By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
While we are still holding on to the last days of summer, and snowy days are the furthest thing from our mind, this story has a message that is relevant to the days of Elul.
“Ma, do you have any plans for tomorrow morning? I have to be at work extra early – can you be here to get the kids onto the school bus?”
“Of course…. No problem.”
And so, bright and early the next morning, I was at my daughter’s house. Knapsacks packed, breakfast done, the girls made it out on time. Next, was Nosson’s turn – my then five-year old grandson.
It had snowed earlier in the week and there were still some remaining ice patches. Plop, plop, Nosson went slipping and sliding down the front steps, and landed on his little bottom.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, he emphatically let me know that he’s not going to school. Still crying, he made his way back into the house, and sat himself down on the couch.
Beep, beep, the bus driver began to honk, waiting for Nosson to come out.
I thought I would wave the driver off, when all of a sudden, I heard Nosson call out, “Is he honking for me?”
Upon telling him “YES”, young Nosson courageously pulled himself together, wiped away his tears and said “Well, if he’s honking for me, I have to go!”
This past Shabbos, we bentched the new month of Elul. It is said that when Rav Yisroel Salanter would hear the baal tefillah, announce “Elul”, his entire being would shake and tremble as he contemplated the awesome days ahead and the enormous task of preparing for the Yemei Hadin, the Days of Judgment. While we may not be on the level of Rav Yisroel Salanter, each of us should reflect upon how we can prepare ourselves for the oncoming Yomim Noraim.
The Hebrew letters of the word Elul are an acronym for Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li – I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me.
(Shir HaShirim 6:3)
Elul is a gift of time. Time that HaShem grants us before Rosh HaShanah. Time for introspection, time to look into the mirror and ponder how we can make positive changes in our lives. A time to reach out to HaShem, to daven with all our heart and soul. A time to appreciate that HaShem is waiting for us with love and the promise of blessing. “My Beloved is for me.”
There is a direct line between our neshamah and HaShem. A spiritual cord connecting us. Unfortunately, at times, because of different life tests, that line can become weakened or even temporarily disengaged.
Elul is a time to reconnect and strengthen the bond between us and HaShem. A time to do extra mitzvos, be more careful with our words, say additional prayers, and make a commitment to be a better person.
During the month of Elul, the shofar is sounded every weekday morning after Shacharis.
The Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah, “Uru yesheinim mi’sheinaschem – Wake up you sleepers from your slumber.” The shofar is our spiritual wake-up call, our alarm clock, telling us that Rosh HaShanah is coming. Just as Nosson jumped to his feet and got up upon hearing the bus driver’s honk, Elul is our time to jump up and spring into action. Like the driver’s honk for Nosson, the shofar’s call is meant for us. It is the “beep-beep” reminding us that HaShem is reaching out and waiting for us to arise from our slumber.
I have Elul memories of my father, HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l coming home from shul and sounding the shofar for us children. It was our wake-up call in more ways than one!
The call of the shofar is also one of hope and longing. Hope and longing for a better year, a year in which HaShem bestows upon us much mazel and brachah. A year in which all of our prayers will be answered. A year of refuos and yeshuos, healing and salvation.
It is no coincidence that this week’s parshah, Re’eh, opens with Moshe presenting Bnei Yisroel with two paths in life. “Re’eh, onochi nosain lifneichem hayom brachah u’klalah, – See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Devarim 11:26).
Moshe is telling the Jewish people that they can attain a life of blessing by following HaShem’s mitzvos. However, if they abandon a Torah way of life, it will lead to a painful existence.
Why did Moshe use the term “Re’eh – See”? He was speaking to the people. Why didn’t he simply say “listen”?
Moshe was imparting to his generation, and to all future generations, a life message. “Re’eh – See”, look at the people who walk in HaShem’s way, and you will see fulfillment in their lives. You will see those who live a life that is elevated, a life that inspires them and all those around them. You will see a life of blessings.
Conversely, if you observe people who feel that Torah and mitzvos are a burden or a yoke, you will see people who lack inner peace. People who live their lives aimlessly, without purpose or meaning.
A life of blessings means knowing how to live for the betterment of others. The blessed person feels fulfillment in his neshamah, by giving tzedakah, feeding the hungry and comforting those who are suffering. He, who ignores the needs of others, will never experience that fulfillment, that blessing.
Moshe’s message was for all time, as he said, “I present before you today….” Today, a message that applies whenever we read those words. A message that transcends time, location, and circumstances.
My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h, would often say, “Be a blessing”. To be a truly fulfilled person, one must live their life bringing blessing to others.
Elul is a month of choices, and the choice is ours.
It’s all in our hands. Be a blessing.
Chaya Sora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l