The first suggestion we make is to read what we said the last four years about the month of Elul. What will be said this year will build on what we said last year.
Below is the link to the last five year's Blog about Elul. Please press your back button to return to this location after you read last year's Blog.
HaShem enthroned the letter Yud due upon action, attached a crown to it, and formed with them the Mazal - sign of Betulah = of the =Virgo = Maiden in space and the month of Elul in time.
Sefer Yetzirah, 5:9.
It states in Shir Hashirim, 6:3, “I am to my friend, as my friend is to me”. The acronym in Hebrew spells the word Elul which describes the atmosphere in this month like no other month. It is a month of immense love between HaShem and His nation.
The zodiac name for Elul is Betula which means virgin or according to the writings maiden. The word ‘maiden’ is found in many scriptural verses, and commentators find allusions to Elul in some of these verses.
Megaleh Amukot cites the verse: Amos 5:2, “Arise O Virgin of Israel.” Sefer Hatoda’ah finds an allusion to Elul in the verse from Yermiyahu 31:20, “Repent, O Virgin of Israel.” Sefer Yetzirah 5:8, “The Mazal of the month of Elul is Maiden.”
HaShem accepts Teshuvah everyday of the year but the month of Elul is described by the Sages as days most favorable and are designated for repentance, for they are days of mercy and HaShem desires our repentance at this time before the new year. They are days of Heavenly favor.
Another time when there is a lot of Heavenly favor, is Minchah of Shabbat. At Minchah of Shabbat, we tap into the “Supreme Crown,” the Sefirah of Keter. This is a time when judgment is turned into mercy. Anything is possible! It is called “Raa’ava DeRaa’avin, Desires of Desires.” In his book ‘The Wisdom in the Hebrew Months,’ Rabbi Zvi Ryzman, compares the month of Elul to Minchah of Shabbat. Wow!!!!! What an opportunity. Minchah and the third meal last a couple of hours, Elul lasts a whole month. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.
In this article I write a lot about Teshuvah. There are many different ideas and they are gems that I have collected over the last few years. I might seem to repeat some ideas but just enjoy them and try to internalize some of the ideas.
The month of Elul is actually a great opportunity. It is the time when Moshe Rabeinu, through his prayers, accomplished forgiveness for Klal Yisrael for the Golden Calf and received the thirteen attributes. The thirteen attributes are a very powerful tool for us to use to ask HaShem for forgiveness for our wrong deeds. When we use them, HaShem always helps.
The Talmud says that the word Elul means probing. This is our work in this month, to look / probe within. Looking within means looking at things you don’t like about yourself and making a commitment to change during the upcoming year. Making meaningful change is most probably one of the hardest things to do in life and that is one of the reasons HaShem gave us Elul. The closeness we have with HaShem in Elul makes it easier to make these changes. In a way, HaShem changes the rules in our favor to make it easier. Rabbi Avigdor Miller says: Everything one does in Elul is therefore counted as “double points” so as to speak. Whatever one does to better himself in Elul should be done with this in mind.
I recently heard a shiur where the Rabbi asked a very interesting question. He was talking about Elul and teshuvah. He said that Elul is the month to do teshuvah, to try and change ourselves for the upcoming year. The questions he asked his class was;
“Are you a different person today from the same time last year? Did you change besides being one year older? Did you do the things you promised yourself last Elul and Rosh Hashanah? Were you able to manifest your goals?”
In the secular world, people make New Years resolutions on January 1. Most time these don’t last and one falls back into their bad habits. If this is the case, what is the benefit of teshuvah? Is teshuvah just lip service? We know that HaShem knows our innermost thoughts. If so, how can we expect to con HaShem?
What is this all about?
Please stop for a minute and reflect on the last year and see if you have changed?
The Rabad, referred to Elul as a time of “Eit Ratzon/time of mercy or desire. Eit Ratzon is a very special time where HaShem turns judgment into mercy. Eit Ratzon connects directly to the Sefirah of Keter and Elul is a very good time to bring down blessings for the new year.
