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King in the Field
How would you like to live in a palace? You might be fantasizing of closets filled with jewelry and expensive clothes, and a chef standing ready to prepare all your favorite delicacies. On the other hand, life in the palace can be quite restrictive. You are living in the public eye, with every move monitored. Even the perks of the palace might not make up for the loss of spontaneity and naturalness.

We are entering the month of Elul, a time when G-d gives us especial opportunities to become close to Him. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, likens this to a king who goes out to the fields once a year, to enable the populace to interact with him. During this opportunity, the king graciously welcomes all the villagers and graciously grants their requests.

During the course of the year, the process of becoming close to G-d is fraught with struggles and challenges. If we want to enter the king’s palace, we must make an appointment well in advance, dress appropriately and observe all proper court conduct. During Elul, the King is in the field – G-d allows us to have access to Him in an uninhibited manner.

The Hebrew month of Elul is a time of closeness to G-d – a time during which we are imbued with especial powers to advance in our spiritual service and holiness. Although we have an opportunity to become close to G-d all year round, during Elul G-d becomes much more accessible to us.

Nevertheless, even when the king is “in the field,” it is still up to us to approach Him. G-d makes it easier to get close to Him, but we need to put forth the effort, to make the first move, to go outside our own boundaries and comfort zone.

This movement towards G-d is otherwise known as teshuvah. The Hebrew word teshuvah is from the root of shuv – to return. When we do teshuvah we acknowledge that we have gone astray and we wish to return to the King’s palace. This is the essence of teshuvah – the minimum demanded of us in order to enjoy the benefits of life in the King’s palace.

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There are a number of Torah verses that have the acronym of Elul, each of which relates to one of the themes of this month. One such verse is from Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. This verse expresses the love that exists between each of us and G-d – the allegory that runs through the entire Shir Hashirim.

Chassidic teachings explain that in Elul, the first two words are more emphasized – I am my beloved’s. During this time we need to put forth the effort to become close to G-d.

The second half of the verse – “and my beloved is mine” – relates mainly to the days that follow the month of Elul, the days of Tishrei from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. During this time, it is as if we are with G-d in the palace. But in order to make the most of that time, we need to prepare ourselves during the month of Elul.

The month of Elul, in a sense, is a reflection of the time we are living in now – the period immediately preceding the Redemption. When Moshiach comes, the world will be transformed into the dwelling place, the palace of the King. But how much will we enjoy life in the King’s palace? Our appreciation for that life depends on our actions and preparation now. The efforts we make now will be well rewarded with the true Redemption with Moshiach.
 

 


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