמַר8 אִם יִתָּקַע שׁוֹפָר בְּעִיר וְעָם לֹא יֶחֱרָדוּ,
However, during Elul, the king greets everyone with a beaming face and smiles at them all,   דְלִכְאוֹרָה מִכֵּיוָן שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הַמֶלֶךְ מְקַבֵּל אֶת כּוּלָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת וּמַרְאֶה פָּנִים שׂוחָקוֹת לְכּוּלָם,
the theme of our relationship with G-d in Elul must be love—even our teshuvah must be driven by love.   הַרֵי עִיקָר הָעֲבוֹדָה דְאֱלוּל הִיא (לְכְאוֹרָה) אַהֲבָה, וְגַּם הַתְּשׁוּבָה דְאֱלוּל צְרִיכָה לִהְיוֹת(לְכְאוֹרָה) תְּשׁוּבָה מֵאַהֲבָה,
If so, why do we blow the shofar to inspire awe and “quaking”?   וְאִם כֵּן לָמָה תּוֹקְעִין אָז בְּשׁוֹפָר בִּכְדֵי לְעוֹרֵר יִרְאָה וְחָרָדָה.
The statement of the Tur—that we blow the shofar in Elul to inspire awe—implies that Elul is a time for deepening our awe and trepidation of G-d—unlike we previously thought.
Now, we’ll explore a possible answer to the question of why the theme
Elul is awe and fear.
A possible explanation can be drawn from understanding the difference between love and fear.   ב) וְיֵשׁ לוֹמַר הַבִּיאוּר בָּזֶה, דְמְהַחִילוּקִים בֵּין אַהֲבָה לְיִרְאָה הוּא,
Whereas love is an inspiration from On High, fear results mainly from the fruit of our effort.   דְאַהֲבָה בָּאָה עַל-יְדֵי גִילוּי אוֹר מִלְמַעֲלָה, וְהַיִרְאָה בָּאָה (בְּעִיקָר) עַל-יְדֵי עֲבוֹדַת הָאָדָם.
The love of G-d can be inspired through contemplation, but even then, we are thinking about how G-d is good to us. We might think about the good in our lives and be filled with gratitude and appreciation, but the basis for these feelings is G-d’s effect on us from On High.

The Rebbe now explains the basis for feeling intimidated by a king.

This is similar to the way people fear a human king of flesh and blood.   וְעַל דֶרֶךְ יִרְאַת מֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וְדָם,
They fear him because they accepted his sovereignty,   דְזֶה שֶׁאַנְשֵׁי הַמְדִינָה יִרְאֵים מִפְּנֵי הַמֶלֶךְ הוּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁקִיבְּלוּ אוֹתוֹ לִהְיוֹת מֶלֶךְ עֲלֵיהֶם9,
Acceptance of authority, by definition, comes from the people, as the verse states, “You shall set yourself a king…”.   דְקַבָּלַת הַמַלְכוּת הִיא עַל-יְדֵי הָעָם, שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ10.
If at any moment the people stopped taking the king seriously, he loses his fanfare. If enough people disapprove of the king, they’ll overthrow him.

We see that fear is a construct of our minds. We choose to take someone seriously, to respect them, value their opinion, and accept their authority.It should be noted that in Tanya (Chapter 41 and in other places), fear is defined as the fear of rebelling against the king.

Additionally, in Likkutei Sichos, the Rebbe explains that fear of G-d is an active mitzvah rather than a prohibition: If all active mitzvos are motivated by love, and all prohibitions are kept out of fear or awe, then fear of G-d is motivated by love.

