The Month of Elul: A Month of Preparation
Guest contributor: Rabbi Dov Singal
The final month in the Jewish Calendar, Elul, is a time for introspection, a
time to prepare one's self for the coming year and the upcoming holiday of
Rosh HaShana, a holiday on which we praise Hashem and his kingship. At this
time of the year, one may ask "What am I supposed to do? What am I preparing
for?" The answer to these questions can be better understood with the
There was a person who, when it came to keeping a clean home, was meticulous.
He made sure that the house was always as neat and clean as could be. On one
occasion, the person had invited some friends to a party at his house. The
person was not satisfied with the extent of his normal cleaning regimen. He
wanted the house to be as spotless as his guests would expect, and therefore
he stepped up his cleaning efforts before the party. On another occasion, he
had business associates over at his house for an important meeting. Before
they arrived, he engaged in even more extensive cleaning, assuring that every
piece of silver and crystal gleamed and sparkled, to meet the standards of his
guests. Were the president to enter his home, this person surely would have
worked tirelessly to refurnish and redecorate his home to meet the high
standards a president would expect.
The president's entrance into the house is really just an illustration of
what Rosh HaShana, the Day of Judgment, should mean to us. It is a day in
which Hashem comes into the house (hearts) of each and every one of us. If
throughout the year we are constantly aware of the forthcoming "visit," the
preparations immediately preceding the "visit" need not be so extensive, as
we will try and keep things in tip-top shape all year round. If that is not
the case, and we do not think about the "visit" year round, the task of
accepting Hashem properly on Rosh HaShana as the King of Kings is nearly
impossible. In either case, that is what the month of Elul is set aside for -
preparation. It is a month long preparation in which we engage in refining
our spiritual lives to try and meet the standards that Hashem knows we
should meet, for both Him and ourselves. This "clean-up job" that we must
start (if its not a continuation) is composed essentially of four different
aspects which are all required for complete repentance toward Hashem.
The first step is "Azivas Ha'Chet" - "Leaving the sin." A person must know
which sins to depart from first. Some sins are relatively easy to refrain
from while others take a tremendous amount of time and effort to overcome.
Our Sages are helpful in pointing out that "The easier it is to refrain from
doing a sin, and nonetheless it is done anyway - the larger the punishment is
that one receives from Hashem for it." We vividly see that the sins which are
easier for the individual to refrain from should be worked on and "left"
The second step is "Charata," regret and remorse for doing the sin. Rabbeinu
Yona explains that "True repentance is... to feel that sorrow in one's soul
for the sins which he transgressed." Refraining from transgressions without
feeling bad about what one did is very far from repentance.
The third step is "Vidduy," confessing one's sins. Included in this step is
actually verbalizing those sins which were performed.
The fourth and final step is "Kabala L'habo," making a firm commitment not to
do the sin again.
Although this process of repentance might seem long, tedious, and perhaps
even impossible, our Sages tell us that "One who comes to purify himself,
(G-d) aids him." One only has to take that first step towards purifying
himself alone. Afterwards, Hashem is there to assist, making the process of
returning to Hashem faster and easier.
With all our effort and repentance this Elul, we should all merit to be
written in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy year for us, our
families, and the whole nation of Israel.
Check out all of the posts on Elul and Rosh HaShana. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.