Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Elul 5634 First Ma'amar

The Zohar teaches that Shabbos afternoon is a particularly propitious time – an eis ratzon. The Sfas Emes teaches us that the entire month of Elul, too, are days of ratzon. What is an eis ratzon? What happens during an eis ratzon? How can we take advantage of an eis ratzon?

A superficial explanation of eis ratzon is that there are periods of time during which God sends more abundance and other periods when He sends less. However, this is difficult because it implies that God is affected by time, an impossibility. God created time. He is outside of time, is infinite and does not change. If it is God’s will that we receive abundance, then this is His will always. How then, can there be times when there is more abundance and other times when there is less abundance?

The answer to this question is premised on the fact that all abundance comes from outside the physical world. The spiritual – and ultimately God Himself – is the source of all the plenty that manifests in the physical world. Only the physical is bound by time. Abundance manifests in the physical world through a connection between the physical that is bound by time and the spiritual that is not. During an eis ratzon this connection is more easily made. The Sfas Emes defines eis ratzon as a time period that can receive ratzon and plenty from a point that is outside of time.

One of these time periods is Shabbos. On Shabbos the physical is more closely connected with the spiritual. This automatically defines Shabbos as an eis ratzon. It is a time during which spiritual abundance more easily manifests in the physical world. In fact, the Zohar teaches that Shabbos receives abundance from God for the entire week. The Sfas Emes explains that Elul has the same relationship with the coming year as Shabbos has with the coming week. Just as Shabbos receives abundance for the coming week, so too, Elul receives abundance for the coming year.

An eis ratzon is an opportunity. It is a time when the abundance that perforce originates in the spiritual realms more easily manifests. It is therefore a time when we can more easily connect to and experience the spiritual. How we are affected by the eis ratzon is completely up to us. David HaMelech alludes to this idea in Tehillim (69:13-14), “יָשִׂיחוּ בִי יֹשְבֵי שָׁעַר וּנְגִינֹת שׁוֹתֵי שֵׁכָר׃ וַאֲנִי תְפִלָּתִי־לְךָ ה' עֵת רָצוֹן .../Those who sit by the gate talk about me and make up drinking songs. As for me, may my prayer to You, God, be at a favorable time …” David HaMelech is pointing up the difference between the Jews and pagans. During an eis ratzon, the pagans spend their time drinking and singing and don’t mention You. We, however, do not forget You.

The Sfas Emes explains that during an eis ratzon the pagans tend to accept the good they receive for their own benefit. They think of themselves, drinking and singing. The children of Israel, on the other hand, want the spiritual elevation afforded by eis ratzon more than we want the good things that we receive because it.

As we’ve said, the abundance of the coming week and of the coming year flows from the abundance that manifests through Shabbos and Elul. The Zohar therefore refers to Shabbos (afternoon) as רַעֲוָא דְרַעֲוִין/desire of desires (ratzon of retzonos). It is the source of the ratzon manifestations of the coming week.

The Sfas Emes though teaches that this is not automatic and it is not the same for everyone. The ratzon that manifests during the coming week and year depends upon how we experience the eis ratzon of Shabbos and of Elul. If we yearn for that connection with God’s ratzon on Shabbos and during the month of Elul to come close to Him, we affect the ratzon that manifests during the week and during the coming year as well. May we merit it!

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