1. This is the Shabbos on which we bless the month of Elul, the month of stocktaking and teshuvah for the previous year. In this month, we review our behavior in the previous year with the intention of correcting and improving it. Thus, Elul also serves as the month of preparation for the new year to come. For these reasons, the ultimate intention of our service of G‑d is reflected in this month.

This is alluded to in the name, Elul, which is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” This implies that we are intended to unite with G‑d in a deep bond of love and closeness.

This bond has two dimensions, the arousal of the Jew’s desire for union with G‑d through the service of Torah and mitzvos, “I am my Beloved’s,” and the expression of G‑d’s love for the Jews, “my Beloved is mine.” In particular, there are two patterns through which this inner bond is expressed as reflected in two similar verses in Shir HaShirim that describe this marriage relationship.1 One verse, “My Beloved is mine and I am His,” implies that the relationship begins with Divine revelation and this is what stimulates the response of the Jews. Conversely, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” implies that it is the Jews who initiate the relationship with G‑d and He responds to them.2

This reflects the ultimate goal of a Jew’s service, service on one’s own initiative. Instead of responding to an arousal from above — in which case one’s service is tinged with “bread of shame” — the relationship is begun by the Jews. This causes the bond to be internalized to a greater degree than if the Jews’ service was aroused from above. Although the revelation from above comes from a higher source than it is possible for a created being to reach, it is often not internalized. In contrast, when the revelation from above is preceded by an arousal on the part of the Jews, it relates to the Jews’ inner dimensions. Furthermore, it brings about a higher arousal from above than would otherwise be revealed.

We see this pattern reflected in a wedding on the earthly plane. Before the groom consecrates the bride, the bride walks around the groom seven times. This reflects “an arousal from below” on the part of the recipient in order to arouse inner communication, “my Beloved is mine” on behalf of the mashpia.

Although the emphasis in the month of Elul is on service on our own initiative, “I am my Beloved’s,” the name of the month also includes the second half of the verse, “my Beloved is mine,” implying that Elul is also associated with the revelation from above. This revelation comes in the month of Tishrei which follows. Nevertheless, since it is through the service of Elul that the connection with G‑d’s essence which brings about this revelation is revealed, the revelation itself shares a connection with Elul. Thus, Elul represents a month of complete connection, including both the service of the Jewish people and the revelation from above by G‑d.

2. Parshas Re’eh contributes an important dimension to the above concept teaching that the service of “I am my Beloved’s,” — and similarly, all other aspects of our service of G‑d — must be openly revealed, “seen.”

Sight possesses a major advantage over hearing or the other senses. Seeing something makes a powerful and indelible impression upon a person’s thinking processes.3 (For this reason, Torah law forbids a witness to an event from serving as a judge regarding it. Because he saw the event take place, he will never be able to have the removed objectivity necessary to protect the defendant.)

In contrast, when a person hears a concept, it “can enter one end and go out the other.” Even when he pays attention to what is said and hears from a reliable source, the impression hearing makes is not as powerful and, over the course of time, as he reflects about the matter, or if he hears a different report, he may change his mind.

This is the message communicated by the opening verse of our Torah portion: “See I am giving before you today.” G‑dliness, Torah, and mitzvos must be openly revealed, “seen.” They should not be considered merely as things which are “heard about” and believed in and thus, an added element to one’s consciousness which can be effected by changes over time. Rather, an inner bond and powerful connection must be established resembling the connection established through sight.4

This concept has a deeper dimension. Not only does sight create an essential and true connection with the person who sees, it should also reflect the essence of the object which is seen. One should be able to see beyond an object’s external dimensions and appreciate its inner truth.

This is implied by the expression, “See I...” What should a Jew see? The essence of G‑dliness and nothing else. A Jew should use the potential of sight to relate to G‑dliness, Torah, and mitzvos and not to worldly matters. The world was created by G‑d in a manner which allows nature to cover its true G‑dly life-force.5 When a person looks at the world (without thinking deeply), he sees its material dimensions. The intent is, however, that a person should know — to the point that he actually sees — that the truth is G‑dliness, that G‑d gives life to and maintains the existence of every creation. To quote the Rambam:

“The L‑rd, your G‑d, is true.” He alone is true and there is no other truth which resembles His. This is what is meant by the Torah’s statement: “There is nothing else except Him;” i.e., there is no other true existence like Him.

This direct experience of G‑d should be so powerful that one should question the nature of the material world: Does it truly exist or is it just an allusion? Only the Torah’s statement, “In the beginning, G‑d created the world,” and not the evidence of one’s eyes, should cause one to regard the world’s existence as having actual substance.

The world, in and of itself, is false,6 temporary in nature for the natural state of existence is to return to non-being and indeed, ultimately, the world will return to that level.7 Existence depends on G‑d, “the living G‑d,” and is channeled through Torah and mitzvos, “our life and the length of our days.”

Thus, when a Jew looks at the world, he should see (and thus, establish a powerful internal bond with) the G‑dly life-force which maintains the existence of the world. He should appreciate that “G‑d is the place of the world and the world is not His place,” not only does G‑dliness pervade all existence, but rather, He is the truth of all existence.

Furthermore, we are given the potential to see “I,”8 Anochi, which refers to the essence of G‑d. It is G‑d’s essence, and G‑d’s essence alone which “has the power to bring into being something from absolute nothingness.” As an example of the potential of our power of sight, our Sages relate that, at Mount Sinai, the Jews saw G‑d and His Merchavah, the hidden dimensions of G‑dliness.

Our “seeing G‑dliness” should not negate our individual existence or that of the world at large. On the contrary, “seeing G‑dliness” means seeing the true existence of every entity in the world, seeing how each element in the world is a reflection of G‑d’s ultimate existence. A person should feel that G‑d created him, (his “I) to be an entity (a “something,” not nothing), and yet, should also realize that he is totally at one with G‑d’s essence.