How do we do this???
The Gaon of Vilna said that the main reason we came to this world is to improve/change our middot(character traits). Elul is the perfect time to prepare for the upcoming year.
Prayer and Teshuvah are the means through which a person can recreate himself. If one changes their behavior, then they become a different individual altogether.
“Great is teshuvah, for it brings healing to the world”, Yoma 86b.
Teshuvah is equal to all the Mitzvot.
The concept of teshuvah/repentance is so far above human comprehension. Why?
It is one of the biggest Chokim. A chok is a law which we have to follow, however, is very difficult for humans to understand. Some of them are, meat and milk, the red heifer and Shatnez. Why is teshuvah a chok? In the physical world if a person is caught by the police for doing a serious offense, and they go to court and tells the judge they are sorry and won’t do it again, the judge will never let them off. However, in the spiritual world, when we do teshuvah, (we are truly sorry for what we have done), Hashem looks into our heart to see if we are serious and not just doing lip service. This is the key to teshuvah, as we can’t hide anything from Hashem. If Hashem decides to give us a second chance, He wipes the slate clean. This is mind boggling to think that we can be forgiven just like that for our sins. This is the reason we cannot comprehend the value of teshuvah.
A conventional understanding of teshuvah would suggest that one can do wrongful deeds all year long and come to Shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and ask for forgiveness. People think they can evade the consequences of their actions over the past 12 months. But can we really expect to be forgiven for our sins simply by saying some prayers on these holidays This is definitely not teshuvah. We can see that repentance is not a ritual that we do once a year like matzah and sukkah. Repentance takes us back to our source and we are able to make changes for the next year. It is a very powerful gift that HaShem gave us to guarantee a good year. Use it!!!
Remember there can be no growth in spirituality without honesty. Humans have an incredible ability to con themselves. We will make up the biggest stories in our minds and before long we will have convinced ourselves that we are perfect and don't need to change, only our friends have to change. Many people who are Baal Teshuvah’s think that they have already done Teshuvah once when they came back to HaShem many years ago, and now don’t need to do it again. Teshuvah is not something we do once or once a year, it is something we have to do every single day. At the end of each day we are supposed to look at our actions of that day, make an accounting and repent for ones that were not so good.
There is a story of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, who one day did an accounting of his day and found he had sinned 111 times. He was a complete Tzadik, and if he had 111 sins, the regular people have thousands every day.
We also have to have the desire to do teshuvah. Many people don’t want to change their bad habits. Take for an example a person who smokes. He knows it is very bad for him, yet he does not stop. He makes excuses that he enjoys it or it calms him down.
Please understand, I have simplified the process, but the basic message is that we have to stop doing things that we are doing wrong, or something unhealthy, or going against the Mitzvot of HaShem. Simple!!!!!
One question we should ask ourselves every morning is: Are we doing more today than we did yesterday? Meaning we are moving closer to HaShem. If we can honestly say that we are, then our Teshuvah is working.
Also know that Elul includes the whole of the next year in it. What we do in Elul is going to affect Rosh Hashanah and the whole of the next year.
Elul is a very interesting month. Officially it belongs to the year that is finishing, yet it is completely connected to the upcoming new year. How is this possible?
It is written that after the fifteenth of Av, Heaven begins preparing the chairs in the upper courts for Rosh Hashanah and it is a good time to start doing teshuvah.
Summer is drawing to a close. In the world of nature, especially in the very cold climates, all the animals are very busy at this time getting ready for the upcoming winter. They have to make exact plans for food or otherwise they won't survive the harsh winter. They take this time very seriously. They know instinctively what to do and how to prepare. It says that the fish in the sea tremble when Elul comes around. Every animal is seeking to do while there is still time left, because the Master will call. When we say this, we mean that Rosh Hashanah will come around and everybody will have to answer for the last year. We must remember, on Rosh Hashanah we are judged at the level where we are at that moment. What we did in the last year has brought us to that point.
