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Hayom Yom: Tackling Life's Tasks - 25 Elul

Hayom Yom: Tackling Life's Tasks - 25 Elul

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אֲמִירַת כָּל הַתְּהִלִּים בְּהַשְׁכָּמָה. יוֹם הִתְוַעֲדוּת. סְלִיחוֹת — אַחַר חֲצוֹת לַּיְלָה וּבְסָמוּךְ לָהּ. אֲבָל בִּשְׁאַר הַיָּמִים — בְּאַשְׁמוֹרֶת הַבּוֹקֶר. כַּאֲשֶׁר נִצָּבִים וַיֵּלֶךְ נִפְרָדוֹת מַתְחִילִין לְמַפְטִיר וְכֵן לִשְׁבִיעִי — שַׁבָּת פָּרָשַׁת נִצָּבִים — רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ גו'.

[On this Shabbos, too,1 it is our custom] to recite the entire Book of Tehillim early in the morning and to hold a farbrengen on that day.

[On Saturday night,] Selichos should be begun after midnight, but close to it. On the other days, [these prayers] should be recited “at the morning watch.”2

When the parshiyos called Nitzavim and Vayeilech are read on separate weeks, both the maftir and the shevi’i reading of Parshas Nitzavim begin Re’eh nasati lefanecha.3

אַדְמוּ"ר הַזָּקֵן סִפֵּר: בְּמעֶזְרִיטְשׁ שָׁמַעְתִּי מִמּוֹרִי וְרַבִּי הָרַב הַמַּגִּיד בְּשֵׁם מוֹרוֹ רַבּוֹ הַבַּעַל שֵׁם טוֹב, נִשְׁמָתוֹ עֵדֶן: הַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי שֶׁהוּא הַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה, הקב"ה בְּעַצְמוֹ מְבָרְכוֹ בְּשַׁבָּת מְבָרְכִים שֶׁהוּא הַשַּׁבָּת הָאַחֲרוֹן דְּחֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל, וּבְכֹחַ זֶה יִשְׂרָאֵל מְבָרְכִים אֶת הַחֳדָשִׁים י"א פְּעָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה, כְּתִיב אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם, דְּהַיּוֹם קָאֵי עַל רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה שֶׁהוּא יוֹם הַדִּין, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם גו' וְתִרְגֵּם וַהֲוָה יוֹם דִּינָא רַבָּא, וְאַתֶּם נִצָּבִים קַיָּמִים וְעוֹמְדִים, וְהַיְנוּ שֶׁזּוֹכִים בַּדִּין, וּבַשַּׁבָּת שֶׁלִּפְנֵי רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה שֶׁהוּא שַׁבָּת הָאַחֲרוֹן דְּחֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל קוֹרְאִין אָז פָּרָשַׁת אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים, דְּזֶהוּ בִּרְכָתוֹ שֶׁל הקב"ה, בְּשַׁבָּת מְבָרְכִים חֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי שֶׁהוּא הַמּוּשְׂבַּע וְהַמַּשְׂבִּיעַ בְּרוֹב טוּב לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל כָּל הַשָּׁנָה.

The Alter Rebbe related: When I was in Mezritch, I heard the following teaching from my revered master, the Maggid, in the name of his revered master, the Baal Shem Tov.

The seventh month [which is Tishrei] is the first of the months of the year.4 The Holy One Himself blesses it on Shabbos Mevarchim, the last Shabbos of the month of Elul. And with the power of this [blessing], the Jewish people bless the months eleven times in the year.

[This week’s Torah reading begins:] Atem nitzavim hayom — “You are standing firm today.” The word “today” alludes here to Rosh HaShanah, which is the Day of Judgment, for the phrase,5 “The day came,” is rendered by the Targum with the words, “the day of great judgment came.” [And it is concerning this day that the Torah tells us:] “You are standing firm”; that is, you are vindicated in judgment.

On the Shabbos before Rosh HaShanah, which is the last Shabbos of the month of Elul, we read the parshah that begins with the words, Atem nitzavim. This [reading constitutes] the blessing that G‑d gives on the Shabbos that blesses the seventh month, the month that is satiated and that satiates6 the entire Jewish people with abundant bounty for the entire year.7

To Fill In the Background

On the one hand, the entire motif of Elul and Tishrei follows the words, Ani ledodi vedodi li (אני לדודי ודודי לי)8 — “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”9 That is, it is the Jewish people who initiate the return to G‑d in teshuvah.10 Nevertheless, in both Elul and Tishrei, it is G‑d Who first sparks that initiative.

In Elul, He creates the environment for it, waiting for man to turn to Him in teshuvah. These days of Divine favor are depicted in the renowned analogy of the king in the field. While he is there, any one of his subjects who so desires can approach him freely, and he receives them all with a friendly and smiling countenance. And in Tishrei, as the above teaching emphasizes, G‑d Himself blesses the month, which generates the energy that enables Jews to accomplish their Divine service throughout the year.

His blessing is motivated by His desire for the service of the Jewish people. He is not a passive judge, waiting to see whether we fulfill the service required of us. Rather, He is like an anxious father who looks forward to seeing his child develop and grow, granting him tools to do so, and helping him along the way.

Footnotes
1.
See the entry for 26 Kislev. On the Shabbos preceding Tishrei, exceptionally, the usual request for blessings throughout the approaching month is omitted (Magen Avraham 417:1).
2.
In halachic terms, this means the beginning of the last third of the night, which is called “the morning watch” since it ends with dawn. (See the Bilingual Edition of the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Mahadura Kama (the First Edition), sec. 1:8, in Vol. 1, p. 110.) In earlier eras, people commonly rose before daybreak to recite the Selichos prayers. In the present era, there are many — as was the Rebbe’s practice — who recite Selichos after daybreak in the early morning.
4.
I.e., Tishrei is the beginning of the year, since the years since Creation are counted from Tishrei (Rosh HaShanah 10b). By contrast, Nissan is “the first of the months of the year” (Shmos 12:2), when the months are counted with regard to the festivals. Thus, for example, the Torah describes Shavuos (Shmos 19:1ff.) as falling “in the third month” — i.e., Sivan, which is the third month counting from Nissan.
6.
Tishrei is described as the seventh month (חודש השביעי). The verb להשביע, having the same root (שבע), but reading the letter shin as a sin, means “to satiate.”
7.
Sefer Tehillim Ohel Yosef Yitzchak with English Translation (Kehot, N.Y., 2001), p. 231.
8.
Shir HaShirim 6:3. In the Holy Tongue, the initials of the four quoted words spell Elul (אלול).
9.
In the first phrase (“I am my Beloved’s”), the Jewish people are expressing their love for G‑d; in the second phrase (“and my Beloved is mine”), G‑d responds by showing His love for His people.
10.
See Likkutei Torah, Parshas Re’eh, p. 32a ff.
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