The Month of Elul - An Opportunity Not To Be Missed
By: Rabbi Yehudah Prero
The month of Elul is upon us. This month is dedicated to preparing ourselves
for the upcoming holy days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, which occur on
the first, second and tenth days of the next month, Tishrei. During Elul, we
should analyze all that we have done during the past year: Are we nicer
people? Are we properly committed to the service of G-d and that which the
Torah requires? Have we improved at all? If we have improved, then we know we
are on the right track. During Elul, we should work on ways we can further
improve ourselves. If we have not improved, then we have our work cut out for
us. Elul is a time to plot our course, our game plan, for the upcoming year.
It is a time for repentance and introspection. It is a time that we cannot
let slip away. Our life depends on it.
There was a farmer who every winter went to an agricultural convention. At
the convention, he explored new methods for improving his crop output. He
tried to discover new methods for efficient irrigation, hew hybrids that
produced better produce, and new farm machinery. He expended all this effort
so that he could be assured that the coming year's harvest would be
successful, if not better than the last year's.
One year, while attending the convention, the farmer became ill and needed to
be hospitalized. While in the hospital, the doctors discovered that he
suffered from a very serious ailment that would require long term care. He
was moved to a hospital near his home, and his lengthy treatment began.
Months went by, and the farmer's health dramatically improved. He was finally
discharged from the hospital and returned home.
What he found at home caused him great anguish. He surveyed the entire
acreage of his farm. Here he was, halfway into the growing season, and much
of the land remained bare. Apparently, his instructions on when and where to
plant had not been followed. Any dreams of a successful harvest were dashed.
The farmer knew that he could do nothing by that point in time. Starting to
plant now would not help. It was too late for that. All of the new techniques
he had learned about and all of the machinery he bought could not help. All
of the preparations he had made for this season were for naught.
Elul is the "planting season." We may "prepare" ourselves during the year for
this season by furthering our devotion to G-d and the Torah. However, if come
Elul and the High Holy days, we do not "plant our seeds" - we do not make a
firm commitment to improve and in fact act on it - we have missed our
opportunity to assure ourselves of a successful year. We may try to plead
that we were victims of circumstance: 'I was busy with family problems...I
needed to focus all my energies on making a living...I did not have the
strength, and therefore I did not have the time to increase and improve my
commitment to G-d.' However, just as excuses cannot convince seeds to sprout
in the wrong season, so too excuses cannot help us after we have missed the
time to prepare ourselves for our impending judgment. We should take
advantage of this season so that we will all be the recipients of a bountiful
harvest this year.
(Based on the thoughts of HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l)