As a side note, Rosh Chodesh Elul is the new year for animals.
In nature, obedience is the rule. All of nature stands around Hashem's throne, each one bringing Hashem the product of its labor. No animal or plant would dare to go against its nature. Nature has rules and the animals have to follow them. This is a definite law of nature.
Only man can be enticed from his set path. Man is casual and inattentive and ignores the seriousness of this time. The animals shiver with fear that Hashem won't destroy the world because of man.
With free will, man has to choose with his own intellect what is right or wrong. He has the power to go against what is right according to nature.
This is one of the reasons we start to blow the shofar the beginning of Elul, to wake us up. In the old days, people used to faint at just the mention of the word Elul. The shofar speaks a language. It is telling us; do teshuvah and change your ways. We just need to understand the language of the shofar.
Elul is a gift from Hashem. Nobody would dare go into a court case in the physical world without preparing. A person's lawyer would be interviewing witnesses, checking facts etc. Elul is the time for preparation for Rosh Hashanah which is the ultimate annual court.Hashem made it easy for us to do teshuvah in Elul. Chazal says that in Elul, “the King is in the fields”. What does this mean? During the rest of the year, if a person wants to do teshuvah, he has to go to Hashem. The analogy is the person has to make an appointment with Hashem, go to him and present his case. In Elul it is different. Hashem makes it easy for us and He comes to us, “the King is in the fields”. Wherever we are, Hashem is listening and waiting for us every second.
One of the ways the Tzadikim suggest we should prepare for Rosh Hashanah is to write two lists, one with what we want from Hashem for the new year and the other with things we intend to do for Hashem, example, more charity, more learning and davening etc, in the new year. Write down ten things on each list. With the list for Hashem, try to put down things that we have been trying to do for years. Things like, trying to change a bad character trait, to do mitzvot better, to get healthier, go to the gym etc. On the other list put down things you want from Hashem. Things like better parnasah, health, nachas from the children etc.
Think about ways you can achieve your goals. Read the list on Rosh Hashanah and also read it every day. You most probably won’t achieve the ten things for Hashem. It is doubtful if you can achieve half, but if you achieve one or two, guaranteed you will have a good year. It seems like this is kind of childish, but believe me it is a very powerful tool to do teshuvah. If you read it everyday, slowly the things on the list will become imprinted on your consciousness and change will become possible.
Elul is the month of perfection, HaShem’s purpose in creation. The word in Hebrew for the zodiac sign this month is Betula, which means virgin, the same as the English word, Virgo which is connected to virgin, which implies purity. In this month we have the ability to cleanse ourselves of a lot of dirt and become pure.
The tikkun/correction of people born in Elul is that they focus on details too much and don’t see the big picture. Virgo’s live in a world of fantasy and, because they have the ability to see perfection, they have the trait of judgement. They can’t understand why people can’t see things the way they do. Many Virgo’s are very particular about their possessions and are fanatical about keeping things neat and in order. I know some Virgo’s whose clothes are not only very neat and tidy but are all color coded by size. Look at a Virgo’s office or home and you will find everything perfectly in place. It is very difficult for a Virgo to live in a mess, it drives them crazy.
Virgos will quickly take over any situation, organizing everything with ease. They like things to operate perfectly. Virgos are very reliable and responsible and hate things to be unfinished. They strive for perfection in whatever they do.
Virgo’s are not very sensitive to others and don’t have a lot of patience. Because they see perfection, Virgo’s also have a bit of a superiority complex. Try not to pass judgement in this month. It is easy to find faults in people if we look closely. Don’t be sensitive to criticism. Let go of your selfish desires.
The test of judgement is for everybody in this month. If we don’t judge people then when we come to Rosh Hashanah, we will be shown the same compassion by Heaven and hopefully will be rewarded with a good year. It is very difficult not to judge, but now is the time, in this month, to work on this middah.
