Judaism conceives of time differently than the world at large. Rather than view time as a linear progression, a sequence of successive moments, our Sages speak of cycles of time. Each week, we state “Today is the first day of the week.”1 Although many weeks have passed since the beginning of creation, each week, the cycle begins anew and the first day of creation repeats itself.

Similarly, there is a yearly cycle which includes the entire series of changes and developments which transpire over the course of a year. The Hebrew word for year, שנה, alludes to this concept for it also has the meaning “repetition.”

Chassidic thought teaches an even deeper concept. Every single moment can be appreciated as including the entire continuum of time. Each instance encompasses the entire past and future. To explain this concept: G‑d created the world from absolute nothingness. Unlike a craftsmen who fashions an article from raw materials, or a thinker who develops an idea from its potential, G‑d brought existence into being from total and absolute naught. Thus, the first moment of existence that He created included within it every moment that would follow.

This idea is implied by the Torah’s description of the first day of creation as יום אחד, “one day.” Structurally, the expression יום ראשון,2 “the first day,” would have been more appropriate. The Torah, however, calls it יום אחד, to imply that it was a day of oneness. “G‑d was one with His world.”3 The totality of existence, all time and all space, were united with Him.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that creation is a continuous phenomenon.4 The world has no independent existence and at every moment, G‑d brings into being the totality of existence anew. Therefore, every moment includes all previous and all subsequent moments of existence just as the first moment of creation included all time.

This concept is emphasized on Rosh HaShanah. The holiday’s name means, “the head of the year,” implying that just as the head contains the life-energy for all the limbs of the body, Rosh HaShanah contains the life-energy for the entire year to come.5

The Rabbis taught “the beginning is rooted in the end and the end in the beginning.”6 Thus, the end of the year, the month of Elul, is also of general significance, including the life-energy for the entire year. This is reflected in the designation of Elul as a month of stock-taking and repentance in which we can compensate for any deficiencies in our conduct in the previous year.

More particularly, the last twelve days of the year correspond to the twelve months of the year.7 Each day, the potential is granted to elevate and refine our service in one of those twelve months. In this context, the eighteenth of Elul (חי אלול — Chai Elul, in Hebrew) corresponds to the month of Tishrei, the first month, which like Rosh HaShanah is all-inclusive in nature. Thus, on this day, the potential to effect a range of time far greater than our immediate moment of existence receives greater emphasis.

The above sheds light on a statement of the Previous Rebbe, “Chai Elul introduces chayos (“life-energy”) into the service of Elul.”8 Life is reflection of G‑dliness. The physical substance of every entity is governed by the rules and limits of nature. Its life, however, is a Divine potential that is not confined within those bounds.

Chai Elul, the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, and Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidus, grants us the potential to infuse this unlimited Divine potential into our existence. Previously, it was explained how each moment, and in particular, Chai Elul is all-inclusive in nature, its potential stretching beyond the limits of its present point in time. This lack of limitation, however, is still restricted by the confines of the natural order. It does not reflect a total transcendence of the set of time and space.

G‑d stands above all bounds and limits. The entire framework of creation does not restrict Him. He has endowed the Jewish people and the Torah with this truly unlimited potential. Thus, a Jew has the potential through his service of Torah and mitzvos to introduce life, a reflection of G‑d’s ultimate transcendence, into Elul, and thus, elevate this month, and the service of the year it includes to an unmeasurably higher plane. This, in turn, brings about a kesivah vachasimah tovah, an inscription for a good and sweet year which is also all-inclusive, encompassing the totality of both our material and spiritual affairs.