The 18th of Elul is a double birthday. On this date, the soul of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chassidic movement, entered the world in 1698, and the very same date in 1745 saw the birth of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, creator of the Chabad branch of chassidsm. The number eighteen has the same numerical value as the word chai—"life." Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, once said that "Chai Elul" (the 18th of Elul) breathes life into the service of the month of Elul—the last month of the year on the Jewish calendar.

The holy books point out that the word אֶלוּל (Elul) is an acronym for the words (taken from Song of Songs): אַנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, "I am to my Beloved [G‑d], and my Beloved is to me."

We share a multi-faceted relationship with G‑d—He is our king and we are His subjects; He is our father and we are His children; He is our shepherd and we are His flock—but with the approach of the new year, we focus on our husband-wife relationship, a relationship which, naturally, is characterized by passionate love.

Who is G‑d? Why did He create us? What is the master plan?—All these questions are glaringly ignored in the TorahI recently stumbled across an "Encyclopedia of the World's Major Religions." I started reading the entry on Judaism, and was amazed at the writer's insight when he speaks of the stark difference between Judaism and all other religions. Other religions are based on a particular theology and philosophy, and their rules and codes of conduct are a direct consequence of their belief system. Judaism, however, is based on a Torah which is principally a book of rules. Jewish philosophy developed afterwards, and is based on the interpretations of the laws. Incredibly, most of the thirteen principles of our faith are not articulated in the Torah; instead the Torah is almost entirely preoccupied with technical do's and don'ts!

Who is G‑d? Why did He create us? What is the master plan?—All these questions are glaringly ignored in the Torah.

This accurate description of Judaism does not support our husband-wife-relationship hypothesis. A marriage is not based on rules, but on mutual affection. A marriage starts with two people who get to know, and deeply appreciate, each other, and in this manner develop a love which leads them to eternally commit to each other. A stable marriage does not find its roots in two people who meet, and one turns to the other and says, "Let's get married. Who I am is irrelevant, but here's my list of demands and commands…" A monarch and his subjects share a rule-based relationship, not a married couple.

Studying chassidism allows one to become intimate with G‑d. Gaining a (minimal) understanding of our Creator, His awesomeness, His incredible benevolence, and the personal relationship He shares with every one of us, allows the bride to connect to G‑d and appreciate Him.

Our sages say we were betrothed to G‑d at Mount Sinai, and the wedding will take place with the coming of Moshiach. In anticipation of the wedding which is looming close, let us study chassidism, the ultimate marriage handbook!

Indeed, the 18th of Elul breathes new life into the most important marriage of all.