Virgo is the sixth and last of the masculine months/signs of the year. Virgo is an earth sign and is center of the three earth signs. Earth symbolizes the realm of action, which is the nature of this month.
The Name of HaShem this month is: Kei Kei Vav Yud, which brings expansiveness in the Upper Worlds. The female letters, the two Kei’s, precede the two masculine letters, the Vav and the Yud. This symbolizes the spiritual work from below, in order to arouse the Divine response from above. The flow of Divine influence is cut off due to our negative deeds. The way to reconnect is through our Teshuvah, which is easier this month, as mentioned above.
The letters of the month are Reish and Yud. Yud is the first letter of HaShem’s Name and represents wisdom/Chochmah. The Sefer Yetzirah says that the letter Yud is the King in the realm of action. Rabbi Matatiyahu Glazerson in his book, Above the Zodiac, explains that the winter months complement the summer months. Adar is the winter month which corresponds to Elul. During Adar we have the holiday of Purim, which is a time of the highest form of penance; returning to HaShem out of love for Him. The month of Elul marks a lower form of penance; return to HaShem out of awesomeness. This is indicated by the letter of the month, the Yud, which symbolizes wisdom, as it is written; “At the beginning of wisdom is fear of HaShem,” Psalms 3:10. This wisdom and appreciation of awe arises out of one’s work of contemplation, the main spiritual service of this month.
Reish created the planet Kocav/Mercury and Yud created the astrological sign, Virgo. Mercury is the closet planet to the sun and it takes only 88 days to go around the sun, approximately a quarter the time it takes the earth to go around the sun. It is also the planet of communications. Mercury or quicksilver, is extremely sensitive to temperature variations and consequently reacts very quickly to them. This is one of the reasons why mercury was used in thermometers.
The name Kocav in Hebrew is spelt; Kaf Vav Kaf Bet. Kaf Vav has a numerology of 26, which is same as the name of HaShem. Kaf Bet has a numerology of 22, which represents the 22 Hebrew letters. Through the Hebrew letters we are able to reconnect to HaShem.
The line from the Ana Becoach is the sixth line (Yesod), which has to do with our times (sixth millennium). Yosef HaTzadik is connected to this line. He was the conduit to draw down miracles. There is also a deep secret to this line of the Ana Becoach. It also deals with how the angels do their jobs, their secret. They run with happiness to fulfill the Will of Hashem. This line gives us the ability to run to do Mitzvot like angels. When the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai said, “we will do and we will listen”, Hashem said to the angels, “Who taught my children the secret of the angels”, Shabbos 88a.
As mentioned, when the Children of Israel said, “we will do and we will see”, Hashem said to the angels who taught them that secret, which is only known to the angels. What is this big secret? The secret is that when an angel gets a job from Hashem, it does not ask questions. It just goes and does it. On the other hand, humans want all the details before they commit to something. If we want to tap into this energy of angels, we have to become like the angels, just follow the Torah and don’t question Hashem. Shrink physicality. Take as little time as possible to do the mitzvah, don’t give the yetzer hara time to take hold.
Take this point to heart, be like the angels. It will help you a lot. The Ramchal says that alacrity, quickness to do things, is one of the best character traits to acquire. Why? In his book, The Path of the Just, the Ramchal states that the possession of this trait of Zeal(alacrity) constitutes an extremely high level of spiritual development. A person's nature prevents him from attaining this because the physical world is controlled by gravity which pulls us down. In this month, with this line of the Ana Becoach, we can get the strength to overcome our nature and run to do Mitzvot.
Surely Hashem knows what He is doing. This is the hard part, to have simple faith and not to question HaShem. This is the power of this line. Try and just trust HaShem with simple faith, and you will see miracles in your life.
Many of the Chassidic Rebbes did not see people during the month of Elul because they said they did not have the time. They said Elul is a time to work on oneself. One Rebbe described it as follows; “At the end of the year, every merchant reassesses his expenses and profits. He needs to see whether his business is losing money or gaining. At the end of the year, every Yid must make a similar evaluation.”
