The Month of Elul

 

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that Hashem bestowed a great kindness upon his Jewish nation by revealing to them that the Day of Judgment is on the First of Tishrei (for in truth, the other nations of the world are also judged on this day, but since they do not know about this, they do not prepare themselves accordingly and they miss out on a substantial benefit), as the verse states, “Blow the Shofar on the [new] month, on the designated day of our festival. For it is a statute for Israel, a [day of] judgment for the G-d of Yaakov.” Usually, if one breaks the law and is caught by a police officer, if the officer takes him immediately in front of a judge to be judged in a swift manner, it is almost certain that the defendant will not be able to cope with the charges being leveled against him. If, however, he is made known of the court-date and given the chance to meet with and seek adequate legal counsel and know who will represent him in court, he surely has hope to be found innocent in his case.

Similarly, from the day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, we begin blowing the Shofar and waking up early in the morning to recite Selichot (prayer service for atonement) in preparation for the Day of Judgment when we will proclaim, “Today is the world’s birthday; today He shall make [everyone] stand for judgment, all creations of the world,” and is likewise the day we begin to recite “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” in our prayers. During Elul, we prepare great “attorneys” before Hashem; one’s “attorneys” are Torah, Mitzvot, and worthy deeds (Shabbat 32a). The Tosefta states, “Charity and acts of kindness are great defenders between Israel and their Father in Heaven.” We have also learned in Pirkei Avot, “One who performs one Mitzvah acquires for himself one defending attorney.” If the defender is strong and mighty, such as one formed by a Torah scholar who delves in Torah, certainly the other prosecuting angels will only be like small foxes in comparison and one roar from the defending angel shall be sufficient to silence them all. As we say in Selichot, “Seal the mouth of Satan so that he may not prosecute us; may a good-speaking advisor stand up for us and speak of our righteousness.” This is a tremendous opportunity to allow us be found innocent in the eyes of Hashem, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah expounds the verse, “For who is a great nation that has a God who is close to him, like Hashem our G-d [who is close to us] whenever we call him.”

Rabbeinu HaAri z”l writes in his Sha’ar Ha’Pesukim regarding the verse which deals with the fleeing of a murderer to a City of Refuge where no harm will befall him, as the verse states (in Hebrew), “Eenah Le’Yado VeSamti Lecha,” which is the acronym of “Elul.” This hints to us that Elul is the month of repentance and if one returns, he shall be healed. All must repent, as the verse states, “U’mal Hashem Elokecha Et Levavecha Ve’et Levav Zar’echa,” which is likewise an acronym of “Elul,” to hint that if one comes to purify himself, he is aided from Above. This is especially so regarding repentance about which Hashem tells the Jewish nation, “Open for me like the opening of a needle and I shall open for you like the opening of a hall.” This refers to the Heavenly assistance offered to repent.

The word “Elul” is also hinted in the verse, “U’mishloach Manot IshLe’Re’ehu U’Matanot La’Evyonim,” to teach us that this is the most opportune time to fulfill the Mitzvah of charity, which atones for sins. As the Midrash tells us, “Offerings atone only for sins performed unknowingly, but charity atones for sins performed knowingly or unknowingly.”

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