By; Rabbi Amichai Cohen
Elul has the acronym of the verse (in Song Of Songs 6,3) “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me”. What does this month have to do with love? What does it mean to be for a beloved and the beloved for me?
Elul is the last month of the year where we on the one hand take accounting for our spiritual and practice inventory of the previous year, and also prepare ourselves for the upcoming year.
It’s all in the prep
“It’s all in the prep”. We have heard this before and definitely appreciate when we are prepared for a test, a business presentation, or an important conversation with someone.
By taking the time to prepare we align our vision with the current reality.
How does the preparation of Elul for the new year differ than other preparations we are used to?
While during the year we transition from one thing to the other, hopefully focusing on a goal, Elul is the time of the year where we figure out what is the goal. During Ellul we are meant to ask and find out our biggest “why” and “what” questions. Why am I here? and what I am I meant to do?
When we figure out those major questions then everything we do is a subcategory which fits into the larger equation.
There is a custom to recite everyday during the month Psalm 27 “For David, Hashem is my light and my salvation..”. In this Psalm, there are many allusions to the new year and the trust we are meant to have. Yet the greatest truth this Psalm brings out is the relationship we have with G-d, “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me”. In the middle of the Psalm, King David says: “One thing I ask from Hashem, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of Hashem and to seek him in his Temple".
And then, he says… “My heart says of you, "Seek his face!”, Your face, Hashem, I will seek”.
The question arises, the “one thing” King David asks for turns out to be at least 3 things? Also, what does it mean to seek the face of G-d where we know that even Moses did not merit to see the face of G-d rather his back side?
The answer is that the “one thing” that King David seeks is the major WHY and WHAT of life. By getting to the bottom of that one thing, the other details are subcategories.
Most people think that Teshuva or repentance is some intense stark process. In truth, Teshuva means to return to yourself, to the default mode of who you are. Within you is the Divine, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”, Your face, Hashem, I will seek”.
There is a story about a poor brother that needed to marry off his daughter and visited his wealthy brother with the hope of getting some financial assistance. The poor brother entered an exquisite mansion which was shown to him by his wealthy brother with great pomp.
From one room to another, the rich brother explained to his brother about the design, colors, dimensions etc.
Finally the poor brother asked “are you going to help me out here or not, because I need to go?” “Are you not interested in my house tour?” the other brother asked.
The poor brother replied, “Listen, let me tell you how things work out in my house. You see, we have one room which services as a kitchen, dining room, bedrooms for my 9 kids. We live in that one room. You on the other hand have 20 rooms and don't live in any of them”.
The message of the story is not that our ideal is to live like the brother with the one room. It is ok to have a 20 room mansion, but if we don't live in any of the 20 rooms, we don't ever enjoy the attainments we have.
The first thing to find is the one room where YOU really exist.
The Lubavitcher meshuga
In almost all towns in the “old world” (Poland, Russia, Hungary etc and often in the “modern world”..) there was what is called a town “meshuga”, the town crazy person. Although usually harmless, the town meshuga's were known for their eccentric personalities, that for whatever reason lived a life where they perceived the world differently than the rest.
There is a story about the “meshuga of Lubavitch” who always wanted to have a private audience with the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s attendant (gabbai) did not want to waste the Rebbe’s precious time and therefore never agreed to admit the meshuga into the Rebbe’s room.
One day the meshuga heard that the Rebbe would be traveling somewhere distant and decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to sneak into the Rebbe’s carriage and finally have the audience he was yearning for.
The Meshuga carried out his plan and spent and hour alone with the Rebbe. When he arrived back in town everyone asked him what he spoke about with the Rebbe.
The meshuga replied “ a friend of mine from the large town of Zitomir asked me why I don't move to Zitomir and be the town meshuga there. I was considering my friend’s suggestion, but then thought what about if there are other meshugas there, I would have competition, it’s a new place etc. All this is what I discussed with the Rebbe”. The people listening laughed at the meshuga saying “you spent a whole hour with the Rebbe…you could have spoken about the most important and profound things and yet you wanted your time talking about your meshuga business?”
We all have a little (or a lot..) of that Lubavitcher meshuga within us. Instead of seeking the real things of life we choose to perseverate over the insanity which is intruding in our minds. Instead of being real and optimizing our lives we have unbalanced imaginations from the past, present, and future roaming inside our minds.
On the verse “they have shown me their back side and not their face”, The Alter Rebbe interprets that there are 2 types of relationships. The first kind reflects an deep relationship between the 2 parties, where there is love and mutual respect. Then there is an external type of relationship where the 2 parties are unwilling to connect on a deep level and show each other the “back side”.
Two people sitting in the same room can be the furthest people from each other, where as 2 people from the other side of the world can always think about each other. One is face to face, the other backside. It is not about proximity, it’s about intention, the real deeper intention.
Finding that rich deeper relationship with G-d, the “one thing” is the most important thing to find. Without it, everything else we do is simply external and not in sync with the higher intention. By first finding the answer to that big WHY and WHAT, all of our work, family and personal aspirations can manifest because they are part of the BIG picture of you and G-d. “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me”.
That is the reason why we blow the shofar each day, to awaken that inner part of ourselves, the Divine within which is the most important aspects of our lives.
One thing I seek… get to the field and start seeking.
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