1. There are two significant sayings with which the Previous Rebbe described Chai Elul: a) “Chai Elul introduces chayos (life-energy) into the service of the month of Elul,” or more particularly, “Chai Elul introduces chayos (life-energy) into the service of ‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”‘ b) Each of the last twelve days of the year correspond to one of the twelve months. In these days, we are granted the potential to compensate for any deficiencies and elevate our conduct of those months. In this context, Chai Elul corresponds to the month of Tishrei.

From these statements, we see that Chai Elul is of general significance adding chayos to Elul and also, effecting the entire year. On the surface, however, it is difficult to understand: Elul as a whole is the month of stock-taking and teshuvah for the year at large. If so, what is the nature of the addition brought about by Chai Elul.

From the Previous Rebbe’s statement, it appears that the addition is one of chayos (“life-energy”). Chai Elul generates the potential for the service of Elul to be infused with energy and vitality. This, however, is also problematic. Since “we can assume that each Jew conducts himself in a proper manner,” surely the entire Jewish people have carried out the service of Elul with energy, vitality, and joy for these are fundamental principles in the service of G‑d.

Accordingly, it would appear that the Previous Rebbe’s statement indicates that from Chai Elul, a new phase of service is begun. Although Elul as a whole is a month of stock-taking, from Chai Elul onward begins the “Elul of Elul.” This, in turn, relates to the new life energy which Chai Elul introduces. This new energy, not only adds vitality to the previous service, it initiates a new phase of service.

To explain: The month of Elul is a month of general significance which includes the entire year1 and grants the potential to compensate for any deficiencies in our conduct of the previous year and elevate it to a higher rung. Similarly, it is the month of preparation for the new year.2 Accordingly, the service carried out in Elul is of a general nature.

This is emphasized by the fact that the name Elul serves as an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” which emphasize the bond of love between G‑d and the Jewish people. This bond characterizes the totality of this relationship and thus, is relevant in all times and places. Similarly, the fact that the name of Elul serves as an acronym for verses reflecting “The three pillars on which the world stands: Torah, service (prayer), and deeds of kindness,” and similarly, services of a general nature, teshuvah and redemption,3 further emphasizes the all-encompassing nature of the month.

In truth, this concept applies to the totality of Torah and mitzvos. There is an interrelation between general principles and their particular application. Indeed, every particular element is a reflection of the most general concepts. Since, “the world was created for the Torah,” this concept is also reflected in the world at large. Each point of time or space includes within itself time and space in its totality.

This concept is reinforced by the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that at each moment, the creation is renewed. When G‑d brought existence into being from total and absolute naught, the first moment of existence that He created included within it every moment that would follow.4 Similarly, at every moment, as G‑d brings into being the totality of existence anew, every moment includes all previous and all subsequent moments of existence just as the first moment of creation included all time.

This concept clarifies a fundamental concept in regard to teshuvah. It is explained that, in one moment, a person can compensate for inadequacies in his behavior over many years.5 How is that possible? Because each moment contains within it the totality of time and can thus alter the nature of the events which occurred previously. This concept, although true at all times, receives greater emphasis during the month of Elul which is, as explained above, a month of general consequence.

To the above, Chai Elul contributes the dimension of chayos — life-energy. Chayos is not a particular element of one’s existence which one can point to like one of the limbs of the body. On the contrary, it is, by nature, entirely above the body. Nevertheless, it enclothes itself within the body, changing the nature of the body to the extent that the body itself becomes alive.

The relationship between the body and its life-energy is different from that of a particular element and the general category in which it is included. In the latter instance, there is an interrelation between the two. Indeed, as explained above, the entire general category can be reflected in a particular element. This is, however, no more than a reflection and there remains a difference between the particular entity and the general category in its totality.

In contrast, the relationship between the body and its life-energy is very different. On one hand, abstractly, there is no relation between the two. The life-energy of the soul is of a totally different nature than the body. Nevertheless, the soul descends and enclothes itself within the body to the extent that the body’s nature changes and not only the soul, but also the body, lives.

The reason for this change is because the soul’s life-energy emanates from the essence. An essential quality permeates through everything and exists equally in all places and thus, every aspect of a person’s being is affected by his life-energy.6

On this basis, we can understand the uniqueness of Chai Elul. As explained above, Elul is a month of general significance which includes all the service of the Jewish people. Chai Elul emphasizes the chayos — “life-energy” — of that service, the bond between the Jews and G‑d.

For this reason, the twelve final days of the year beginning on Chai Elul represent a new phase of service. The aspect of stock-taking which began on Rosh Chodesh Elul focused on the particulars of one’s service in the three general services of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness, reviewing one’s thought, speech, and action. In contrast, the stock-taking which begins on Chai Elul focuses on the essence of a Jew’s connection to G‑dliness and its expression within his behavior. We are not as concerned with the particular elements of service, but rather with the connection in its totality, the life-energy of our service.

This amplifies the explanation of how one moment of teshuvah can effect one’s entire past. Since here, we are focusing on the essence of the connection, its life-energy, and as explained above, an essential quality exists equally in every place, each moment is connected with the essence and thus, has an effect on one’s existence in its totality.

The above enhances the significance of Chai Elul for it corresponds to the month of Tishrei. The Hebrew letters for Tishrei (תשרי) can be rearranged to form the word reishis (רשית), which means “the head of.” Chassidic thought explains that Rosh HaShanah is called “the head of the year,” to emphasize how, just as the head includes the life-energy for the entire body, Rosh HaShanah includes the life-energy for the entire year. Similarly, Tishrei as a whole is a month which includes the life-energy for the entire year. Chai Elul, which compensates for and elevates the service of Tishrei, is thus intrinsically connected with the life-energy for the year in its totality.

