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Daily Reflections for Elul 5773

The Baal Shem Tov called the days of Elul ‘the days when the King is in the field’. He explained this with a parable. Normally, in order to gain an audience with the King, one must go through a lengthy procedure. One must travel to the capitol city, arrange an appointment, and then get permission to enter the palace. Even when permission is granted is may be days or weeks before he is finally allowed to enter. When a person would finally get to see the King, the audience is likely to be short and very formal. The citizen, not used to the royal surroundings doubtlessly feels out of place, and maybe even regrets the decision to see the King. From great fear and uneasiness, the person may even forget to put a request before the King.

Once a year, the King leaves his capitol to visit the various regions of his Kingdom. Now, a King can’t just enter a city unannounced. When he reaches the outskirts of the city he is to visit, his entourage sets up a camp while a special delegation goes ahead to the city to make preparations for the King’s visit. In the meantime, the King is in the field; relaxed and enjoying the early fall weather. He doesn’t stand on the same formality that he does when in the palace. The common folk are allowed to come out to greet the King and receive his blessing.

During the month of Elul, the Holy Blessed One is in the field and is easily accessible to everyone. We need only make the effort to go out and greet God’s presence. The customs and time of reflection during Elul are meant to help us tune into the spirit of the times and to attune ourselves to the work of t’shuvah – repentance and returning to God, to our best selves.

I will be posting each day, and look forward to a meaningful month together.


Rosh Chodesh Elul – 30 Av/August 6, 2013

Each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the [Red] sea [during the exodus]. Then Nahshon the son of Amminadav descended first into the sea [and then it parted].

(Talmud, Sotah 37a)

For reflection:  It takes courage to make a change, to act differently, to take on a new habit or practice.  Like a parent, be patient but firm with yourself, holding yourself do your best to devote the time and attentiveness that you desire to the work in the days ahead.


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