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FRUMToronto Articles Thoughts for the Week

Inspirational words of Torah from Gedolei Yisroel.

Blog Image: Hakhel.jpg
Elul; Mercy
Even the halacha seforim (the Mishne Berurah and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) teach that Elul is an acronym for “Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li-I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me”.  This teaches that Elul is a time of expressing love to our Creator and our Creator expressing His love for us.
How is this love actually expressed?

1.  Hashem’s Love to Us.  Hashem has made these days days of “mercy, and forgiveness” for us.  Just as a loving father looks away from the inadequacies of his sincere, dedicated son, Hashem says He will prepare for the King’s day of judgment by remembering our good qualities and our desire to emulate Him, albeit with some inadequacies.

2.  Our Love to Hashem.  Twice daily in Shema, we state the following mitzvah: “V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha-and you shall love Hashem Your G-d.”  The Gemara (Yoma 86A) explains this posuk as follows: You express your love of Hashem by making the Name of Hashem beloved among people through proper conduct, conduct “b’nachas” with others.  It is no small wonder then, that the yeshivos emphasize study of middos bein adom l’chaveiro (between man and fellow man) during the month of Elul.  In fact, in Kelm, the yeshivah studied sefer Tomer Devora during this time, because this sefer emphasizes the love one must have for his fellow man.  Succinctly stated, by showing our love for Hashem’s creations, we follow in Hashem’s ways, and demonstrate our love for Hashem Himself.

Practical Suggestion:  Every day until Rosh Hashanah, practice love for your fellow man by doing kindness and favors, to the extent that you can.

We would like to hear from our readers on other ways they feel a person can demonstrate his or her love of Hashem, to properly fulfill the mitzvah of V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha during this month of Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li.

Special Note Two:  Today we began to blow Shofar and recite an additional Mizmor, Mizmor 27 from Tehillim after davening.  The Shofar blowing is to remind us that the King will soon be arriving, and will sit in judgment.  The Mizmor is recited, some point out, because it contains Hashem’s name 13 times, corresponding to Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy.

It is fascinating to note that, while we continue the Mizmor through Shemini Atzeres, the Shofar is sounded only through the second day of Rosh Hashana.  One possible reason for this may be that the Shofar is to prepare us for the King’s arrival.  Once He has arrived, on Rosh Hashana, we no longer need any reminders of His near-tangible presence.  The Mizmor, on the other hand, through the 13 Names of Hashem, is to remind us that we must constantly plead for mercy, through the judgment for rain on Shemini Atzeres.

The days of Elul are referred to as Yemei HaRachamim--The Days of Mercy.  Paradoxically, reflecting upon mercy actually helps us prepare for judgment.  If a person prepares only for judgment, he will tend to view all of his activities in a favorable light, and actually lead himself to believe that he is much better than he really is.  Think about the way a lawyer may prepare a court case--viewing the facts in the light most favorable to his client.  Thus, in thinking about why one needs mercy over the coming days, we will take a better look at our actions and inactions.

In order to assist us in this goal, we are suggesting that the next word for us to find in Shemone Esrei, and have Kavannah in, over today and Sunday is the word “Rachamim”--mercy.  Search for the word Rachamim, reflect upon its meaning where Chazal placed it, and think about why you need it--and ASK FOR IT!!

Special Note Three:  As, once again, today is the first day of Elul, we renew our call published just two days ago--each of which is a real and practical plan for the month.  To remind you, here are the two proposals:

1.    If you begin today to learn just three (3) Mishnayos a day of Mesechtos Rosh Hashana, Yoma, and Sukkah, **starting with** Mesechta Rosh Hashana, continuing on to Mesechta Yoma, then on to Sukkah, you will have completed all three Mesechtos by the middle of Sukkos.  A nice demonstration!!

2.    The Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim is actually not a very long sefer.  If you take your edition, and divide it into 30 segments over the month of Elul, you will find that you need study only a few pages a day to complete the sefer before Rosh Hashana.  Reviewing the Mesilas Yeshorim over the month of Elul is a fine accomplishment, and a remarkable complacency shredder.