The Panim Yafos zt’l teaches: there are twelve hours by daytime. Hashem compassionately considers each hour of Elul to be like a day. Thus, in the thirty days of Elul, one can attain atonement for the entire year. Because 12 X 30 = 360.
Moshe Rabeinu went up to Heaven three times, each time for 40 days and 40 nights. The first time he went up was the 7th of Sivan, the second time on the 18th of Tammuz and the third time on Rosh Chodesh Elul.
On Rosh Chodesh Elul he received atonement for Bnei Yisrael for the golden calf. HaShem taught him the 13 Attributes of Mercy. He opened up the gates of penance for Elul and was taught that Teshuvah fixes everything.
The Gemara say: Teshuvah is great; it reaches Hashem's honored throne. Before Hashem's throne is Teshuvah. Teshuvah is for everyone. Regardless of what you did, one can repent, and Hashem will cherish your Teshuvah. Our entire status changes when we do Teshuvah. We become different people and when the Satan looks for us on Rosh Hashanah, he can’t find us because we are a totally different person.
It is very hard to do Teshuvah, because change is so difficult to make. We must not be satisfied with a small degree of success. We must keep going until we change completely.
The Shevet HaLevi(vol. 4 55), said that Yismach Moshe zy'a, had a dream where he was told that castigations and fasts are not necessary, because the greatest castigation of all is CHANGE itself. To succeed to change oneself, one must endure many hardships. Such a person has already received his castigations. He doesn't need anything else such as fasts.
Let’s ask the question, what actually is teshuvah? We say it is repentance but what is repentance? It is very simple. Stop doing the negative thing or things that we have been doing.
CHANGE OUR BAD HABITS!!!
It sounds easy but is actually very difficult. To change our nature is the most difficult thing in this world for us to do.
What is a habit??? A habit is something that you have done so many times, your body knows how to do it as good as your mind. We don’t need to think, we go straight to the answer without thinking. Look at a person who bites their nails or has some other twitch and you will see that their body just does it automatically. They don’t even know they are doing it.
95% of who we are by 35 years old are a memorized set of behaviors that function like a computer, you keep doing them over and over.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I think this is not only the definition of insanity but also the definition of a habit.
To break a habit you need to impress on your subconscious a new thought pattern. This is a very difficult thing to do. First you have to break the old habit and then imprint on the subconscious the opposite to what you were doing. It is not easy; in fact it is extremely difficult. It takes an enormous effort and most importantly it doesn’t happen overnight.
The hardest part of changing is not making the same choices one made yesterday, thereby changing our programs. When one makes a different choice, it is uncomfortable. Being in the unknown is a scary place.
People are very scared of the future. They fear the worst outcomes and it ruins their peace of mind. Studies have shown how much people dislike uncertainty. People would rather get an electric shock now than be shocked at a later time. The stress of the unknown is even more uncomfortable than the pain now. This is the nature of a human being.
Uncertainty is poison for the soul. Most people live 70% of their lives with stress, anticipating the worst case scenario. Fear is created by imagining bad things that haven’t happened yet. By creating new choices, you are actually changing your future.
Stop living in stress. When your stress level goes up, your immune system goes down. We know today that stress is one of the biggest killers. It is impossible to live in stress all the time. Why?? Let’s ask the question: What happens when we go into stress?
In the animal kingdom, when an animal goes into stress it is usually because they are threatened by a predator. They go into a flight or fight mode. They are not able to go into stress just by themselves, there has to be an outside agent. Humans on the other hand can create their own stress out of nothing. Today we are not threatened by predators, yet we are in stress most of the time. For example, a person who owes money starts stressing out weeks before how they are going to pay the bill. There is no predator, just our own mind creating the stress. Because we bring it on, it keeps us in stress all the time. Also when a person is in stress there is no room for growth, they are literally trying to survive. When the danger for an animal disappears, they calm down and the stress goes away. Our body doesn’t calm down. The stress keeps going and going. Our bodies work just like the animals, in that the stress MUST dissipate, however, this does not happen and we carry on being stressed out. This eventually leads to sickness and many other problems. Think of this as a car driving in first gear all the time. Eventually it must break down. The imbalance that stress causes is what makes us sick.
