The Alter Rebbe explains the theme of the month of Elul by way of a parable:

The King Greets Everyone with Affection

There was once a great king [who had traveled away from the royal city.] When the king was enroute [back] to the royal city he stopped for a while in the surrounding fields and all the citizens of his city traveled out to greet him and welcome him home.

In the field the king allows all who wish to personally greet him to approach, and the king receives everyone with a pleasant countenance and shows a friendly, smiling face to all. Later when he travels into the city all his subjects will accompany him.

Similarly, by way of analogy, during the month of Elul [the King is in the field] and we go out to greet the King and welcome the light of His Holy countenance, in the field. (Likkutei Torah, Devarim 32b)

This story teaches us an important lesson; the special quality of Elul: on every day of the month the Holy One, Blessed be He, conducts Himself like a human king who is “out in the field” and not in his throne room and palace. He looks to all the people He meets “in the field” with a shining, happy face and He openly shows His love and affection for every Jew.

Moreover, during the period of Elul every person has the potential to approach the King and to request all his needs. The King will certainly be ready to fulfill his request with a happy smile and joyous countenance.

This gives all those who are in the field the ability to accompany the King when he later makes his way back into the city.

This parable, taught by a Nasi of Israel, gives guidance to the Jewish people in all generations and it certainly should be understood by all Jews at all levels.

Small Children Will Run to See the King

Even small children can understand this parable. For if someone would inform each of you that the king of the land is now out in the field and anyone who wishes may go to greet him, face to face, and the king will receive everyone with a pleasant demeanor and smiling face and will fulfill all your requests, without doubt everyone of you will drop whatever you are doing and run to see the king.

It is also easy to portray the feelings of great happiness each child will experience when the king, in all his glory, greets him with warmth and friendliness, ready to hear and to grant his wishes.

This experience will definitely influence the child’s conduct, and as good as he normally is — he will act even better. When the child is with his father or teacher his respect and demeanor are much improved and he expresses his awe and love. How much more so, when he is in the presence of the king of the land who is king over his father and teacher as well.

This same idea and a similar experience will emerge when the children understand the analogue (nimshal) from this analogy (mashal). The month of Elul is a unique month when G‑d takes on the role of “a king in the field” to greet all His subjects in a warm and friendly way.

Understand the Reality

Although the moral of this story is not clearly seen with human eyes it does not lose any of its reality. In fact, since we cannot see the King because of His supreme loftiness and aloofness, His closeness to us during Elul will engender an immeasurable love, longing and desire to fulfill His will in a manner which is incomparable to any human experience.

From the month of Elul onwards we carry with us this power and potential to carry out G‑d’s will all year round.

The commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” which is “an important rule in Torah” (as you have just recited) places the responsibility on each of you to influence other children. Tell them that the Alter Rebbe related the true fact that in Elul the King will greet every Jew with pleasure and with a smile.

Teach the World to be G‑d’s Delight

You should also impress upon the world — heaven and earth — the message which you received from the King, in His Torah: “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth,” and the purpose of creation is: “May the L‑rd find delight in His works,” when the world conducts itself in a manner that will bring joy to the Creator.

And then “The Jews should rejoice in their Maker” — a true joy — when you merit to fulfill the mission of G‑d to make a dwelling place for Him in the lower worlds.

G‑d Draws Nachas from the Jewish Children

You may be certain that “Your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.” (Yeshayahu 60:21) For every Jew has a portion in Eretz Yisrael, and as the verse concludes: “They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which to take pride.” The Holy One, Blessed be He, is proud of the Jewish children He meets in the field, for He sees that their behavior in the field is good and proper, and even more so when they reach the city, in the synagogue and house of study on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

All this hastens the decision of the King, who is the Supreme King of kings, to increase His blessings to each of you and through you to your parents, teachers and counselors.

