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Tuesday
Aug152017

ELUL ACCOUNTING FOR DUMMIES

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh

This Shabbos Parshas R’ei is Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Elul, the month which is known as Chodesh HaCheshbon, the month of accounting. The Rebbe writes in the HaYom Yom of 27 Av: “Elul is a month of reckoning. Just as a businessman who wants to run his business properly and most profitably must take stock from time to time and correct anything amiss, so too must we act in our spiritual work of Avodas Hashem.

“Throughout the year the Jewish people study Torah, observe mitzvos, and cultivate desirable character traits. The month of Elul is the time of reckoning, when each and every Jew according to his capacity, be he a Torah scholar or a businessman, has to make a fair account within him over everything that has transpired in his life in the course of the past year. Thus, he can acknowledge the good points in his Divine service and reinforce them, as well as correct the shortcomings in himself and in his efforts. And by virtue of such positive preparation, we are found worthy of being blessed with a good and sweet year, both materially and spiritually.”

On Shabbos Parshas Eikev 5751, the Rebbe spoke at length about the type of reckoning and accounting that needs to be done in Elul and especially as it relates to bringing the Geula. The following is a summary of that part of the farbrengen.

Everyone knows that the word Elul is an acronym of the four words “Ani L’Dodi V’dodi Li” – I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me. We are all familiar with the concept in Chassidus that the Alter Rebbe explains in Likkutei Torah, that the words “Ani L’Dodi” represent the Avoda during the month of Elul; and through our Avoda, we earn “V’dodi Lee,” that Hashem reveals Himself to us on Rosh HaShana and throughout Tishrei.

The Alter Rebbe gives his famous parable of the king in the field. The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels of palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers for the meeting. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace. When we approach the King while He is in the field, in Elul, we then can join Him in the palace and see the full glory of the revelations of Tishrei.

The Rebbe, in the farbrengen of Eikev 5751, asks an obvious question: If “V’dodi Lee” only takes place during the month of Tishrei, why is it part of the acronym of the word Elul?

This leads to a fascinating explanation: While it is true that in general “V’dodi Lee” represents the revelations of the month of Tishrei, it is also a description of a special type of Avodas Hashem that needs to be done during the month of Elul.

A person generally views his service of Hashem as climbing a ladder from the bottom to the top. We begin with our limitations and we build our way up. We take steady and measured steps in our growth so that they remain consistent. While this type of service is the generally accepted way of serving Hashem, it is very limiting. We only work within the perceived confines of our natural and physical abilities and capabilities.

Then there is a whole different mode of serving Hashem. It starts from a place deep within by getting in touch with and revealing our Neshama. The Neshama, which is always connected to and is part of the infinite, is limitless in its abilities. This is illustrated in the HaYom Yom of 23 Av: “In the winter of 5652 (1891), my revered father, the Rebbe [Rashab], taught me the statement in Tanya that ‘the second soul of a Jew is an actual part of G‑d Above.’ He pointed out that the terms ‘actual’ and ‘from above’ are contradictory. ‘From above’ alludes to the very highest levels of spirituality, whereas ‘actual’ denotes the most palpable physicality. This, he explained, is the unique gift of the Divine soul. Though it is sheer ethereal spirituality, it impacts physicality at its most palpable.”

When the Neshama is revealed on the inside and we serve Hashem from this “above mode,” we transcend all our limitations. An even higher Avoda is when we are able to combine both together.

During the month of Elul, we have to make a true Cheshbon Ha’nefesh, regarding where we are holding in all three types of Avoda: 1) Ani L’Dodi, the regular avoda that begins “from below;” 2) V’dodi Lee, the Avoda that comes from the neshama, “from Above;” 3) The combined avoda of “Ani L’Dodi V’dodi Lee” together.

The Rebbe continued the farbrengen by discussing the importance of including as a central part of the reckoning the question that each person must ask himself: what am I doing to bring the Geula?

The Rebbe connected it to the name of the Parsha, “Eikev.” Literally translated, it means heel. Our generation is known as the generation of “Ikvisa D’Meshicha,” the heels of Moshiach. This is for two reasons: 1) Compared to previous generations, we are like the heel of the body. 2) We are so close to the Geula, that we hear the “heel and footsteps of Moshiach.”

These two seemingly opposite explanations are connected. It is specifically through our Avoda, of the lowest generation, that will elevate all the previous generations. We will bring the world to the long-anticipated Geula.

In the words of the Rebbe: “The timely theme now is the true and complete Redemption. As discussed several times, especially most recently, since one must ‘wait his coming every day’ and all of the signs indicate that ‘behold, he (Moshiach) is coming’ we therefore continuously think and speak of the Redemption. We also make every effort to connect all matters of current concern with the Redemption. Our service now as Jews is to hasten the Redemption.

“It has been discussed many times that my sainted father-in-law testified and proclaimed that we have already completed all that was needed, including the ‘polishing of the buttons.’ The only thing left is the one simple gesture on G-d’s part to take the Jews out of exile and to bring them to the Holy Land… Thus, Jews implore and cry out, time and again – and now with much more intensity than previously – “How much longer!” A Jew not only has the capacity to awaken himself and other Jews, but also to arouse G-d, as it were, to ‘come and let us calculate the calculations of the world.’ According to all calculations (which G-d had indicated in His Torah and in the miracles He wrought in the world), G-d should long ago have brought the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach. [This should have happened] particularly in this year, which according to all of the calculations and the signs is ‘the year when King Moshiach will be revealed,’ as was discussed several times in recent months.”

A Jew acquires (in this place and time) the most potent energies as well as the greatest privilege and responsibility to implore and cry out to G-d: “How much longer?” In an unusual way, the Rebbe shared with the Chassidim his inner thought process of how we should be living with Moshiach. The Rebbe said that since we are still in Galus, there obviously is more that needs to be done.

“It occurred to me to try to bring the Geula by printing the Tanya in Braille to assist those who are blind.

In a certain sense, we all are blind to the reality of the Geula. The Rebbe implores of us to “open our eyes” and see the Geula. This is accomplished through learning Geula and Moshiach. As the Rebbe said clearly (VaYeitzei 5752), “And the only thing missing is that a Jew should open his eyes as he should, when he will see that all is ready for the Redemption! There is already the Shulchan Aruch (the Set Table); there is already the Leviasan, the Shor HaBar and the Yayin Meshumar. The Jewish people already sit by the table, ‘the table of their Father’ (the Holy One Blessed be He), together with our righteous Moshiach. (This is as it is stated in holy books that in every generation there is ‘one descended from Yehuda who is qualified to be Moshiach.’) In our generation this is the leader of our generation, my sainted father-in-law. And now forty years after the passing of my sainted father-in-law we also have already ‘a heart to know and eyes to see and ears to hear.’

“We must now only open the ‘heart to know’ and open ‘the eyes to see’ and open the ‘ears to hear.’ Likewise we must utilize all 248 physical limbs and 365 physical sinews in the learning of the inner aspects of the Torah, as revealed in the teachings of Chassidus, and observing the directives of our Rebbeim and leaders. These directives include learning about the concepts of Redemption, in a way that will open the heart, eyes and ears. That is, one must understand, see and hear in the physicality of the world the true and complete Redemption in actual reality. One should learn the Torah of Moshiach (the inner aspects of Torah) in a way of seeing. All of the above is already prepared; one need only open the eyes to see it!

“Also the custom of the Jewish people, which is continually spreading in our time, to learn the subject of Redemption and Moshiach, in order to prepare oneself and others even more for the revelation of the true and complete Redemption, as mentioned above.”

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at http://www.ylcrecording.com

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