One more week and the Jewish world will be entering the month of ELUL. Sephardic Jewry will immediately start their SELICHOT prayers before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The Ashkenazi world, however, is due to pray the first SELICHOT on Mozzae’i Shabbat (Saturday night) before Rosh Hashana.
With the beginning of ELUL, we are entering the Teshuva (Repentance) period before the high Jewish holidays. G – d is about to judge the entire world as well as each one of us.
The English translation for the Hebrew word TESHUVA is REPENTANCE. With the beginning of the month of ELUL, we start thinking about our wrongdoings and how we can make things better. This Cheshbon Nefesh (making an account of the soul), however, doesn’t necessarily mean that, from now on, we are totally frum. What it means is that we regret our mistakes and try not to repeat them again. G – d wants to see our honest regret.
On Rosh Hashana, the entire planet and humankind will be judged for another year. On Yom Kippur, G – d judges the Jews only. The high holidays are coming in relatively late this time. Rosh Hashana only starts at the beginning of October. When we finish Sukkot, it is basically November.
The famous Ishbitzer Rebbe, Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Leiner (1801 – 1854), is raising a rather controversial issue in his Torah commentary “Me’i HaShiloach”:
Sometimes a person has to go through that time (of darkness) in his life and make mistakes – it had not even been a matter of choice.
In Judaism, darkness exists simply in order to be illuminated. If a person had not gone through the darkness, meaning difficult times in life, he never would have become the person he is.
Not an easy statement to digest but so true.