Elul: the first steps towards Teshuva

Elul: the first steps towards Teshuva


This Month we are closer to Hashem than we think

The month of Elul is upon us. It is interesting to note that the common understanding of the word Elul is based on the phrase “ ani l’dodi v’dodi li” – I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me.

This means that our relationship with Hashem takes on a different meaning in this month. Of course, all other months we are close to Him and He is close to us.

In Chodesh Elul there is an extra dose of Siyata Dishmaya (Heavenly assistance) which enables us to deepen our relationship with Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Hashem makes himself more “approachable.”

But how do we approach Him ?

The answer, is through Teshuva (repentance).

As we know there are many steps to Teshuva. The three basic steps (which aren’t so basic…) are Regret, Leaving of the Sin and Resolve not to do it again.

But there is a basic step that is the underlying root of this process and it is called introspection. In fact, this is hinted in the word Elul.

The Torah tells us in Parshas Devorim when Moshe Rabbeinu is recounting the history of the Bnei Yisrael in the Desert, he reminds them of the story of the Meragalim.

The possuk say “Veyachperu Lanu es Haaretz” –”they shall scout out the Land for us.” Unkelos on the word Veyachperu uses the word ”ןיאללון” which contains the letters אלול.

The job of scouting out the Land was to search for all information that could be useful for them.

So too, Chodesh ELUL is for searching- self-searching. It is our duty to find spiritual ills and correct them in preparation for the holy month of Tishrei.

Adam yodeah nigei nafsho

There is no question that each one of us is aware of our deficiencies.

The real challenge is to push past the symptom and get to the root cause.

Ah. Not so easy.

This is the avodah of Elul. We will not be able to come to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and utilize their great potential without first identifying what it is that is really lacking. Indeed, a very daunting task. So daunting it almost seems impossible.

Who really wants to take such a hard look in the mirror?!?

Make even a small start

The Tolna Rebbe, Shlita of Jerusalem explains that we are not alone.

Chazal say Eftach li Pesach shel machat v’ani eftach lachem k’pischo shel ulam. Hashem says open for Me a small hole – even the smallest of holes- and I will open for you an opening the size of the largest hall.

As the Rebbe explains, the smallest of pricks is painful; but that will be enough for Hashem to see that we are serious about changing and He will give us the strength and resolve to be able to take the necessary steps in undertaking the arduous process of Teshuva.

Cultivate self-introspection

We all live in a world where self-introspection is a lost art.

R’ Yisrael Salanter famously lamented that in his generation (his generation!) instead of being worried about a neighbor’s Gashmiyus, people worry about their Ruchnius.

The opposite should be true.

One should vigorously attend to his friend’s material needs before he endeavors to fix his spiritual shortcomings. Of course, there is a time and place for rebuke and gentle constructive criticism; but the focus should in always correcting our own failings. Not those of our friends and neighbors.

Let us take advantage of this wonderful gift of Elul and IY”H we will be Zocheh to real Teshuvah and a meaningful Yamim Noraim.

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