Below is a quote from a medical book about stress. Stokcos, 1986. "Stress is a state of imbalance within a person."
Sforno, over 500 years ago wrote: "Any loss that comes to a person is because of inner conflict". The inner conflict that Sforno talks about is stress.
Having Emunah helps with this because the basic precept behind emunah is that HaShem knows what He is doing and will take care of you. If you look back at all the difficult times you have had in your life, you will see that you got through them somehow. This is HaShem in action. Trust HaShem and stop stressing out!!!!!!!
Remember if you change your choices, you can change your life. This is the key to change. Start doing things differently and very soon you will see major changes and miracles in your life. The hardest part of changes is not making the same choices tomorrow that you made today. Take control. Use self discipline and anything is possible.
Again, the question we need to ask ourselves every day is: Are we doing more today than we did yesterday?
Every Rosh Hashanah, we are created anew and the world is new. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah is an ideal time to change one's behavior and ways, and to act like a completely new person. The actual reality is that you don't just act like a new person, but you actually become a new person. When you act differently, changing your habits, on Rosh Hashanah you become that new person because everything on Rosh Hashanah is created new. We can only become this new person if we have prepared ourselves in Elul.
There is a Gemara that says; if we don't know what we have, then it doesn't belong to us. In the old days, people used to faint at just the mention of the word Elul. The fear of the upcoming year was vivid in the behavior of the Tzadikim. They took this time very seriously. We also recite Selichot during Elul. This is a beautiful prayer and helps us evoke feelings of repentance. The Sephardim say Selichot the whole month while the Ashkenazim say it the last week.
It also says that the fish in the sea tremble when Elul comes around. Take this opportunity to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and guaranteed Hashem will grant you a good year.
Take the example of the animals. Get ready now for the upcoming year. If you prepare properly for the new year in Elul, it will help you a great deal on Rosh Hashanah. Take advantage of this gift that HaShem gave us. It only comes around once a year.
We have to accept responsibility for our actions. Each and every one of us is responsible for our own success or failure. There is no free ride. In spirituality we have to earn everything. Sefer Yetzirah tells us that Elul/Virgo gives us the opportunity to achieve control over our lives and to shape our destinies. In this month we literally have the power to go back in time to those moments we erred, fix them and then erase them and all the suffering they brought us. This is the power of this month. I beg you, take advantage of it. Please do a list. The month of Elul/Virgo is the solution. Go back, become pure and have a great year.
The Tzadik knows that he might fall, but understands that it is ok, as long as he gets up. This is the important thing, to keep trying. Start over. New beginnings are very precious to HaShem. They connect us to a place called Atik, which is a very high level.
The goal is to fight and not give up. This is the process. The process is the goal, not the end result, because we don’t know how HaShem judges. Don’t worry about the end result. You will find out how you did when you come to the day of judgement in the upper worlds.
The Chazon Ish taught that HaShem loves it when a person strengthens himself to do HaShem’s Will even if it only lasts a moment. We know that science has proved that time doesn’t exist, so that moment is actually an eternity. This is a very big secret.
Elul provides a unique opportunity to jumpstart change and break free from negative momentum that may be dragging us down. At the heart of Elul lies the cry of the shofar, which we start to blow on Rosh Chodesh Elul. The Shofar is so far above us. humans. When we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, we shake the upper worlds. Everything except HaShem is scared. Never miss the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. It can make a difference to your whole year.
Elul is also a time for making a Cheshbon HaNefesh/an accounting of his soul. At the end of the year, every Yid must make an evaluation of their lives. He should consider his deeds of the previous year and see which of them are earning him a profit, and which are causing him a loss. What needs to be improved and what should be stopped altogether. This is what Tzadikim do in the month of Elul and usually don’t accept people because they are too busy. Try it for yourself. It will definitely help you on Rosh Hashanah.