The chayos of Elul — the love relationship with G‑d as expressed by the verse, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” — is expressed in the service of prayer which represents a process of connection with G‑d. Indeed, this connection relates to G‑d’s essence as our Sages commented, “Pray to Him and not to His attributes.” In contrast, deeds of kindness relates to G‑d’s attribute of kindness,7 and Torah study relates to G‑d’s intellectual attributes. Thus, it is through an increase in prayer, which connects us to G‑d’s essence that — to quote the second version of the Previous Rebbe’s adage — Chai Elul adds life to the service of “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” For this reason, it is customary even for Torah scholars8 to place greater emphasis on the service of prayer in this month.

All of the above is enhanced this year when Chai Elul falls on Shabbos for Shabbos also emphasizes the inner bond between the Jews and G‑d.9 This generates even greater potential to “infuse chayos in Elul,” and in the service of “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”

2. The above concepts are also connected to this week’s Torah portion which begins by mentioning the mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits. Our Sages explain that the first fruits refer to the Jewish people, G‑d’s first fruits, as it were. G‑d’s conception of the Jewish people existed before the world, preceding even the Torah itself.10

Offering Bikkurim represents developing a connection with that level, the source of the souls of the Jewish people, which in turn, brings about a connection with G‑d. Thus, Bikkurim are related to the service of prayer.11 Thus, there is a connection to the concepts explained above in relation to Chai Elul.

The mitzvah of Bikkurim is to be fulfilled, “When you come into the land... take it as an inheritance, and settle within,” alluding to the service of the Jewish people in refining the world at large. The epitome of this service is the transformation12 of the land of the seven13 Canaanite nations into Eretz Yisrael. This service will be completed in the Messianic age when, in addition to the lands of these seven nations, we will be granted the lands of the Keni, Knizi and Kadmoni.14

The chayos introduced by Chai Elul is also reflected in the parshiyos read in the weeks that follow. Nitzavim (“You are standing”)15 describes how the entire Jewish people, from the most elevated until the most simple, are standing “all together,” “unified and at one,” because they are one with G‑d, establishing a covenant with Him.

This leads to Vayeilech [(“And he went”) which is read together with Nitzavim this year] which grants the Jews the potential to “proceed from strength to strength.” Since G‑d is totally unlimited, there is no limit to the bonds which a Jew can establish with Him and we can — and should — continue to ascend level after level.

This leads to Parshas Haazinu which according to our Sages describes a state in which one is “close to the heavens and removed from the earth.” Although even the prophet Yeshayahu could not reach that level,16 nevertheless, each Jew who realizes the essential connection he shares with G‑d, can be “close to the heavens.”

From this we proceed to Parshas Berachah, “This is the blessing which Moshe... blessed the children of Israel,” extending (for the word berachah can mean both “blessing” and “extension”) the influence of Moshe to all the Jewish people.

This generates the potential for Bereishis. A Jew “becomes a partner with G‑d in the work of creation,” drawing down G‑dliness into the world, revealing how the entire world depends on His creative potential. This refines the world and transforms it into a dwelling for G‑d.

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3. This Shabbos, we study the third and fourth chapters of Pirkei Avos. Not only are the chapters numbered three and four, they begin with teachings that emphasize these two numbers: Chapter Three begins: “Reflect upon three things...”17 and Chapter Four begins by mentioning four categories that reflect the epitome of developed character traits.

The numbers three and four are of general significance for the Jewish people. We have three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs. Furthermore, three and four equal seven, the number of branches which existed in the Menorah, which are representative of the seven paths of service of G‑d. In particular, the numbers three and four are connected with the service of the intellect. We possess three intellectual potentials (Chochmah, Binah, and Daas) and at times, we speak of four potentials because Daas is counted as two, since it serves as the source for both the two general emotional categories, Chessed and Gevurah.18

As a preface to both these chapters,19 we study the teaching, “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come as it is written, ‘Your nation are all righteous...’ ” This teaching emphasizes the essential connection G‑d shares with every Jew. It is because of this essential bond that “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come.”20 Similarly, it is this essential connection which gives rise to the seven services alluded to in Chapters Three and Four.

The above concepts must influence our behavior on the level of deed. From Chai Elul onward, the new life-energy drawn down in Elul must bring about an increase in all aspects of the service of Elul, allowing for a deeper dimension of correction and completion to be contributed to the service of the previous year.

In particular, it calls for an increase in the service of prayer, for it is through this service that the essential connection mentioned above is expressed. Similarly, there should be an increase in Torah study. In particular, focus should be made on the laws pertaining to Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos, and likewise, the inner dimensions of the service of these holidays.

Also, in preparation for the coming festive season, efforts must be undertaken to ensure that every Jew is given his holiday needs so that the holidays can be celebrated in a manner of “eat succulent foods and drink sweet beverages.” In particular, this is relevant this year when Shabbos comes directly after Rosh HaShanah (in the Diaspora as well as in Eretz Yisrael), and thus, there are three consecutive days when festive meals must be served. (Similarly, in the Diaspora, this phenomenon is repeated for the holidays of Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.)

May the good resolutions made regarding the above lead to the fulfillment of the promise made at the beginning of the Torah reading, “When you will enter the land...”, with the coming of Mashiach who will lead the entire Jewish people back to Eretz Yisrael.21 This is particularly relevant at present, at the conclusion of “a year of miracles,” as we prepare for a year when, “I will show you wonders.”