Finally . . . summer “vacation” is coming to a close.
My wife works with a few chassidim. One particular woman she works with happens to live in Gush Shmonim. For those of you unfamiliar with Yerushaliyim, it is in the center of the frum world, full of chassidim, and full of money, or at least fancy apartments. So, when my wife offered them an opportunity to trade homes for a few days, they came up north and we went down south; both families were very, very happy. They had a home to use in the center of the north, and we had a very, very nice apartment to use in the center of Yerushaliyim. While it certainly was not good for my waistline, I promise you, all the food that I ate there was PURELY for spiritual purposes. How could one eat shwarma NOT for spiritual purposes? Is such a thing possible?
Of course, we arrived home at 6 p.m., and the next day friends of ours (with their eight children) arrived to stay with us for Shabbos. Followed by several other guests. Juggling all this with work and keeping children happy . . . well . . .
Needless to say, we are happy it’s over, and are ready to get back to real life.
Here’s a song that somebody sent to my wife, which describes everybody’s feelings here:
Okay, on to Torah!
One thing I’ve learned by having a family, is that when you go places, you had BETTER have a plan. If you don’t have a general plan on what you are going to do when you get there, you’re in big trouble.
Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah is no different.
Back in the day, in the old country, a few times a year, merchants from the country would come to the big cities to do business, buy their wares, and bring them back to their villages to support themselves for the next several months. The only way a person would be successful is if he would go to the city with a game plan, knowing what he needed to buy, what he needed to sell, where he needed to go, and how to use his time to the max. If he ended up going and getting distracted, he would lose his opportunity, and would have serious financial setbacks when he returned to his village.
Starting after Shabbos, is the month of Elul, meaning we are exactly one month away from Rosh Hashana. This is the time that we are going “to the big city," and preparing ourselves for the upcoming month. But, in order to use this time properly, we need to know what our goal is.
It is well known that Elul, in Hebrew, stands for Ani Ledodi V’ledodi Li, I am to my Beloved, and My Beloved is to me. From Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, it is a time of Yiras Shamayim, fear of Heaven. However, from Yom Kippur, until the end, Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, it is a time of Ahavas Hashem, Love of Hashem. So, we see that Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur, is not the goal of Elul, rather it’s only a “resting point” on the way to Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. Therefore, the goal of Elul, is Love of Hashem!
Now that we know that the ultimate goal of this period is to work on Love of Hashem, it would behoove us to come up with a plan for the next month on how we can work on that aspect. Things like davening and brachos, are difficult habits to break out of, however, they are great examples of mitzvos that can be used for Love of Hashem. Perhaps taking one's learning a bit more seriously. Perhaps saying more Tehillim.
All individuals need to seek out for themselves what they need to work on. However, the important part is that each one of us come up with a plan on how we are going to conduct ourselves over the next month or two. When we go to the "market" with a shopping list in hand and a good knowledge of the layout of the market, we can maximize our Elul, and leave the High Holidays a much different person than when we came in.