Friday, September 07, 2012

Elul 5644 First Ma'amar

"There is nothing new under the sun."  The Sfas Emes explains in many places[1] that "under the sun" refers to the physical world.  All novelty and renewal comes from "above the sun" – from spiritual realms.  Rosh HaShana is a time of renewal.  The Creation was completed on Rosh HaShana and is renewed every year on Rosh HaShana.

What is renewal?  Renewal, the Sfas Emes explains, is God's revelation.  How can we experience renewal?  How can we experience God?  The Sfas Emes teaches that in order to experience God's renewal, we need to understand that our relationship with Him is reciprocal.  To the extent that we dedicate ourselves to Him, He will reveal Himself to us.  This idea is more than simply a mechanism for experiencing God.  It is our raison d'etre.  God wants us to dedicate ourselves to Him, "עם זו יצרתי לי/I formed this nation for Myself" (Yeshaya 43:21)   

There are many examples of this concept.  We see it in the famous אלול/Elul acronym – אני לדודי ודודי לי/I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me" (Shir HaShirim 6:3)  This is a metaphor for the relationship between the nation of Israel and God.  We have no reason for existing other than to accomplish God's will and spread His glory in this world.  To the extent that this is clear to us, it is clear, as it were, in Heaven that the entire Creation and subsequent revelations are for us.

The Chiddushei HaRim learns this concept in the following pasuk in Tehillim (100:3), "דעו כי ה' הוא א-להים הוא עשנו כתיב ולא קרי ולו אנחנו עמו וצאן מרעיתו/Know that God is the Lord; He made us and we are His, His people and the sheep of His pasture."  There are many words in the Torah which are traditionally read differently from the way they are spelled.  In this pasuk, the word ולא/and not, is read ולו/and His.  The translation above is according to the traditional reading.  According to the spelling, the pasuk states that God made us, we did not make ourselves. 

The Chiddushei HaRim points out that the two words, לא and לו together, spell אלול.  He explains the significance of these words in the context of the pasuk.  To the extent that we are לא אנחנו/not for ourselves, לו אנחנו/we are His.  To the extent that we suppress our own desires in favor of God's, we become His people, His flock.

This week's parsha – Ki Savo – contains a classic example of this idea.  "את ה' האמרת ... וה' האמירך .../You have distinguished God … and God has distinguished you …" (Devarim 26:17, 18)  Rashi explains that the words, האמרת and האמירך mean to glorify as in, "יתאמרו כל פועלי און/They glorify themselves, all doers of iniquity" (Tehillim 94:4).  There is nothing more important to the nation of Israel than glorifying God by achieving His will.  By the same token, as it were, God loves us more than any other creation, "ובך בחר ה' להיות לו לעם סגולה/God chose you to be a treasured nation" (Devarim 14:2)

Since Rosh HaShana is the prime time for yearly renewal, The month leading up to Rosh HaShana is dedicated to preparing for the renewal.  As we've seen, the way to prepare for renewal is by dedicating ourselves to God.  In practical terms this means returning to Him.  The Jewish concept of repentance is much broader than simply having remorse for our mistakes.  The essence of repentance is returning to a state in which we can experience God once again.  This is, after all, our fundamental reason for being. 

When we come to the end of the year, we introspect and come to the realization that God created us only to reveal Him in this world.  Cultivating this belief leads us to a strong desire to fulfill it in practice, "אני לדודי/I am for my beloved"  As a result, we merit the renewal of Rosh HaShana, "ודודי לי/… and my beloved is for me."

[1] S.E. Chayei Sara 5631 Fourth Ma'amar, Mikeitz 5631 Second Ma'amar and others

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