Jewish tradition emphasizes that the month of Elul is a special time of Divine
good will and mercy – a time that is particularly conducive to prayer and
repentance. Actually, the month is part of the preparatory process for entering
into the awesome judgment of Rosh Hashana and the cleansing power of the Yom
Kippur, the Day of Atonement. God makes Himself especially close at
This is a time marked by critical, scouring
An extreme reality check is intended to guide us, through
prayer, introspection and serious character examination, to a highly rarified
level of sobriety and personal honesty.
The sages of Israel emphasize
that although a person can repent at any time of year, this is a time that is
especially conducive to repentance and making amends: “Seek the Lord when He is
found, call Him when He is near” (Isaiah 55:6) is an allusion to Elul.
popular rabbinic teaching describes the reality of the Elul encounter as “the
king is in the field.” The analogy is to a great king who pays a surprise visit
to his subjects while they are at work in their fields.
For the average
man (or woman), the king is inaccessible, away in his palace, distant and
He never dreams he will actually see the king, let alone speak
with him. Then suddenly, one day, while this man is bent over his menial labor
in the field, he feels a gentle tap on his shoulder, he turns around and to his
shock, it is the great king himself who is standing over him.
of the king who can now be found “in the field” conveys the essence of the basic
human need for an interface with the Divine which finds so much expression
during the month of Elul.
What is this field? On one level, it is simply
the playing field of life; the stuff of our everyday experience.
But on a
deeper level, the field is none other than Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount
“the field which the Lord has blessed” (Genesis 27:27). This is the
location of the Holy Temple, where each and every human being is truly called
upon to refine and redefine his relationship with the King of the Universe.
Abraham called it a “mountain,” Isaac called it a “field” and Jacob called it a
The Temple Mount is the center of creation, the original field
of dreams – the place where God's dream for man is destined to come true: “For
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah
If Isaiah has it right, God's dream is far from being
Even the Roman emperor who destroyed the Temple still
permitted the Jews to return for Tisha Be’av.
But this year the Mount was
closed to Jews on that solemn day, and over the past two weeks, in an
unprecedented and unlawful move, the government of Israel completely closed the
Temple Mount to all non-Muslims.
Citing tensions caused by Muslim
worshippers arriving at the site for Ramadan, the police reverted to their
timehonored template of rewarding the extremists and punishing the victims:
instead of prosecuting or even reprimanding the Ramadan agitators atop the
Temple Mount, who bullied and intimidated Jewish visitors to the Mount, the site
was simply closed to all non-Muslims.
Recent revelations indicate that
this came about at the personal behest of Jordan’s King Hussein, who insisted
that the Temple Mount be free of Jews during the Islamic holy month. Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acquiesced to these demands.
The king may be
in the field, but some of His loyal subjects have been locked out. A great deal
of attention is paid to the Women of the Wall’s demands for the right to pray.
But what of the right to Jewish prayer at our holiest site? Elul is indeed the
time for repentance – on an individual, national, and global level.
the science – or rather, the art – of “repentance” isn’t about just moving away
from “sin,” from negativity; true repentance is constant, daily spiritual
Within the heartbeat of all creation, a feeling of thankfulness
and humility is beating in unison, in constant awe and wonder of the greatness
of the Creator. This is the promise of mankind’s future, to be experienced
together in the Holy Temple.
During this month of Elul, Israel would be
well-advised to examine her neglect, disdain and abandonment of the “field which
the Lord has blessed” – the Temple Mount.
The writer, a rabbi, is the
director of the international department of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem
which seeks to highlight the universal significance of the Holy Temple as a
house of peace and prayer for all nations.