This week we enter the month of Elul, the last month and culmination of the entire year. By Jewish tradition, Elul is a month of reflection and introspection. We review our behavior of the past year and generate an end of year report. Just as you receive an end of year report from your financial institution detailing the successes and failures of the year, so do we report on our behavior to ourselves and to G-d.
It is a somber time because the truth is often painful and painful truths are hard to bear. First comes denial, then resignation and finally repentance. We cry for a month until we repent, but it is not all negative, it is also uplifting. Because in our end of year report we find clarity and in clarity there is purpose, promise and hope.
Bumbling along from day to day and month to month doesn’t give us a clear conception of where we stand. Some days are stronger and others weaker. It is only when we perform a full inventory of the year that we come to understand our position. The key is to set about correcting it and to lay out a plan for success.
“Judges and guardians you shall appoint at your gates,” to protect against negative influences. The mystical meaning here is that we guard our sensory points carefully, monitoring what we see, hear, eat and smell. We lay out a plan for improved comportment in the coming year that guard our gates.
On the one hand, such reflections are highly personal. We engage in private recollection and we don’t advertise our results. They are highly individual and extremely private.
On the other hand, there is comfort in knowing that everyone is involved in similar introspection. The pious and the sinner, the scholar and the ignoramus, all stand in judgment before themselves and a loving G-d. It is a time for self-scrutiny and no one is immune. Just knowing that we are not alone offers a degree of comfort.
This unity is especially poignant this year as we prepare to enter Shmitah, a Sabbatical year during where work is forbidden in the field, which provides us with extra time for prayer, Torah and spiritual pursuits. When at work, at home or in the field, we are each concerned with personal challenges. We care for others of course, but they aren’t our chief concern. We are primarily concerned with our own success.
When the Sabbatical year arrives, we are freed from the worries of our own world and able to join the nation in spiritual pursuit. Collectively, we place our trust in the Almighty, who sustains us all year with abundance as promised in Leviticus. Worry free, we gather in houses of prayer and study, to form a team, a joint unit of holiness.
Though the Sabbatical year only affects Jews in Israel and more specifically, those in agriculture, its spiritual influence is felt by all. We all plug into the extra measure of unity and holiness available during this year. The very fact that had we been farmers in Israel, this would have been a Sabbatical year for us, indicates that the channel of holiness and abundance is available to us too.
As we engage during this month in the collective effort of self-improvement, our ability to identify and connect with each other is immeasurably enhanced by the knowledge that we are preparing for an entire year of joint prayer, study and holiness.
Considering that the Sabbatical of unity derives from Israel, it is appropriate to carefully consider the plight and needs of our brethren in Israel. When the land of Israel faces danger, the nation of Israel is in danger. Jewish control of the Jewish land is imperative to the survival of our entire nation. The Holocaust taught us that no Jew is safe in the Diaspora.
Irrespective of where we reside, the very fact that Israel exists as a Jewish country, enhances our security immeasurably. It is not only a haven in times of distress, a refuge in times of danger, Israel, by its very existence, brings strength, power and protection to Jewish communities throughout the world.
By a similar token, Jewish communities throughout the world bring stability and security to Israel. If not for a strong Diaspora Jewish community, Israel wouldn’t enjoy the foreign relations that she does. It is critical not to underestimate the economic and political influence that Diaspora Jewish communities bring to bear in their respective countries.
In summary, the Jewish State on the Jewish land is critical to us all as we are critical to it. It is a symbiotic relationship; Israel strengthens the Diaspora and the Diaspora strengthens Israel. Thus, when a Diaspora Jewish community faces danger, Israel comes to its rescue. By the same token, when Israel faces danger, the Diaspora Jewish communities rush to its protection.
In this spirit of unity, let us remember the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who fight for our protection. They are our protectors, but who protects them? Every day, they go into battle and risk their lives, knowing that some of them might not return.
They fight to protect us. During this month of unity, let us resolve to protect them. We must besiege the gates of heaven with the true and tried Jewish method of prayer and good deeds. We must invoke the prayers of King David and read them every day with gusto and true heart. We must resolve to strengthen our connection with G-d by adding to our observance of Mitzvah, thus improving the spiritual condition of the entire nation.
A nation is comprised of individuals. When an individual grows closer to G-d and Torah, the stature of the entire community is uplifted. We are each just a small pebble in a big pond, but each pebble makes a small difference and together we make a large difference.
Let us resolve today, to protect our protectors. Let us remember that no Jew stands in a vacuum; they protect us in their way and we protect them in our way. The relationship is symbiotic and we work together. In a spirit of total unity, we depend on each other. Let us resolve to be there for each other.