Similarly, within the world at large, one should see the physical existence of the world, but appreciate that existence as an expression of G‑d’s handicraft and thus, perceive how each creation exists, “for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of the Jewish people.” For example, when one sees the stars, one should appreciate how they are a metaphor for the numerousness of the Jews and when one sees the moon, one should appreciate how it is a metaphor for the potential of renewal that exists within the Jews.

In particular, each word in the verse, “See I am giving before you today,” provides us with a significant lesson. “See” emphasizes that one must approach existence in a manner of sight and “I” (Anochi) points to the essence of G‑d as explained above.

“Giving” makes us aware that G‑d has granted us potential and “whoever gives, gives generously.”

“Before you” (לפניכם) is associated with the quality of pnimiyus (inner dimension). The Pnimiyus of G‑d is drawn down to the pnimiyus of a Jew.9

“Today” teaches that the above is not merely a narrative of previous history (or even of previous history as relived from time to time), but rather, a present day event, relevant at all times. “Each day, it should be new for you.”

A similar concept applies in the personal world of our souls. The ultimate level of service is that a Jew sees openly the true nature of his G‑dly soul. This means that he should become conscious of his soul, not only his body, and furthermore, appreciate the essence of his soul, the dimension of Anochi enclothed within him, the level of yechidah. The essential G‑dliness of the soul should express itself in all the powers of the soul. Furthermore, the body itself should be seen as an expression of G‑dliness with its physical shape a reflection of the name, Y-H-V-H.10

The service of Re’eh, revealing G‑dliness, within a person’s individual soul, prepares him for the service of Re’eh in the world at large, revealing how, “Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory.”

This, in turn, leads to Parshas Shoftim which describes the practical application of Torah law through the appointment of judges and enforcement agents11 who establish a system of justice12 and morality which expresses the above concepts in actual deed.13

3. The above should also influence our service in the month of Elul which is associated with an increase14 in Torah study.15 The unity with G‑d alluded to in the verse, “I am my Beloved’s” and in particular, its open revelation, Re’eh, is accomplished through Torah study. Torah is “one with the Holy One, blessed be He” and reveals how “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.”

To explain: A Jew must use his own intellectual potential to study Torah. Nevertheless, before he does so, he must approach the Torah with self-nullification (which is accomplished through reciting the blessings before Torah study). He must strive to ascend from his frame of reference to the Torah (and not, ח"ו, bring the Torah down to his level).

In this manner, he establishes “a perfect union” with the Torah, and thus, with G‑d. By comprehending the Torah which is G‑d’s will and wisdom, one unites with Him, for “He and His wisdom are one.”

Elul is also associated with an increase in deeds of kindness and tzedakah16 in the spirit of “Love your fellowman as yourself.”

The fulfillment of the latter command is also dependent on the service of Re’eh. The only way a person can truly love another person as himself is when he sees openly his own G‑dly nature and appreciates that same G‑dliness in other Jews, realizing that “we share one father and... all Jews are called brothers because of the source of their soul in the One G‑d.”17

Unless a person openly perceives these qualities, it is impossible for him to have true ahavas Yisrael. We are motivated primarily by our own self-interest. Even the Torah teaches us, “Your own life takes precedence.” Only when one appreciates that one’s true self and that of another Jew are the same, is there a possibility for complete love. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the activities that reflect this love including an increase in tzedakah.18

The lesson from Parshas Re’eh also teaches us an important concept relevant within the context of the stocktaking and personal evaluation which characterizes the service of the month of Elul. A Jew should appreciate Torah and mitzvos, not as an obligation which he must fulfill, but as an expression of a love relationship with G‑d. Furthermore, he should not wait for an arousal from above to begin this service, but must begin on his own initiative. He has the potential to carry out the service of “I am my Beloved’s,” which, in turn, leads to the revelation of “My Beloved is mine” in the month of Tishrei.

Furthermore, this service can be carried out in a manner of Re’eh, which implies that G‑dliness can be seen openly to the extent that it is one’s first and primary appreciation of reality and all worldly matters are secondary or on a deeper level, to see the G‑dly truth of each creation.

In addition to each person carrying out this service himself, he should endeavor to explain it to his family,19 the people to whom he is in contact, and other Jews whom he meets.20 This should lead to an increase in Torah study, particularly, public sessions of Torah study, and increase in ahavas Yisrael and its expression in deeds of kindness and tzedakah.

May this lead to the time when we see the Third Beis HaMikdash21 openly revealed on this earthly plane. This is particularly relevant at present when we see the omens portending the Messianic redemption mentioned by our Sages. In particular, it is significant to cite a passage from the Yalkut Shimoni which has been publicized in recent weeks:

Rabbi Yitzchok declared: In the year when the Messianic king will come, all the gentile nations will challenge one another. The King of Persia will challenge an Arab king and the Arab king will go to Aram for advice. The King of Persia will then destroy the entire world. All the nations of the world will panic and become frightened, falling on their faces, suffering contractions like labor pains. The Jews will also panic and become frightened, asking, “Where will we go? Where will we go?” [G‑d will then reveal Himself, and] tell them: “My children, you need not fear. Everything which I did, I did for your sake. Why are you frightened?... The time for your redemption has come.” “This ultimate redemption will not resemble the first redemption which was followed by aggravation and subjugation to other powers. After the ultimate redemption, there will be no aggravation and subjugation to other powers.” Our Sages taught: When the Messianic king will come, he will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and call out to the Jews, “Humble ones, the time for your redemption has come.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 499)

Everyone should realize that there is no reason to become frightened and we have the promise: “The time for your redemption has come.” May we see Mashiach standing on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and may he announce: “Mashiach is here.”