This Shabbos begins the Hebrew month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish year. Just as a shopkeeper devotes a certain amount of time to taking inventory and evaluating the success of his enterprise, so too, each one of us must take time to evaluate his or her conduct and see whether we have been using our Divine potential successfully.

In one month’s time, on Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the new year, G‑d will judge us. The month of Elul is set aside as a time for us to judge ourselves - to take stock of the way we are living our lives and see whether there is a need for change.

Although Elul is a time for introspection and evaluation, it is not a somber month. On the contrary, it is characterized by feelings of love and closeness to G‑d. Indeed, its very name serves as an acronym for a Hebrew phrase from the Song of Songs meaning: “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” In Elul, every Jew relates to G‑d as “my Beloved,” for we are bound to Him in an intimate bond.

The expression “I am my Beloved’s” also implies that the Jewish people take the initiative in approaching G‑d and He responds to our overtures. In Elul, G‑d waits for us to turn to Him, and then answers.

The process of introspection and evaluation go hand and hand with the feelings of love and closeness. Since a spark of G‑dliness lies at the core of our being, we need not feel threatened by the process of self-assessment. There is no worry that G‑d will not accept us. We need not fear rejection, for our relationship with Him is an established fact. Indeed, since our relationship with Him is ongoing, taking the time out for self-appraisal is itself an act of love, spurring a response of love from G‑d.