People are very busy at this time and don’t find time for introspection. Most people are also afraid of introspection because they don’t want to discover their faults. Therefore they seek ways to always be busy at this time, rather than being alone with their thoughts. Remember: There can be no growth in spirituality without being honest with yourself. Everybody deep down knows their faults, but don’t want to admit it. This is the most important thing about Elul, to look inside and see what you need to change. Take the time, it is worth it. You won’t regret it.
Another perspective on how hard it is to change. From a shiur given by Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto.
There is a very interesting Gemara, Gitten 50:7.
It talks about Onkalos who was a ger(convert). He came from a very prominent Roman family and was involved in sorcery. He was able to bring up spirits. He brought up Titus harasha and Bilaam harasha:
He asked Titus, “Where is the truth in this physical world. Titus answered with the Jews. He then asked Titus; “Who is the chosen nation and Titus answered, the Jews. He then asked Titus, what is your punishment for hurting the Jews. Titus answered that every day he brings wood and they burn him to ashes which is very painful. He then asked Titus, should I become part of the Jews. The answer given by Titus was no, you should kill them, hurt them.
Onkolos then asked Bilaam the same questions. His punishment he said was that every day they put him in a pot of boiling water and boil him which is very painful. He then also asked Bilaam if he should become part of the Jews. Bilaam’s answer was the same as Titus, to kill them.
This Gemara is very strange. Why? Both of them were in the next world where the truth is known. They answered about the Jews the truth yet they still wanted to hurt them. How could they give this advice when they were suffering so much. The Gemara explains that this is the power of habit. They were so negative that even when they knew the truth, they could not change. This is the power of habit. The Gemara goes on to talk about the other side. In Gan Eden there was a bat kol(Heavenly voice) that said a big Tzadik had just died, Yehoshua ben Levi and that he was coming to Gan Eden. His place was near Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who was sitting on gold bricks. In heaven there is no more ego. If a person merits a reward, he gets it. This was Rabbi Shimon’s reward. Rabbi Shimon went over to Yehoshua ben Levi and asked him if there was ever a rainbow in his life, as there was never one in Rabbi Shimon’s life. There was also not one in the life of Yehoshua ben Levi as he was a Tzadik Gamur (complete). Yet his answer surprises us. He said yes, there were many. How could he lie in the world of truth. He was so humble in his life on earth, that he couldn’t change even in the world of truth. Again we see the power of habit.
From this Gemara, we learn how hard it is to change. Even though it is difficult, the reward far outweighs the effort. Take this to heart at least try to change. HaShem wants our Ratzon/Desire = consciousness.
Teshuvah is a big deal. Why? The Ramchal says that when a person sincerely uproots their desire to sin, they uproot the sinful deeds that they have done. Mistakes are not permanent; they can be undone with Teshuvah. When a person repents you reverse the sinful deed and can then move on.
We learn about Teshuvah from King David. He made mistakes in his life, but he always admitted them and did Teshuvah. This is one of the character traits that HaShem loved about David Hamelech, and because of this trait he became the chariot for the Sefirah of Malchut, this physical world. He is our role model. He showed us that repentance really works. This is why Teshuvah is a big deal. The ability to ascend to a higher level than before the sin because of your Teshuvah. If one changes their behavior, then they become a completely different individual. Read this again and try to internalize it!!!
Everybody wants to be a better person. Everybody wants to do Teshuvah, so why don’t they????
The answer is that they don’t believe they will succeed. If they were certain that they would succeed, 100% they would do it. Take for example a person who smokes. Ask most people who smoke and they will tell you that they would like to give up, so why don’t they. They don’t believe that they will succeed. We have to give our family, friends and other people encouragement. This is very important!!!!!!!!!!!