And from Rosh Chodesh Elul there will certainly be the blessing for a Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah, for a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that a Jew must take a lesson from everything he sees. Since every Jew is a member of “the wise and understanding nation,” he will surely discover how to apply this lesson in his Divine service to his Maker and will in fact carry out the teaching.

This, likewise, applies to small children who are also wise and understanding and are often referred to as the “youngsters in the school of the scholars.” The references (in Talmud, etc.) to those “youngsters” give guidance even to the elder scholars as well as to the youngsters themselves who are motivated to emulate the good examples from the stories.

Our Personal Shoftim

Just as we see the differences in the months of the year, so too are there differences in the days of the week. When we want to know the special theme and content of a particular day we must look to the Torah and analyze the portion of the Torah designated for that day.

Today’s Torah section is Revi’i, the fourth reading section of Shoftim. The portion of Shoftim gives us the general message to appoint judges and police in all our cities. In our Divine service this represents the symbolic “guards” which a person must appoint for himself/herself, and whenever one has a question on how to act he must consult his guard and judge — the “Torah of light” which is “Torah of life.”

For example, when you wake up Torah tells you to thank G‑d for being alive: “I offer thanks to You...for You have mercifully restored my soul within me.” After that all your activities during the day will follow the path of G‑d who restored your soul.

When you go to eat or drink you must first check whether the food is kosher or not and then you must say the proper berachah (blessing), and so on through the day.

Today’s Lesson

In the section we study today we find the following:

A Kohen, no matter where he lives among all the Israelites, can come to the place that G‑d shall choose on a festival or whenever else he wishes to [bring his own sacrifice]. He can then serve before G‑d his L‑rd just the same as any of his fellow Kohanim whose turn it is to serve before G‑d. (Devarim 18:6-7)

Rashi explains to us the plain meaning of this verse:

Can...Serve — This teaches that a Kohen may come and offer his free will and obligatory sacrifices even at a time when the Kohanic rota is in charge to which he does not belong. Another explanation: It further teaches regarding Kohanim who appear in the Temple at the festivals that they may offer and do the services connected with the sacrifices that are offered on account of the festival, as, for instance the Mussaf — additional offerings due on festivals — although the rota is not theirs. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Normally in the time of the Beis HaMikdash all the Kohanic families were divided into 24 groups and each group was given a set time by rotation (rota) to serve in the Beis HaMikdash.

This verse tells us that when an individual Kohen who is not on duty leaves his home and comes to the Beis HaMikdash to offer a voluntary or obligatory sacrifice he is given the right to do so out of turn. And since his good desire has motivated him to come to the Temple, then during the holidays he may even serve with the special offerings brought on that day.

Devote Yourself to G‑dand You Will Merit to Serve Him

Nowadays, when we have no Beis HaMikdash, if a person devotes his body and soul, home and surroundings to be a place for the Shechinah, then even if some aspect of spiritual service would normally be done by someone else — he can merit to do it.

The Rambam explains this concept:

Not only the tribe of Levi but also each and every individual...whose spirit moves set himself apart in order to stand before the L‑rd, to serve Him, to worship Him...such an individual is consecrated to the holy of holies and his portion and inheritance shall be in the L‑rd forever and evermore...”You guided my destiny.” (Laws of Sabbatical and Jubilee Year 13:13)

Levi’im allClose to G‑d

This role, of being a Levite, close to the Holy One, Blessed be He, is in the potential of every Jew. It is even possible to be sanctified like a Kohen Gadol to G‑d. Then G‑d will guide him and support him and provide the wherewithal to do more Torah and mitzvos by eliminating the problems of the Yetzer Hora; he becomes healthy spiritually and physically, so that he acts as a Jew should all day.

Hopefully this attitude of serving G‑d in the manner of the Levi (Kohen) will usher in the time when the Kohanim will once again go up to the House of G‑d, the Third Beis HaMikdash, may it be built speedily in our days. And then we will all ascend — “our youth and elders, sons and daughters” — “a great crowd” — at the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.