Devar Torah - Ki Tavo

Thursday, 7 September, 2017 - 6:00 pm

Reaching the Desire for Change during the month of Elul

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

Throughout the month of Elul we focus on the Alter Rebbe’s well known parable of the King in the field. All year long the King is in his palace. In his palace he's not available or accessible to everyone. He is available by appointment only and only to those whom he chooses. When the King leaves his palace he goes out to the field with one thing in mind, to greet and meet with all his subjects no matter their station in life or their stature and show them all  a favorable countenance. No one needs an appointment, all are welcome. The King is approachable, he even looks different in that he left his crown along with his esteemed entourage that usually attend to him behind in the palace. There are no formalities as in the palace. They can spontaneously  go forth and greet him renewing their commitment appreciation and even their love for their King.

This parable teaches an important lesson about Elul and about the opportunity that we have in this month for growth and change. The Alter Rebbe explains that the month of Elul is a time when there is a revelation of the 13 attributes of mercy even during the weekdays, something that is usually reserved for the Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Breaking down the parable the world divides itself into three categories; the desert, the field and the city. The desert is a wasteland, the field produces the foods and products that the city survives on and the city is where the main activities of life occur. So too we all have these three terrians within our personal existence. Although we all want to be in the city with close access to the King and his palace, nevertheless we need to spend time in the field taking care of the physical needs of our families and community as well as ourselves. This is our field that supplies our city where we really live, where the neshama takes its residence and lives in close proximity  to the palace and to the King. This is where we daven learn Torah and do mitzvos. During the month of Elul that which usually requires the  formalities of preparation come to us without preparation.  The only preparation that we need is to want, to have a desire to leave where we are and approach the King. The knowledge and inspiration that the King is available and has 'met us halfway’ creates within us a desire to approach even if we have wandered off into the desert wasteland, which represents all of our inappropriate behaviours.

Hashem, the King does not go down into the desert with us, He only goes the field. It is there where He greets everyone. He is there for his subjects not for their behavior.  He greets us graciously, with His 13 attributes of mercy  and accepts all of us even those who may desire to be close but have not as of yet actually left the desert. Why are we still in the desert? A Jew never wants to be separated from Hashem! He hasn't left the desert because he doesn’t believe he can really change and stay out of the desert, he feels stuck. The point of the Alter Rebbe’s parable is that Hashem accepts our desire for change even before we actually change. This gives us the strength and encouragement to change.

The fact the the King will accept our (re)approach in a welcoming way inspires us and creates the desire which gives us the strength to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make the approach to greet the King in the field.

Being lost in the desert means feeling overpowered our addictions whatever they might be without any hope for change. When the month of Elul arrives we become aroused with the desire to throw away our addictions, be they cell phones, smart phones or mashka or etc., and to come close. (The Rebbe's decree for people under 40 years old is to only allow 3 to 4 small cups of mashka which is 3.5 ounces total) The desert is being stuck in these habits, entrenched without hope for escape. We throw them away during Elul.

A good place  to start is to turn off our cell phones during davening or learning. We aren’t speaking about those to use their phones for kodesh, such as using them as a Siddur or a Chumash etc. When the month of Elul arrives we reset our lives by breaking through and leaving the desert behind. We focus on the welcoming countenance of the King and go out to greet him. It all begins with the desire which gives us the strength because we know that he will accept us. This Shabbos is Chai Elul the birthdays of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. There is a saying that Chai Elul gives life, vitality into our service of Hashem in the month of Elul. Let us utilize this Shabbos of Chai Elul to energize our service of Elul and may we merit a Kasiva v Chasima Tovah lShana Tovah uMesukah with revealed good including the ultimate good, the coming of Moshiach Now.

A Good Shabbos

(Adapted from the Maamar Ani l'Dodi  of Likutei Torah and of 5726-1966)

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