Parshas Re'eh is read before Rosh Chodesh Elul. It concludes with a
description of the shalosh regalim (three festive `pilgrimage' holidays).
Also in the parsha, we find the mitzvah to purify one's self before the festivals
(14:8 and Rashi there; Rosh Hashanah 16b).
What is the "Help?"
Last week, we wrote in the name of the Yismach Moshe that the service
is an "assistance." This subject is discussed in the Siduro Shel Shabbos,
in explaining the difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov (festivals). (From
Shoresh 1, Anaf 1)
In the days immediately preceding the receiving of the Torah, Moshe reported
various aspects of the Torah to the people. They responded: "Everything that
Hashem has said we will do." This, indeed, was the purpose: to cause the
people's hearts to be aroused for the service of Hashem.
Every mitzvah needs the arousal of mankind; every mitzvah, that is, except
for the Shabbos. For the Shabbos is there whether we perceive it or not;
it is not in the least dependent on us. For this reason, the Shabbos was
commanded and discussed earlier, before the receiving of the Torah. The people
were not told about it in such a way that they could accept it or reject
Unlike Shabbos, which occurs every seven days, the Yom Tov is actually
declared holy because the Beis Din (Jewish legal court) sanctified the month.
The holiness of the Yom Tov is literally dependent on the Jewish People.
The kavanah (intention during prayer) of the Yom Tov services is actually
to produce a certain effect above; quite the contrary in regard to the Shabbos.
The kavanah of the Shabbos davening is to receive influence from above.
The Reason for the "Assistance"
The idea of the "help" or "assistance" finds its source in the Talmud
(Shabbos 89a). What exactly is the nature of this "help?" Yismach Moshe had
explained in a kabalistic manner, but see the Bnei Yisaschar, (Rosh Hashanah
2) for a simple analogy:
The Talmud (Brochos 32), explains that we should recite praises before
praying for our needs. When the melachim (angels) hear Hashem's praises,
they respond with enthusiastic affirmation. Later, when requests are heard,
it would be impolite for the melachim to attack the person who had just praised,
so they do not interfere with accusations. So, for example, when we praise
Hashem as "Healer of the sick," it actually makes it easier for Hashem to
heal, because the accusers cannot interfere.
Praise Declares Faith
Rav Elie Munk, in Olam Hatefilos ("The World of Prayer") explains how
each brocha begins with an affirmation of faith. It mentions Hashem's providence,
and then "King of the World." Mentioning Hashem's providence is the affirmation
that each person receives his share, and "King of the World" affirms that
He has the wherewithal to accomplish our requests.
Why would we pray, if we didn't believe? Would Hashem help, if we
didn't believe in His ability to help? (Several years ago, we referred to
various scientific studies which indicated that prayer and faith increases
patients' chances measurably.)
Chodshei Hashanah Part Thirty Four
"One who prepares for Shabbos, will eat on Shabbos." The sixth day of
the week is the preparation for Shabbos, the seventh day. Similarly, the
sixth month -- Elul -- is the preparation for the seventh month -- Tishrei.
The day before Rosh Chodesh is called Yom Kippur Katon (the Short Yom
Kippur). Some people fast every month at this time; some people, who do not
regularly observe the fast, do so only on the day before Rosh Chodesh Elul.
As the month comes to its end, we are held accountable for the entire month.
As the year comes to its climax, we can atone for the entire year... (Mateh
Efraim 581:3 and Tosfos Chaim 113)
Rosh Chodesh Elul is two days; this year, it occurs from Mon. night,
Sept. 1 through Wed. Sept. 3. The shofar is sounded in synagogue every morning,
beginning with the second day of Rosh Chodesh (excluding Shabbos and Erev
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