Vol 19.21 - Ellul 1             Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5736) The "air" of Ellul in Lubavitch (Likkutei Diburim 1:115b)



1. In one of his talks during Passover, the Previous Rebbe describes the general feeling in the city of Lubavitch on the Shabbos before the month of Elul, which is the Shabbos on which we bless the new upcoming month (Shabbos Mevarchim Elul).

To quote the Previous Rebbe: “In Lubavitch, during the Shabbos before the month of Elul, even though it would be a clear day with the sun shining, the air (atmosphere) had already changed and we had already began to feel the Elul aroma, and a “Teshuvah wind” (“a wind of repentance”) was already blowing”. 

2. The Rebbe begins to analyze these words:

There are four components of the Previous Rebbe’s account:

  1. The clear sunshine.
  2. The change in the atmosphere.
  3. Feeling the aroma of Elul.
  4. The blowing of a “Teshuvah wind”.

Every statement and word spoken by our leaders the Rebbe’im  is exact down to the minutest detail. Bearing this in mind we understand that the Previous Rebbe’s statement is not just a simple description of the Shabbos before Elul; it explains the inner meaning of Elul. Let us try and understand what the Previous Rebbe was teaching us.

3. The Rebbe continues to analyze the Previous Rebbe’s words:

Not only is the actual words spoken by our Rebbe’im exact, but even the time in which they made their statement is significant. Therefore, not only must we wonder what the connection is between Passover and Elul (Passover being the time when the Previous Rebbe made this statement, and Elul being the subject matter), we must strongly question this association because Passover and Elul are two opposite times:

Passover is a time when Hashem gives us freely without us having to work for it. As our Sages tell us, when the Jewish people left Egypt the accusing angel came to Hashem and said, “These (the Jewish people) served idols and these (the non-Jewish people) served idols; why are you only saving these ones?”, but Hashem took us out nonetheless.

Elul is a time when we have to first work to be close to Hashem and then receive from Him. As the verse describing the month of Elul says, “I (the Jewish people) am to my Beloved (Hashem), and (only then) my Beloved (Hashem) is to me (the Jewish people)” ,. In other words, first we have to work and then Hashem is close to us.

Consequently, we must wonder why the Previous Rebbe would discuss Elul during Passover?

4. The Rebbe now lays the foundation for the explanation:

Our Sages tell us that even the level which a Jew reaches through his service to Hashem was only attainable through help from Heaven. In other words, first we receive strength from Hashem to be able to serve him and then we must choose to actually work hard and serve him (and then we receive energy from him, as we said earlier).

This is like the statement of the Alter Rebbe that during the month of Elul Hashem’s “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy” are shining in the world, and the Alter Rebbe gives an example for this from a king who comes out to the field during the month of Elul as opposed to being in his castle throughout the year; as we are saying, this only gives us the chance to be able to come see the king, however we have to choose to walk out of our houses and visit him.

Two points emerge from the facts that we have till now:

  • Firstly, the level of nourishment that we receive from Hashem after we worked and came close to Him must be greater than the nourishment we received before we served Him, because the Torah tells us that Hashem cherishes our work and therefore this appreciation must bring with it a greater energy.
  • Secondly however, this strength that we have to be able to bring down a greater energy into the world through our work is from the original energy that Hashem gave us (freely).

5. The Rebbe now adds one last ingredient to the foundation of the explanation:

Everything has its set time. Passover is the set time for free nourishment and energy from Hashem. Therefore, even though we have the strength to work and bring ourselves closer to Hashem during Elul from the free energy which we got right before we began working, (as we said earlier), never the less, the root of this free energy now during Elul is from earlier on during Passover time.

6. We can now answer the second question as to why the Previous Rebbe would discuss Elul during Passover:

During the Shabbos before a new month begins and blesses that upcoming month, all the energies of that upcoming month come down on that Shabbos in a general way, and then infuse every day of that month in a particular way.

Therefore, when the Previous Rebbe was discussing the Shabbos before the month of Elul began, the Shabbos which blesses the month of Elul, he was also discussing the free energy in Elul which gives us the strength to work and come close to Hashem. Moreover, being that Passover is when the free nourishment and energy from Hashem comes into this world, it is a perfect time to discuss this aspect of Elul.

7. The Rebbe now begins explaining the first inquiry as to what each segment of the Previous Rebbe’s words meant:

Based on the abovementioned explanation, the Previous Rebbe’s account can be divided up into two parts; the first statement that “the sun was shining” is one part, and the other three statements- the change in atmosphere, feeling the aroma of Elul, and the blowing of the Teshuvah wind- are another part. The first part tells us about how there is an energy in Elul which is from Hashem, just like the sun’s shine is from above, and the second part tells us about how the person is affected by this.

8. The Rebbe now gets more specific and explains each of the three statements of the Previous Rebbe regarding how we are affected by the “sunshine”:

Our Sages tell us that Teshuvah (repentance) is as the verse says, “And the spirit returns to G-d Who gave it”,. In other words, we must first elevate ourselves to the level of “spirit – Ruach” and then we will “return to G-d”. And this is what the Previous Rebbe was hinting at with the words, “and a Teshuvah wind was already blowing”, because the whole idea of Teshuvah is to be on the level of “spirit – Ruach” (and “Ruach” can also mean “wind”).

Now we can understand the Previous Rebbe’s other statement that, “we had already began to feel the Elul aroma”: The idea of Elul is Teshuvah, and through Teshuvah we will merit the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah) about whom it says, “And his aroma shall be in the fear of the L-rd”, and our Sages comment that Moshiach will use his sense of smell and judge the Jewish people.

The introduction to these two statements was, “the air (atmosphere) had already changed”. The Previous Rebbe was telling us that just like the most essential need for a human being is air, and air is easily accessible to every single human being, so too these two levels of Elul- Teshuvah and Moshiach- are for every single Jew to take to heart.

Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg

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