Since Elul is the time of “I am my beloved’s,”—when we inspire ourselves—fear must be the primary theme of Elul.   וְלָכֵן, כֵּיוָן שֶׁבְּאֱלוּל הוּא הָעֲבוֹדָה דְאֲנִי לְדוֹדִי, עֲבוֹדַת הָאָדָם, צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת אָז יִרְאָה.
Furthermore, the primary avoda in Elul is, “I am my beloved’s”—accepting the yoke of G-d’s sovereignty.   וְיֵשׁ לְהוֹסִיף, שְׁעִיקָר הָעֲבוֹדָה בְּאֱלוּל, אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי, הוּא קַבָּלַת עוֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם.
This is the reason why it says in Likkutei Torah that the avoda in Elul is going to the field to greet the king.   דְזֶהוּ מַה שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּלִקוּטֵי תּוֹרָה שֶׁהָעֲבוֹדָה דְאֱלוּל הִיא הַיְצִיאָה לָשָׂדֶה לְקַבֵּל פְּנֵי הַמֶלֶךְ11.
If we base our understanding of Elul on the Tur’s statement, then we see that Elul is a time for initiating our relationship with G-d—developing awe.
This fits with the Alter Rebbe’s metaphor of the people leaving the city and going to the field to meet the king—going out of their way to initiate contact.
This is also why we blow the shofar throughout Elul—to inspire awe—“You shall set yourself a king”—that we should be awestruck by the king.   וְזֶה שֶׁתּוֹקְעִין בְּשׁוֹפָר (בְּאֱלוּל) לְעוֹרֵר יִרְאָה וְחָרָדָה, הוּא, כִּי הָעִנְיָן דְשׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ הוּא שֶׁתְּהֵא אֵימָתוֹ עָלֶיךָ12,
For our acceptance of His yoke to be whole, we need to be inspired with awe.   וּבִּכְדֵי שֶׁקַבָּלַת הַמַלְכוּת תִּהְיֶה בְּשְׁלֵימוּת הוּא עַל-יְדֵי הִתְעוֹרְרוּת הַיִרְאָה דַּוְקָא13.
In Elul the king is in the field—G-d is available for us to approach. Now is a time for personal stocktaking, introspection, and a sincere change of heart from our less than positive behavior.

Our ma’amer asked several questions:

If Elul is the time when “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” — a time of love and fear, then why does it say elsewhere that Elul is a time of fear and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time of love?

Before fully answering this question, we explored the statement of the Tur that during Elul we blow the shofar to inspire awe of G-d. We see, therefore, that Elul is indeed a time of deepening our awe of Him.

Furthermore, the metaphor of the people leaving the city and meeting the king in the field—initiating their relationship—implies that Elul contains the theme of developing awe of G-d.

How can we apply this to how we relate to friends and family? With strangers? How does this knowledge apply to our relationship with G-d?

Continue to Part 2

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*. ) יצא לאור בקונטרס ראש חודש אלול – תשמ”ט, “לקראת ר”ח אלול .. יום ג’ פ’ שופטים, ה’תשמ”ט”.
1. שה”ש ו, ג.
2. אבודרהם סדר תפלת ר”ה ופירושה פ”א. פע”ח שער כד (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. ראה מ”ח מס’ אלול פ”א מ”ג. פע”ח שם.וזה שבאלול הוא אני לדודי, אף שאז הוא הגילוי די”ג מדה”ר – כי גילוי זה הוא דוגמת “מלך בשדה” (כדלקמן בפנים), וכשהמלך הוא במצב זה – אינו מטיל אימה ופחד, ולכן, הגילוי דאלול הוא רק נתינת כח לעבודת התחתון, והעבודה היא מצד התחתון (ראה לקו”ש ח”ד ע’ 1343 הערה 6).
5. כ”ה בסה”מ ה’ש”ת ע’ 166. וראה גם מאמרי אדה”ז על פרשיות התורה ח”ב ע’ תתכה.
6. הוספת כ”ק מו”ח אדמו”ר בסה”מ שם ע’ 167.
7. או”ח הל’ ר”ה ר”ס תקפא, מפרקי דר”א פמ”ו.
8. עמוס ג, ו.
9. “והראי’ שהרי מלך אחר שלא ממדינתו, אין אימתו ופחדו עליו כו’ מפני שלא קיבל אותו למלך עליו” (המשך תרס”ו ע’ של).
10. שופטים יז, טו.
11. וראה סה”מ ה’ש”ת שם, דבנמשל הוא “לעורר את הקבעומ”ש”.
12. סנהדרין כב, א (במשנה). וש”נ.
13. בתניא פמ”א (נז, א) “היראה והעבודה כו’ אינן מעכבות זו את זו”. ובהמשך מים רבים תרל”ו פקצ”ב (ע’ רכ) “רק שאי”ז עבודה שלימה”.
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