1.02 WAKING UP TO THE SOUND OF THE SHOFAR : THE OPPORTUNITY OF ELUL
IT IS ESSENTIAL TO BEGIN WORK ON THE MONTH OF ELUL ON THE FIRST DAY OF ELUL
The first moments at the beginning of Elul when the shofar is blown are a tremendous opportunity for growth. Those moments are so great that if you don’t seize the opportunity you can damage yourself:
If a person doesn’t begin the work of teshuva on the first day of Elul, there is a good chance that the rest of the month will pass without great benefit. It is known that when messages pass by a man to wake him up and he doesn’t utilize them, he is damaged by not grabbing the opportunity. It will not be easy in the future to get affected by those things that should awaken him to teshuva.
Therefore, it is essential to realize how precious are the first moments of the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh. And therefore a man has to wake himself up immediately in order to seize the opportunity. (Based on Shaar Elul, HaRav Shaul Wagshall, p.9.)
PREPARING FOR JUDGEMENT
How would one act if he had a trial scheduled before the most powerful individual in the country? This information can be valuable in understanding our relationship to the month of Elul:
Any intelligent person who is scheduled for trial before a mortal king of flesh and blood will surely spend sleepless nights and days preparing his case. He will seek the advice of every knowledgeable person he knows that can help him prepare his case. He will go to great lengths to attain a favorable verdict, even if all that is at stake is but a small part of his fortune and he faces no personal risk. Should he not do so as well when he is brought to judgement before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy Blessed One, when he himself, his children and his fortune all hang in the balance?
Indeed, nothing can be concealed from the Holy Blessed One. He needs no witnesses and no evidence; He knows all. And no advocates can plead before Him other than a person’s own good deeds and teshuva for his transgressions. Before such an awesome trial any intelligent person must certainly tremble with fear. He must prepare very thoroughly, examining his actions closely and repenting his sins. As Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgement, approaches he must seek any advice he can get that will help him obtain a favorable verdict.
Therefore, it is important to begin preparing for Rosh HaShana at least thirty days earlier, from Rash Chodesh of the month of Elul. This is the minimum time required to rouse oneself fully from one’s year long stupor.
(Menoras HaMeor-The Ten Days of Teshuva, Rabbeinu Vitchak Abohav)
IF YOU DON’T SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW WHEN IT IS THERE. YOU ARE IN DANGER OF LOSING EVEN YOUR PRESENT LEVEL
Rabbi Dessler in Miktav M’Eliahu describes the situation of Yaakov Avinu when he felt that he missed a great opportunity:
We can learn from Yaakov Aveinu how important it is to seize an opportunity for growth . When Yaakov realized that he had passed the place where his forefathers had prayed and he didn’t pray there he immediately made the decision to return. Once he made the decision to return a miracle occurred and the long journey was shortened for him by G-d.
Let us introspect for a moment exactly what occurred here; Yaakov hadn’t slept for the 14 years that he learned in the Beis Mid-rash. He was 63 years old. He had passed the point where he was supposed to stop and pray many days already and yet he didn’t even want to rest for a few minutes before he made his decision to return.
Since Yaakov seized the opportunity to return to pray at the future site of the Beis HaMikdash, Hashem caused a miracle to occur that lifted Yaakov out of time and space and immediately brought him to where he needed to be.
How important it is to seize an opportunity when it crosses our path! On one hand, when an opportunity for growth comes, we have ~rLPpportunity to rise to a level that is impossible for us to achieve at another time. But on the other hand, we are in great danger of losing even our present level if we ignore great opportunities that come our way. (Based on Miktav M’Eliahu, Chelek Beis, p.71)
Rabbi Dessler is pointing out to us a very powerful point. When a person has an opportunity for growth and he seizes it, he can rise to very high levels (as we see from the case of Yaakov Avinu). But he also warns that there is no standing still either. If a person doesn’t utilize an opportunity, not only does
he not go up, but, on the contrary, he goes down, G-d forbid.
We now stand at the gateway to the month of Elul. Elul and the High Holy Days are the most mitzvah intensive time period of the whole year. If one seizes the opportunity, great heights are available to an individual. If a person ignores it, G-d forbid, he might go down in his spiritual level.
THE TIME PERIOD OF ELUL IS A TIME OF GREAT DIVINE FAVOR
The period from Rosh Chodesh of the month of Elul onward is a time of Divine favor. Although G-d accepts all year the teshuva of those who turn unto Him wholeheartedly, these days are more appropriate and suitec for teshuva, inasmuch as they are days 0 mercy and good-will. For in the month of Elul. Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets, waited there 40 days, and descended on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei, when the atonement was completed. From that time on, these days have been set aside as days of good-will, and the tenth day of Tishrei as the Day of Atonement. (Kitzer Shulchan Aruch 128.1)