Enlivening Elul: Joyous teshuvah - no more tears and sorrow

For 18 (Chai) Elul, birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, | updated: 23:38

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
צילום: Gal Einai

The most special day in the month of Elul – the month of preparation for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot – is the 18th (Chai) of Elul. On that day, the two great lights of hassidism, the Ba’al Shem Tov and the student of his student, the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad, were born (47 years apart).

Relating to his birthday, Chai Elul, the Ba’al Shem Tov said, “I came to this world to instill chiyus/vitality (same root as Chai) into the service of G-d in the month of Elul." 

The service of G-d in the month of Elul is the service of teshuvah, return to G-d. Until the Ba’al Shem Tov’s enlivening of Elul, the main focus of the service of teshuvah was a feeling of distance and bitterness. The emphasis was on how far I have strayed and was replete with tears and sorrow. The Ba’al Shem Tov rejected that. He taught that just as every service of G-d should be with joy (Ivdu et Hashem b’simcha) – how much more so when we are performing the greatest mitzvah in the Torah.

To correctly do teshuvah, we must connect to G-d with joy. There is no need to put a spotlight on my feeling of distance from G-d. I truly am distant from G-d in my thought, speech and action. But internally, at the inner point of my heart, I am close to Him.

What is happiness? When I feel close to my beloved.  Soon, we will unite. I am close to G-d and G-d is close to me. And that is reason enough to rejoice. This is a new and novel teaching of hassidism, the Torah of the Ba’al ShemTov.

The person who explained it well, in understandable terms, from a place of joy and closeness, was the spiritual grandson of the Ba’al Shem tov – the Alter Rebbe.


Let us go out to the field in the month of Elul and find our soul root/apple – the very apple that we will eat, dipped in honey, on Rosh Hashanah.
The Alter Rebbe said that in the month of Elul, the "king is in the field" and everyone can approach him. During this month, he receives everyone with a gracious and smiling countenance.

The king is the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. But what is the field? When Jacob disguised himself as his brother, Esau, and approached his father, Isaac, to receive his blessings, Isaac said, “See, the scent of my son is like the scent of the field with which G-d has blessed him.”  Our Sages say that the field to which Isaac referred is the field of holy apples, which exude the aroma of the Garden of Eden.

In the month of Elul, the soul of each and every person is especially revealed and illuminating. The numerical value of neshamah/soul is the same as the value of reyach Gan Eden/the scent of the Garden of Eden. The field in which the King can be found in the month of Elul is the field of the soul roots of Israel.  In that field, each soul is a holy apple from which the aroma of the Garden of Eden emanates.

In the month of Elul, every person identifies and unites with his soul root. This is how we go out into the field to welcome the King Who has come there to rejoice and delight with us.

Let us go out to the field in the month of Elul and find our soul root/apple – the very apple that we will eat, dipped in honey, on Rosh Hashanah.

May we connect these two great luminaries, the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe together, to serve G-d with joy.

May we  do teshuvah with joy, experience Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with joy and certainly celebrate Sukkot and the joyous climax of the year – Simchat Torah – with an abundance of joy.

May this be a good and sweet new year, rife with the most delightful of apples!


 



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