Recommendations for Elul & the Yamim Noraim
by Rabbi Yitzchak Hirshfeld
Chodesh Elul is upon us. Some of us shudder at the thought of approaching discomfort. We suspect that we are going to be miserable until that last Shofar blast of Yom Kippur frees us from the perennial nag of conscience.
Others, though, will look forward to the approaching Yamim Noraim with the anticipation of a prisoner about to be allowed his first bath in a year. Imagining what it will feel like to finally be clean pushes us to make sure that this will be a bath to end all baths.
Let’s face it. In a year we can accumulate a lot of spiritual garbage.
In one sense Yom Kippur is the Tachlit – the day of national and spiritual cleansing – Mikveh Yisrael Hashem. The judgment of Rosh Hashana forces us to undress our souls for examination. The judgment, with the soul-searching it fosters, is the soap which loosens the grimy grip of sin. And only then can Yom Kippur work its wonderful magic.
In another sense Rosh Hashana is the Tachlit – the day of national and personal recommitment to the service of the King of Kings. For us Beinonim, this undertaking is facilitated by Yom Kippur removing the barriers of sin which stand between our souls and our ultimate purpose.
1. Go over the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Davening well in advance. As always, the key is in the liturgy.
2. Remember the teaching of Rebbe Yitzchak (Rosh Hashana 166) – Kol Shana Sherosha B’Tchila Mitasheret B’Sofah. At the beginning of the year we must recognize how dependent and needy we are; how our lives, our success and well-being can never be taken for granted. Then we can be blessed with a year of wealth and riches. Hashem helps those who realize that “Hashem helps those who help themselves” is a very incomplete aphorism.
3. Remember that the terms of our partnership with Hashem in running the world imply that He waits for us to make the first move. Nowhere does this apply more than to the process of return – Teshuva. Ani Ledodi and then, and only then Vedodi Li.
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