“You know,” Moshie said to Yossi. “Being in camp makes a big difference for everyone.”

“What do you mean?” Yossi asked. “Camp’s a lot of fun, and we all enjoy ourselves, but what do you mean by ‘a big difference’?”

“Well, take Rabbi Kaplan,” Moshie replied. “In school, he’s pretty strict. He makes sure all the rules are kept to the T, and he gives lots of homework. And you almost never see him smile. He’s not mean; he’s just very demanding.

“But in camp, he’s different. He tells jokes. He still makes sure we learn, but he’s much more relaxed. He’s not as sticky when it comes to the rules, and tries to give every kid his time. Whoever wants to speak to him can go over and ask.”

“I guess you’re right. I think it has something to do with being out in the country,” Yossi said. “I don’t know if it’s the scenery, or just that it’s less crowded than in the city. It’s true, here people are more at ease.”

Their counselor, Sholom, had been listening to the conversation. “This is a good opportunity to share a thought of Chassidus,” he thought.

“Do you know what this Shabbos is?” he asked Moshie and Yossi.

“It’s Shabbos Parshas Re’eh,” Yossi answered.

“And what else?” Sholom asked again.

This time it was Moshie: “It’s Shabbos Mevorchim Elul, the Shabbos on which we bless the month of Elul.”

“What you two were speaking about — how camp makes a difference — reminds me of the month of Elul,” Sholom said.

“How?” replied Yossi. “Usually, camp is almost over by Elul.”

“Let me explain,” said Sholom. “The Alter Rebbe says that in the month of Elul, it’s as if HaShem goes out to the field. During the year, and especially on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, HaShem is like a king in his palace. Only a few very special people are allowed into his throne room, and they have to observe all the formalities of court procedure. And even then, the king is often stern.

“But for one month a year, Elul, it’s different. HaShem becomes like a king who is passing through the country as He travels back to His city. All His countrymen can come out to meet Him in the field. He lets everyone greet Him, and shows a happy smile to all of them. He listens patiently to everything they say, and gives them what they ask for.

“In Elul, HaShem makes it easy for us to come to Him. All we have to do is want to see Him. And if we try just a little bit — like a person who leaves his house and goes outside to meet the king — HaShem will be happy with us, and grant us everything we need for a good year.”

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, pp. 622-623)