Our first marriage was going to be perfect. The courtship, full of pathos and yearning; the lavish wedding that proclaimed our love to the world; the romantic honeymoon.

Our second marriage was a dismal terrain, strewn with tears of remorse and protestations of forgiveness, buffeted by winds of unease and alienation.

Our third marriage is more difficult to characterize. It was as if our newlywed perfection and the scars of our betrayals had merged to form a bedrock of tranquil wholeness for this third union to rest upon. As in our first wedding, there was passion and joy; but it was internal rather than exuberant. As in our second marriage, there was forgiveness; but freely given rather than grudgingly extended.

Our third wedding was a modest affair, intimate and understated. But there was this surety in the air, the knowledge that this time it is for real, this time it is forever.

What did Moses feel ascending Mount Sinai for the third time, on the early morning of the 1st of Elul, 3,308 years ago?

Was he thinking of the first time he ascended the mountain to receive the Torah, 82 days before, amidst the excitement and the fireworks of Israel's first marriage with her G‑d?

Was he thinking of his second ascent of the same mountain, 42 days later, amidst the rubble of a betrayed covenant and its shattered tablets?

Moses ascended in the silence of dawn, carrying two cubes of smoothly-hewn sapphire, on whose blank surfaces G‑d promised to re-inscribe a union with His bride.

For the third time that summer, he spend 40 days atop the mountain, from the 1st of Elul to the 10th of Tishrei, obtaining G‑d's uninhibited forgiveness, forging an eternal bond between his people and their G‑d.

And marking the month of Elul, for all generations, as the month of compassion and forgiveness.