Ani l'dodi v'dodi li


The King is in the Field. G-d is close to us, at present. We are increasingly aware of the multifaceted nature of the month of Elul. Whether we focus on the process of employing t’shuvah, tzedakah and t’fila to avert an evil decree, on The Boss’ help in the process of us bettering ourselves, or on our need to engage in interpersonal acts of kindness, we are necessarily busy during this span.

The name of the month of Elul, an acronym for “I am my beloved''s, and my beloved is mine,” is from a precious verse, specifically 6.3, in Song of Songs. Elul’s name, like the verse to which it refers, teaches us that we must embrace both mitzvot bein adom l’makom and mitzvot adam l’chaveiro, that we must increase our mindfulness in our relationship to the Aibishter concurrent with increasing our mindfulness of our relationships to each other. Even if, during the rest of the year, we lapsed in these areas of self-betterment, Elul brings us a heightened opening in which to adjust ourselves.
First, per Elul’s auspicious opportunity to improve our relationship with Hakodesh Baruchu, we can engage in t’shuvah, tzedakah and t’fila. We can also work to better our recognition and appreciation of our eternal partner.
Per the former, the above related three paths lead us to better incorporate G-d and His ways in our lives. When we emulate him, what’s more, we gladden him. Tziporah Heller reminds us in “How to Come Close to Hashem,” that “this is what true love is: not giving out of resentment, not giving in order to receive something, not bookkeeping, but rather giving joyfully to the one you love. Such giving engenders more love, in a radiant spiral.”
Per the latter, as described in a Nishmas article, “Parshas Ki Savo 5758,” we are reminded of the Ba''al Shem Tov’s commentary on "Hashem Tzilcha;"
He said that "your shadow" means that Hashem shadows us in the world. Just as a shadow moves with in synch with the person and never leaves him, the way we choose to conduct ourselves in the world is the way Hashem conducts Himself with us. If we engage in acts of chesed, then Hashem responds in kind by showing us His infinite chesed. Our ways below, arouse and elicit Hashem''s response from above.

More specifically, in gladdening Hashem, we show that we recognize the worth of his wonders. In recognizing their worth, we revere Hashem as the universe’s pinnacle, we pay him homage. Rabbi Simon Jacobson speaks in “To Love and Be Loved: Relationships Secrets Unplugged” about the existence of “unconscious resources that we all carry within that allow us to love and be loved,” not the least of which is reconnecting to The Boss.

However, getting cozier with our Creator is insufficient for today, specifically, for Elul, in general, and for life, more expansively. We must, as well, build comfort in our human relationships. During this period, it is not enough for us to merely formally wish people well in our correspondence. Rather, we must work on elevating the experiences we share with them.
It is our sins against each other, not any aspect of Hashem’s loving kindness, that cloud our perception of true reality. In “Sinat Chinam,” Rabbi Julian Sinclair writes that “the Talmud infers that groundless hatred is as grave as idol worship, sexual immorality and bloodshed put together.” We unquestionably ought to strive to overcome our baseless hatred. Sadly, as recorded by the author of “In Search of Emes,’” “too often [our] outward appearance of "frumness" for appearance sake has replaced true toil in Torah to carry out the will of HaKodesh Baruchu and [has replaced our improving our] own Middos (character traits). The Vilna Gaon stated (Even Shelemah), the purpose of life is to correct one''s own character traits.”
For starts, we would benefit from understanding that our forgiveness of other people is both possible and necessary. We need to locate and to secure appropriate teachers. We need to pray, pray, pray for the willingness to make changes, and we need to make those changes. Our tools can be as “simple” as Prayer from Aneni, “Supplication for Guarding One’s Tongue” by the Chafetz Chaim,
A Plea to Open the Gates of Mercy


Open for me the Gates of Mercy, the Gates of Heaven.
The Eternal is King; the Eternal was King; the Eternal will be King forever.
We bend our knees, bow, and declare before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He, that it is He Who spreads out the Heavens and establishes the earth.
For the Eternal alone is God, in Heaven above and on earth below; there is no other.
Please take my soul out of prison, for I have awaited Your salvation.
Eternal, Eternal, lad me in Your righteousness, because my enemies are waiting for me; straighten Your way before me.
The Eternal will protect my going and coming for life and peace from now and forever.

or as complex as taking a daily account of our words, our thoughts, and our deeds and presenting those accounts, for mussar, to trusted others. We’ll get no white page in Hashem’s books as long as our interpersonal behaviors are blotched and stained.
If the aforementioned directives for self-improvement seem too overwhelming, too abstract, or both, think of the notion of “Ani L''Dodi V''Dodi Li,” in allegorical terms, that is, per the building of the bayit of a young chatan and kallah.  Around my home, such analogies are easy as Missy Older continues her preparations for her wedding. Around your own homes, too, there is a sense of how human relationships are forged.
Akin to each Jewish man or woman seeking and finding their soul mate, each Jewish man or woman seeks to improve his or her relationship to The Almighty, even if doing so unwittingly. These connections are Determined and are Blessed. All that Hashem does is just and is for our good. Sometimes we can more clearly grasp his love than other times. BH, Am Yisrael is living during such a time when much of His concern for His Beloved flock has been revealed. We know we must lift up our associations with Him and with each other. We know the time to do so is now.