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Partly Cloudy, 71 F
Fri - PM Thunderstorms. High: 87 Low: 70
Sat - Showers. High: 79 Low: 65
Parshas Re'eh/Shabbos Mevarchim Elul - The King is in The Field
This Shabbat, in addition to reading the weekly parasha of Re'eh, we will also announce the arrival of Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the Hebrew month that precedes Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. As a two-day Rosh Chodesh, it includes Tuesday as the last day of the month of Av and Wednesday as the first day of Elul.
All Jewish months are special, but the month of Elul is "especially special." Our tradition teaches us that the letters used to spell the name of the month (alef-lamed-vav-lamed) form an acrostic for the phrase in the scroll of Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs (6:3) Ani L'Dodi v'Dodi Li (I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine). This phrase describes the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, using the metaphor of a loving couple who pledge their loyalty to each other. Our rabbinic tradition emphasizes how fitting this association is for the month in which we prepare for yamim nora'im (the Days of Awe) which will occur in the month of Tishrei (beginning with Rosh HaShana on Wednesday evening, September 24).
Elul is the month in which the second set of Ten Commandments was given to Israel. Recall that Moshe/Moses had gone up onto Mt. Sinai to receive the first set of Ten Commandments. After forty days on the mountain, he returned to find the Israelites worshipping a golden calf and smashed the first set in anger and frustration. On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe returned to the top of Mt. Sinai where he remained for another forty days, returning to the Israelites with the second set of tablets on Yom Kippur. This signified that the Israelites were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf and established Yom Kippur as the paradigm for a day of atonement. It is for this reason that the forty-day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur is so strongly associated with the idea of repentance and renewal.
Elul is the sixth month of the Jewish year. (We start counting months with Nissan, the month in which Pesach/Passover occurs, even though our "new year" is celebrated at the beginning of Tishrei, the seventh month.) As such, Elul serves as a month of preparation for the Days of Awe. Just as Friday is the sixth day of the week and we spend it preparing for the arrival of Shabbat, Elul is the sixth month of the year in which we prepare intensively for the arrival of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Chasidim have a particularly rich metaphor for Elul, describing it as the month in which "The king is in the field." This imagery further enriches Elul's special status as the month leading up to the High Holidays. The king represents G-d. The "king" in the metaphor is returning from one of his trips throughout the kingdom to see first-hand how his subjects are faring. As he returns to his palace, he walks through the fields, accessible to all of his subjects, whether they are rich or poor, wise or simple. Everyone can approach him and submit any special requests they would like the king to consider. The king's assistants are present to record these requests and to make sure that they are reviewed favorably when the king returns to his palace. The entire kingdom is encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity for personal encounters with the king. Once he returns to his palace and he is back in his official capacity as ruler of the kingdom, the regular protocols for meeting with the king will once again be in place. Anyone who seeks access to the king after he has returned from the field will need to go through a much more formal process, requiring all sorts of security checks before he or she can be ushered through the many hallways and rooms that lead to the king's private chambers.
This beautiful imagery encourages us to see the month of Elul as a time for sincere and productive self-assessment. If we choose, we can still defer our self-reflection until Rosh HaShana. But there is a special opportunity for us now, during the month of Elul, to begin reflecting and make the process even more fulfilling when Rosh HaShana arrives. For the next month, we each have "personal access" to the Creator because it is considered a period of rachamim (mercy). The "mercy" is directly proportional to the self-reflection that we invest during this time. According to the King in the Field metaphor, we are encouraged to think and reflect upon our experiences during the past year, after which we can submit our most personal requests for Divine blessing and success in the year ahead.
The so-called High Holiday season therefore really begins with Rosh Chodesh Elul, this Tuesday and Wednesday. Since we have this opportunity to use the coming month as a productive prelude, creating a reflective mood and constructive frame of mind in anticipation of this year's holidays, it is customary to begin using the greeting Shana Tova U'Metuka (a good and sweet year) or L'shana Tova Tikateivu (may you be inscribed for a good year) from the beginning of Elul.
On behalf of the officers, board and staff of the CJE, our most sincere wishes for everyone to enjoy a rich and meaningful month of Elul. May we all have our own personal and collective opportunities to "encounter the King" and have all of our special requests accepted and fulfilled in the coming year. May we all experience a new Jewish year of 5775 filled with health, goodness, blessings, sustenance and, perhaps most importantly, peace--real peace--for us, for all Israel and for the entire world
Shabbat Shalom to all!
!שבת שלום לכולם
A Shabbat Thought on the Weekly Parasha from the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education an agency of THE ASSOCIATED <http://www.associated.org/index.aspx> : Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
The 9th of Av. On this day it was decreed on our ancestors in the desert that they would not be brought in to the land of Israel. For then the spies returned and Israel wept, weeping for no reason and it was decreed that (on this day future) generations would weep. On this day was the great destruction, on which were destroyed the first Temple and also the second. The city of Betar was captured, which was a large city, (killing) thousands and tens of thousands of Jews. On this day (the Roman governor) Turnos-Rufus plowed under the Temple and the surrounding area, fulfilling the verse:1 ''Zion shall be ploughed like a field.'' There is another public fast, the Fast of Esther, below Ch. 141:2. (KSA121:5)