Friday, September 23, 2011

Elul 5640 First Ma'amar

אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי/I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.” (Shir HaShirim 6:3)  The first letters of each word of this pasuk spells out “Elul.”  What is the connection between the month of Elul and this pasuk?

The Sfas Emes explains.  First, we need to know and understand that there is a special relationship between the nation of Israel and God which the nations of the world do not have.  Shabbos, for example, was given solely to us as God declares, “בֵּינִי וּבֵין בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹת הִיא .../It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel …” (Shmos 31:17)  Yeshayahu prophesied, “I have formed this nation for Me,”[1] and, “you are My witnesses.”[2]  The nation of Israel, therefore, can live a life of holiness dedicated to God without associating with the nations of the world. 

Our kindness, though, dictates that we help the nations as well.  In fact, Israel’s collective mission is to elevate and rectify the Creation.  In order to do this, many times we need to come into contact with elements of society and situations that are less than ideal spiritually. 

This applies to the entire year.  However, during the month of Elul we need to draw inwards, to connect with our roots.  During the entire year we risk sinning because we integrate with the world and are exposed to the evil in it.  During the month of Elul, the principle of “your own life comes first”[3] applies.

Chazal hinted at this concept when they established Rosh Chodesh Elul as the start of a new year for Ma’aseir Beheimah.[4]  This is a mitzvah to tithe domestic animals that we own.  Every tenth animal is tithed.  The law though requires that only animals born in the same year be counted for the tithing.  The cutoff date is Rosh Chodesh Elul.  An animal born before Rosh Chodesh Elul cannot be counted with an animal born after Rosh Chodesh Elul.  Homelitically, Ma’aseir Beheima alludes to removing the animalistic – the mundane – from the holy.

By establishing the new year for Ma’aseir Beheimah on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Chazal are teaching us that this is the time to separate from the mundane and concentrate on the holy.  Even though during the entire year the holy and mundane are naturally integrated, during the month of Elul, we separate and concentrate on the holy alone.  We introspect and remember that ultimately we were created to serve God.  We thus fulfill, “אֲנִי לְדוֹדִ/I am for my beloved.

If we succeed in fulfilling, “אֲנִי לְדוֹדִ/I am for my beloved” during Elul then God fulfills “וְדוֹדִי לִי/and my beloved is for me” during Tishrei showering life and holiness upon the entire coming year.

[1] Yeshayah 43:21
[2] Yeshayah 43:10
[3] Bava Metzi’ah 62a
[4] Rosh HaShanah Mishnah 1:1

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