Who Are We? | Chaim Moshe Steinmetz, LISW

Elul is a loaded word. For some, it’s inspiring and motivating. For others, it’s filled with fear and unease. What’s most tragic is when it makes no impact at all. Years of effort to change and the perceived failure that ensues have left many jaded to the poignancy of Elul.

Elul is not meant to be this way. It’s well known that Elul is an acronym of אני לדודי ודודי לי ( I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me). If the emotions that we experience in Elul don’t reflect that, we have a flawed understanding of the essence of Elul.

On ראש השנה we are ממליך (coronate) Hashem. We also know that ר”ה is the יום הדין, yet the מפרשים point out that there is little mention of חטא and תשובה in the davening, we only talk about the grandeur of Hashem as we coronate Him as our King so to speak. Isn’t that strange? Our fate hangs in the balance, yet we don’t even attempt to plead our case!

To comprehend this, we need to understand what it means to be ממליך Hashem. Hashem is the King regardless, what does it mean and what is the purpose of us being ממליך Him?

The ספרים say that in order for there be any suffering or evil in this world, there needs to be צמצום (constriction) of Hashem because Hashem is the essence of good. Evil and suffering can only exist when Hashem “hides” himself so to speak, as to allow free will. Suffering is only possible in the illusion of His absence.

Being ממליך Hashem is not about Him, it’s about us. Being ממליך means asking; Who are we? Are we Hashem’s? Are we ready to have that relationship? If we decide yes, a good year is the inevitable result because nothing else is possible in His presence. If ח”ו we don’t identify ourselves as Hashem’s, we have a bad year, not as a punishment, it’s just the natural consequence of living a life devoid of His presence.

There’s no mention of חטא because it’s completely irrelevant. It’s about who we are, not what we have done. After we have decided to renew ourselves as Hashem’s, there is then an opportunity on יו”כ to fix the details. However, that was never the point. The point is to reaffirm our deep love and connection to Hashem as our King.

Elul is the prelude to that great renewal. It takes a month to prepare. That preparation is not about how bad we are or how much we need to change. That perspective understandably brings fear, confusion and apathy. It’s about who we are as כלל ישראל and as individuals. We belong to the King that is All Good. All we need to do is reaffirm our inherent connection. May we all be זוכה to an Elul that we understand, feel and sense to our core that אני לדודי ודודי לי, I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.


Chaim Moshe Steinmetz, LISW
[email protected]


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  1. The Tzadikim live in G-d’s presence more than anyone yet they suffer as much if not more then the rest (though their perspective is different). Think of the Yissurim Klal Yisroel has endured over the last 2000 years of galus, I’m sure most of those generations used Elul properly & many still experienced the most unimaginable suffering. Galus is by definition a time of hester ponim, especially now at the end of the Golus which is the darkest part of this long night. We are walking in the dark like blind men holding on to the the path chosen by our ancestors when it was still light outside. Living with Hashem doesn’t equal living with ease. Think of Yaakov Avinu Or Rebbi Akiva. It means living with truth non matter how painful truth can be. Only in Olom Habah does truth equal the greatest taanug possible. May this Elul lead us to a year that’s the end of Galus & Hester Ponim & true joy to the mitzapim legeulah.

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