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Aug312012

ELUL: T’SHUVA THROUGH TORAH STUDY

Translated by Boruch Merkur

Although repentance is loftier than Torah (for which reason atonement is accomplished through repentance even with regard to blemishes in and transgressions of the commandment to learn Torah), nevertheless the “revelation” of the entire matter of repentance is specifically through Torah. Indeed, this is the central point of the month of Elul: repentance expressed through rededication to Torah study.

In the address of the holiday of Pesach 5694 (Likkutei Dibburim 116a) my esteemed teacher and father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], describes the spiritual state in Lubavitch in the month of Elul. In the beginning of the passage there he writes: “After Shabbos Nachamu, we would already begin the practice of studying following Maariv, in fulfillment of that which is written, ‘Arise and sing at night.’ When the Shabbos that blesses the month of Elul arrived, we would already begin to sense the Elul atmosphere, etc.” It is not understood, however, why he arranges the two topics – the increase in the learning after Shabbos Nachamu and the conduct of the month of Elul – in one aphorism, for at first glance they appear to be two separate topics.

It is further not understood why in the preceding passage he describes the conduct of [the three-week period of mourning known as] Bein HaMeitzarim, for the conduct of Shabbos Nachamu is apparently connected with the conduct of Bein HaMeitzarim [and not Elul]. Indeed, the consolation (of Shabbos Nachamu) is for matters associated with Bein HaMeitzarim. Thus, it would seemingly be appropriate to conclude the aphorism regarding Bein HaMeitzarim with the matter of the conduct following Shabbos Nachamu (and thus conclude with something positive), and the subsequent aphorism should begin with the conduct of the month of Elul.

The explanation hinges on a well known insight concerning repentance. Although repentance is loftier than Torah (for which reason atonement is accomplished through repentance even with regard to blemishes in and transgressions of the commandment to study Torah), nevertheless the “revelation” of the entire matter of repentance is specifically through Torah. Indeed, this is the central point of the month of Elul [i.e., repentance expressed through rededication to Torah study]. The same principle applies with regard to the service of man: Notwithstanding the fact that the primary service of the month of Elul is the service of repentance, nevertheless this itself is “revealed” through Torah study. That is, in order for one to come to terms with the great necessity of repentance and how to repent and etc., one must add and increase in Torah study, especially the study of the inner dimension of the Torah, which clearly elucidates concepts associated with repentance.

Thus, my esteemed teacher and father-in-law, the Rebbe, arranged in a single aphorism the matter of increasing one’s study along with the conduct in the month of Elul, thereby alluding to the fact that the service of the month of Elul – repentance – is connected with the increase in Torah study. The latter point is reflected in the conclusion of the verse, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me” – whose acronym [in the original Hebrew] spells out “Elul” – “who shepherds among the roses (shoshanim),” for “shoshanim” has two meanings: Thirteen Petals of Mercy (the place of repentance) and those who study (shonim) Torah.

* * *

There are two levels of Torah: 1) The level of rain of Torah, [which corresponds to] inspiration from above brought about from initiative from below. 2) The level of dew of Torah, [corresponding to] inspiration from above of its own accord. This [second] level also exists with respect to the manner of Torah study [attained] by man. Namely, that in this manner, “the speech of man is in the ultimate state of nullification in His essence, to the extent that one’s speech does not come from himself at all. It is, rather, ‘the word of G-d, which is Torah law’ that is spoken within him automatically and of its own accord” [Footnote 21: a phrase cited from Likkutei Torah, P’kudei 6a], as it is written, “Let my tongue answer your sayings” as one who responds [or repeats] after the reader.

The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are beyond the natural order of Divine manifestation (hishtalshlus), at a level where initiative from below does not reach. From this it is understood that the connection of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to Torah is primarily with regard to learning Torah in a manner of “Let my tongue answer your sayings.”

The connection of learning Torah in the ultimate state of self-nullification to the month of Elul is also alluded to in its mention in the beginning of the portion R’ei (which is read on Rosh Chodesh Elul or on the Shabbos preceding it): “Except to the place which He shall choose, etc.” (12:5), “to the [place of] rest and to the heritage” (Ibid 9), “And it shall be that the place that He, G-d the L-rd, shall choose, wherein His name shall dwell” (Ibid 11) – “Build for yourselves the Chosen Temple in Yerushalayim” (Rashi’s commentary, Ibid).

That is, the principle object of the Sanctuary (as well as the Temple) is the place of the resting of the Divine presence, which is the ark. The significance of the ark is: 1) Torah, as it is written (Melachim I 8:9), “There is nothing in the ark save two stone tablets.” 2) There was no service associated with the ark (as with other vessels of the Sanctuary [With regard to the service of sprinkling blood between the ark’s staves, see Footnote 25 in the original.]); it simply served as a vessel for the revelation from above: “I will testify to you there and I will speak, etc.” An expression of the latter is the study of Torah in the ultimate state of nullification.

* * *

The practical lesson from the above:

In the days of the month of Elul – and even in the days preceding it, from Shabbos Nachamu – one must increase in Torah study with regard to both the revealed dimension of Torah and particularly the study of the inner dimension of the Torah. (If one did not fulfill this directive beginning from Shabbos Nachamu until now, one must fulfill it throughout the days from now on, and in a manner of “wisdom is manifold,” as it is explained in Igeres HaT’shuva Chapter 9.) And the study must be with self-nullification – “Let my tongue answer your sayings.” For by doing so, influence will be drawn down from above in a charitable manner (b’ofen d’tzdaka), like the configuration of the name Havaya [Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei] that illuminates in the month of Elul [Footnote 28: Mishnas Chassidim, beginning of Maseches Elul], [as it appears in] the last-letter acronym of, “U’tzdaka tihyeh lanu ki” [i.e., Hei-Hei-Vav-Yud] – charity, and not just a limited compensation appropriate to the work done – by being positively inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year with regard to one’s abundant fortune in children, vitality, and sustenance.

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas R’ei 5723. Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4, Hosafos, pg. 1342 ff.)

 

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