Additional Note:  As today is likewise 30 days before Rosh Hashana, some may want to begin learning the Halachos of Rosh Hashana and Shofar today.  The Luach Bnai Yaakov brings the p’sak of the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 597:1) who rules that after Shul on Rosh Hashana, one should go home and (obviously not forgetting the awe of the day and the time), have a festive meal and BeSimcha!  With this, we start you on Hilchos Rosh Hashana!

Special Note Four: Having made the previous point, we provide the following thought:

HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, writes that he believes that the reason Teshuva is a difficult concept for many is that people find it too difficult to change, and, being honest with themselves, basically give up on the idea.  When they recite Selichos, say Viduy, or otherwise hear the Shofar or daven the special prayers of the Yomim Noraim, they are indicating that they would change if they could, but do not really feel that it can happen overnight--or even in the present or near future.

The Torah teaches that this seemingly realistic--but negative--attitude is misplaced and, in fact, incorrect.  If one would only recognize that each Mitzvah accomplished, each improvement in conduct or middos, every nice brocha recited, every victory against the Yetzer Hara, actually positively impacts upon and truly completes creation as a whole, he would have a much more constructive approach to the process of self-improvement and Teshuva.  One would view himself as extremely successful if he became a partner at Goldman Sachs or a senior executive at Sony.  Here, one is actually being given the opportunity to be a partner with G-d in Creation itself.  The importance of every act of improvement between man and Hashem, man and man, and man and himself, is detailed in the Nefesh HaChaim (2:13 ).  There is truly an air of holiness which not only pervades, but surrounds, each Mitzvah and Mitzvah-doer.  It is quite possible that for this reason we are required to stand in the presence of one who performs a Mitzvah (see Mishna Bikurim 3:3, and Bartenura there).

Today, we enter the 40-day period of the “Yemei Ratzon”, the days of appeasement.  The Tanna D’vei Eliyahu, quoted by the Chayei Odom (Chapter 138), writes that “The month of Elul is the most favorable and auspicious time for a person’s Teshuva to be accepted, for they are days of appeasement…just as Hashem was appeased for the sin of the Golden Calf during these days, He also arouses His mercy on our behalf in our times and is appeased by our Teshuva as well.”

By rejoicing in the prospect of Teshuva, by being happy over the opportunity to improve, by feeling good when giving nachas to Hashem and coming closer to Him, we can benefit from the upcoming unique and special days to their wonderful fullest.

Special Note Five: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos series.  We present below several Halachos relating to Halachos of Shabbos which may require additional care:

1.    The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach  Chaim 260; seif katan 7) records that “Yesh Mekomos”--there are places, in which  the custom is not to cut your hair or your nails on Rosh Chodesh--even when it falls on Erev Shabbos, because this is the directive of Rebbe Yehudah HaChassid.  Accordingly, it would appear appropriate for one to ask his Rav what the “custom of his place” is in this regard--and that Shaila must happen today!

2.    Games in which points are tallied--where people gain and lose points should not be played on Shabbos (Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa, 16:34).

3.    One may gently remove food crumbs from one’s hair, but must be careful not to take out hair with it.  It is for this reason that one should stay far away from children chewing gum on Shabbos--if the gum “somehow” ends up in your hair, you will not be able to remove it, because you will undoubtedly pull out hair with it.

4.    The Shulchan Aruch devotes an entire Siman (285) to reading the Parsha “Shenaim Mikra VeEchad Targum”--which, in addition to being a Halacha in Hilchos Shabbos and in Hilchos Talmud Torah, is an incredible Segulah.  Chazal (Sotah 49A) teach that one who is “Mashlim Parshiosav Im HaTzibur” will be blessed with the greatest of brachos--“Ma’arichin Lo Yomov U’Shenosav”--he will have length of days and years.  Especially at this time of year, for those who have not been careful enough with this unparalleled Mitzvah, one should undertake (or re-undertake) it with a special diligence and zeal--after all it involves Shabbos, Torah--and is an elixir for life!  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (3: p.63) brings that although there are various ways in which to fulfill this Mitzvah, the Chofetz Chaim’s minhag was to recite each Pasuk twice immediately followed by the Targum on that Pasuk.  For further detail on the best time to perform the Mitzvah, please see the Mishne Berurah and Bi’ur Halacha in Siman 285.  Women are exempt from this Mitzvah--but they still can use the time that it would take (approximately ½ hour) to learn about the Parsha.

Hakhel MIS

Posted 8/22/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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