Getting Ready

Chodesh Elul, the days of Rachamim and Ratzon has arrived. The forty days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur are lofty and special days during which every Jew feels a tremendous spiritual arousal, and prepares for the pinnacle of crowning Hashem, as King of the Universe, at the end of Ne‘ilah on Yom Kippur, along with the hope of being forgiven by Him, and of being inscribed for a good year,

Our sages have revealed that the way to merit and receive blessings at that time, is by preparing properly during the Elul days, which are days of reviewing the past year and taking stock of our ways.

It is clear that one cannot attain any kind of spiritual heights on Rosh Hashanah, Aseres Yemai Teshuva, Yom Kippur, Succos, Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah without proper preparation during the month of Elul, which a person recites many pleas, and performs mitzvohs and good deeds, each person according to his ability and customs.

Some communities recite Selichos during the month of Elul. Others only do so at the end of the month. Some communities recite chapters of Tehillim every day, and others increase Torah study and giving tzedakah. The common denominator between all of them is that this a time for spiritual improvement and preparing for the days of Din and Rachamim.

In all communities, the shofar is blown during Elul after Shacharis. The Tur explains that it is the same shofar blast which was sounded upon Moshe‘s ascending Har Sinai the third time, to receive the second Luchos Habris after the Cheit Ha‘egel. This ascension of Har Sinai was the appropriate preparation for the revelation of the Shechinah after those forty days of Rachamim and Ratzon taken by Bnei Yisroel. This shofar is also sounded to arouse Jews to do teshuva in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. According to the Rambam, it arouses to teshuva, with the words, “Oru mi‘shnaschem ve‘nirdamim hakitzu mu‘tardeimaschem—drowsy ones, wake up from your sleep and sleepers wake up from your slumber.“ This is because it is clear that in order to reach these lofty days, one must be prepared and spiritual arousal cannot come of itself. It must be preceded by proper spiritual preparation,
Even though there is no explicit source in the Torah or the Nevi‘im indicating Elul as a time of preparation and spiritual arousal, the Rishonim explain that throughout the Diaspora, this has always been the case. By the same token, there are sources in Torah, Nevi‘im and Kesuvim which allude to this. It is possible that this point is not mentioned in Scripture or explicitly by Chazal, since it is felt in the soul of every single Jew, and there is no need to write about it. It is common knowledge that the appearance of the great light which shines on Rosh Hashanah, “Ori,“ and the atonement and forgiveness and yeshua gedola on Yom Kippur can be achieved only by proper preparation during the days prior to them. In addition the entire essence of this month is one of preparation and spiritual achievement, because it is the closest month to the days of Rachamim and Din.

If regarding Elul, despite the Torah‘s lack of an explicit statement that to receive influences of kedusha and uplifting we know that one must prepare for them adequately in advance, how much more so pertaining to Shabbos, of which it specifically calls for proper preparation, and how greatly this effects our Fridays. If in respect to the physical preparations which we must make for Shabbos this is so, obviously for the spiritual preparations this holds true. All of the sacred influences found in Creation depend on the kedusha of Shabbos, and it is impossible to merit the aura of kedushas Shabbos without prior preparation.

Friday is to Shabbos, like Elul is to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Elul, the month which summarizes the prior year, is also the month of preparation and arousal. The same holds true of Friday, the day which precedes Shabbos Kodesh. It is the day of preparation for the spiritual abundance provided by the kedusha of Shabbos.

In order to make this spiritual preparation, we must complete our physical ones earlier, so that when Shabbos comes, we will merit an advance of spiritually.