Elul should not be a depressing month. We need to approach it with joy, a big opportunity to start new. This idea should give us the power to be happy. Coming close to HaShem can only be achieved through happiness. The process of growing and moving forward must be the joy itself. The goal should be that one enjoys the growth itself.
We have to realize that growth does not come with one big step. We have to move slowly, one little step at a time. This is the only way it will remain. You have to grow with the change. If it happens in one big step, you don’t grow with the change and there is a good chance it won’t last. Be careful not to take steps that are beyond us. Also consistency is another key to making changes permanent. Consistency creates good habits which will help us reach our goals. Never lose sight of our goals.
One of the most important lessons we can learn is to realize that the main goal in life is not to win. In today’s world everything is about winning, the bottom line, the end result, the score etc. First of all, we don’t know what winning is. Maybe our views of winning are distorted compared to Heavens. The main goal for us is to enjoy the process, the day to day struggle of life. Living in the present is a very big secret and we need to try and internalize this idea in our daily lives. The present is where change happens.
Think about this for a moment. Don’t we live in the present every second of our lives. Isn’t it impossible to live in the future or the past. This is true of our bodies but not our minds. Even though our bodies are in the present our minds are able to roam anywhere we let it, past, present or future. This is the secret of living in the present, control your mind to focus on things that you have to do today. We have to be aware of our thoughts and our choices. We can’t blame anybody for our bad thoughts. Remember this!!!
Living in the present is very important. Try it!!! You might like it.
Don’t wait anxiously for a big occasion so that you can be happy. Every day, we have many opportunities to be happy. Stop and smell the roses, enjoy the chirping of the birds, do a Mitzvah, do Teshuvah, etc. Take advantage of them because, even though you might have more opportunities tomorrow, today’s opportunities will be gone forever.
Don’t wait for life to be easy before you decide to be happy!!! Grab whatever you can. Use this month wisely.
HaShem gets a lot of nachas from each small step we take. If we would internalize this idea, that HaShem truly values our efforts and our Mitzvot, we would rejoice at every opportunity that comes our way to do the Will of HaShem.
David Hamelech writes in Tehillim that this idea is what gives us the willpower necessary to keep on climbing and reaching higher. In Genesis 24:1, it states; “And Avraham was old, coming in his days, and HaShem blessed him with everything.” The Zohar asks what does it mean that “he came with his days?” Avraham utilized each day to the fullest in the service of HaShem, and therefore each day served as another rung to go higher, which is what brought him to the great madregah/level that he reached when he grew older.
Let’s use the example of Avraham Aveinu and David Hamelech for us to reach higher levels in our spiritual growth. Elul is the perfect time to accomplish this.
Elul is an ideal time for prayer. Pray a lot so you will come to Rosh Hashanah with a pure heart.
People go to listen to many lessons on Elul and Teshuvah. They run around the whole month but there is something missing. What is that? Actual change. Implementing the ideas one heard at these lessons. Make sure Elul doesn’t end with good intentions but without results. Change has to take place.
Chodesh Tov and Shana Tova. Have a great month and year.
13th: Rabbi Yosef Chaim, Ben Ish Chai from Iraq.
20th: Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Rosh Yeshiva and founder of the Ponevezher Yeshiva.
24th: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagen, Chofetz Chaim. He gave us one of the most comprehensive works on Lashon Hara.
25th, Day of Creation: Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
This is a very powerful day. First it is the day of creation. The first of anything is the seed and root of that event. In the seed is the whole manifestation. Being the day of creation, every event in the world is in included in this day, for example: the going out of Egypt, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, both Temples and most important, the coming of Mashiach, May he come soon. Rabbi Elazar was with his father in the cave for thirteen years. They were taught the secrets of the Torah from both Moshe Rabeinu and Eliyahu Hanavi. Make sure you connect to this energy on this day. There are some interesting stories about the physical power of Rabbi Elazar in the Talmud.
26th: Rabbi Chaim Pinto HaGadol of Mogador, Morocco. He was known as a big miracle worker.
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