Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Month of Elul
To dedicate this lesson

Elul in Our Generation of Redemption

A man once came to his rabbi with a complaint: "Rabbi, I work very hard and make hardly any money." The rabbi said, "I can give you a higher paying job, and it's also very easy work." The man jumped with joy and said, "I'll take it!" The rabbi said, "Great. Take this hammer and swing it up and down, over and over at a set pace, and I'll pay you per hour." The man said, "Sounds both easy and profitable," and immediately got to work....

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Rabbi Netanel Yossifun

Elul 6 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

A man once came to his rabbi with a complaint: "Rabbi, I work very hard and make hardly any money." The rabbi said, "I can give you a higher paying job, and it's also very easy work." The man jumped with joy and said, "I'll take it!"

The rabbi said, "Great. Take this hammer and swing it up and down, over and over at a set pace, and I'll pay you per hour." The man said, "Sounds both easy and profitable," and immediately got to work.

After 15 minutes, the man came back to the rabbi and said, "I changed my mind. I can't take doing such pointless work. I'd rather work hard and make less, because at least that way I can bring some benefit to the world."

The Finishing Touches

People like to do positive things - for that is our nature, and for that purpose were we created. To make money, and other side benefits, are merely means towards this end. But sometimes, because of loss of focus on what's important, we tend to self-sabotage ourselves and our beneficial work. For instance, when we are about to leave a job, or at the end of a school semester, when we know we are already headed elsewhere, we sometimes allow ourselves to get sloppy about certain aspects and, in short, do a bad job at work or study. This comes from a sense that there's no point in investing further efforts there because they will bring little or no benefit. 

But this is a great mistake! By doing so, we are not taking advantage of the opportunity to be productive, and are even retroactively nullifying some of the efforts we have already invested. A smart person knows how to finish a job.

This insight can shed a new and positive light on the main aspect of this month of Elul – namely, teshuva, repentance. For many or most of us, the teshuva of Elul connects us subconsciously to feelings of fear of what might happen in the coming year if we don't repent properly. This is because we view Elul as a time in which we make a deal with G-d: "We'll do teshuva on all our misdeeds of this past year, and in return, You'll sign us up to a nice happy new year." 

But in truth, we need to simply realize that actually, the teshuva of Elul is not for the coming year, but for the past year; it's our chance to "finish the job!" After all, it's not for nothing that Elul comes at the end of the year. 

If we internalize these ideas, and understand that teshuva is an important value in and of itself and not just something to help us avoid punishment, then we can switch our Elul fears into joyous teshuva.

In this final month of the year, we raise up the entire year and bring it to its summit. The benefits this will bring us for the coming year are just a bonus; we'll start thinking about those when Rosh HaShanah comes. This type of teshuva will fill us with joy at the opportunity to fill in what we missed last year – because completeness brings joy. 

Furthermore: Teshuva in Rav Kook's thought – based on his classic work Orot HaTeshuva, which explains profound and fundamental concepts of teshuva – is primarily the idea that in the end, everything returns to G-d, to its "happy and good ending." (Teshuva stems from the Hebrew root meaning "to return.") 

The Happy Ending

That is, teshuva is, essentially, an "end." As Rav Kook famously wrote: "At the root of all must come the general understanding of the trust in teshuva." That is, we must be confident of the value of teshuva, built upon the fact that we have a certain belief that world history will end with complete Redemption, with return to G-d.

Therefore, as is written in our holy sources, the last 12 days of the year correspond to the 12 months of the year. On each of these days we can rectify our wrongdoings of the corresponding month. And at the end, on the last day of the year, we can rectify and raise up the entire year.

This is the situation every year – but how much more so in our times, the period of Redemption! For this is when our mission is to bring the world to its happy and good conclusion. Let us not despair from all the naysayers, and those who find fault, and those who fight those who would bring the Redemption. We are sure of teshuva, and we are certain of our coming Redemption, the happy ending. 

We today see clearly how Israel is returning to Our Father in Heaven - and in the merit of this certainty, may we see, with G-d's help, the Redemption of Israel even before this year ends!

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את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר yeshiva.org.il