Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Advice For Chodesh Elul

(Painting by Esther Zibell)

A few days prior to Rosh Chodesh Elul, I asked the Sudilkover Rebbe what additional practice I should take on for the month of Elul. The Rebbe mentioned that while there was a minhag from the Me'or Einayim to complete Sefer Tehillim on Shabbos morning before davening, perhaps I would consider following this practice each Shabbos in Elul through Hoshana Rabbah. He warned me in advance that this would mean that I would have to get up very early in the morning in order have a few hours needed to complete it.

When I expressed my willingness to take this on and waved off his words of caution, the Rebbe remarked that he had just reconsidered his advice and said that he was wrong to have suggested this to me since Hebrew was not my native language and that this practice might prove to be too much for me at this time.

The Rebbe then said that my avoda for Elul should involve focusing on the mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro (between man and his fellow man). Although it may be my desire to take on a lofty spiritual practice during this auspicious time period, it is a much more lofty practice to be machmir in my dealings with other human beings.

To illustrate his point, the Rebbe told me this mashul that he heard from his father:

At times, two adults may get into an argument and start screaming at each other. If the argument escalates, they may even begin to hitting each other. Despite the fact that at the height of their dispute they may absolutely hate each other, there is always the possibility that they may later reconcile and peace will be restored between them.

If, however, one of these adults hits the other's child, there will never be mechila (forgiveness) or kapara (atonement).

The meaning of this mashul was obvious. There are severe consequences when we disregard the mitzvos that deal with our dealings with others. While Hashem can instantly forgive a person for what that person did against Him, He does not forgive a person when that person hurts one of His children.


At September 2, 2008 at 7:14:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is such an amazing post - thanks for sharing.

At September 2, 2008 at 8:57:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

once again you caught a theme that has been playing out in my life. (and i imagine other people's lives)

I'm trying for the first time to learn tikkunei hazohar this elul, and it's a LOT to learn in my limited learning schedule.. usually it takes up the evening hours I would normally spend with my wife..

I've been trying very hard not to let this additional limud, which takes a good hour and a half (For me to run through the subject matter at a breakneck pace without falling asleep too many times) a night, affect our relationship.

It's a real challenge in Elul, and in general in kedushah, to not lose sight of our human/personal relationships. If we can't maintain good personal relationships, perhaps we have no business trying to get closer to HaShem.

At September 2, 2008 at 9:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yehoshua: I appreciate your feedback.

Yitz: I am impressed with your undertaking. There certainly is a lot of Tikunei HaZohar to learn each day according to this schedule! Hatzlocha!

At September 2, 2008 at 9:57:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told by a Rebbe that it is worth learning Tikunei Zohar, even 15 minutes a day (about one daf) with the peirush Musuk miDvash from Tu B'Av until Yom Kippur and that it would be too much to try to finish the whole thing.

At September 2, 2008 at 10:08:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A somewhat related posting can be found here.

At September 2, 2008 at 12:06:00 PM EDT, Blogger Eliyahu Shear said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At September 2, 2008 at 1:09:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Amazingly on target in all respects. Thanks for posting this very personal post.

At September 2, 2008 at 5:16:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent (and powerful) post!

At September 3, 2008 at 3:14:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just going over this again and reading the comments, I think what's really powerful about this post is not the recommendation to follow such a powerful minhag, but the consideration to withdraw that recommendation. The Rebbe was talking to you totally on your level, talking to your soul - not just dishing out a bit of advice.

Sometimes we think we can take on the world and someone on the level (or many levels) above us can see that what may be an admirable action, could have adverse effects.

For me personally, this is the real power of a Rebbe - to be able to tap into the exact needs of the person.

At September 3, 2008 at 4:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yehoshua: I agree with you 1000%.

At September 3, 2008 at 7:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Yemei Moharant 1:35, Reb Noson wrote something that reminded me somewhat of this posting:

"My main reason for being confused was because I was feeling tempted to consult the Rebbe himself as to whether or not I should ignore the obstacles and come to him for Shavuos. Were I to have asked him, he would certainly not have permitted me to be with him for Shavuos. That was his way: his real desire was that one should break every barrier in the world to him. Nevertheless, whenever people asked him about specific situations that would require extra effort and sacrifice in order to to come to him, he would always put them off and warn them not to make extra sacrifices to come to him. He said explicitly, "If someone asks me, I have no option but to give such an answer."

At September 4, 2008 at 11:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, as a noahide, i hope Hashem will, on the merits of the children of israel, bring me to the path of proper teshuvah. There must be something missing in mine, that even after 18 years of praying, my husband is still a staunch hindu, and worhsipper of the elephant deity.
After much thought i feel the problem lies within me. That he is more dedicated to his idol than i am to Hashem and the 7 laws. Hence the delay, i hope and pray , G-d Willing to rectify my deficiencies during this period.


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