Through The Eyes of a Woman
Elul: Your Fellow Jew's Gashmiyus
Many of the Rebbe's sichos explaining the nature of the month of Elul
center around the explanation of the rashei teivos (initial letters) of the
verse in Shir HaShirim, (Ani LeDodi VeDodi li -- "I am for
my Beloved, and my Beloved is for me"). These letters spell Elul. This verse indicates
the relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People throughout the year,
and particularly during the month of Elul -- a month of teshuvah
on our part, and a month of compassion and forgiveness on the part of HaShem.
The Rebbe also points out that the final letters of each word in the verse
ani ledodi vedodi li are all yuds, each of which has a numerical value
of ten. Thus together, the four yuds add up to forty. What is the significance
of this number? That there are forty days from the first day of Elul until Yom Kippur.
This indicates that the central concepts of the month of Elul do not end at the
end of Elul, but extend to Yom Kippur. In other words, the first ten days of Tishrei
also fall into this category of Elul. After Yom Kippur, however, the mood changes.
From the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur is a serious time of year --
the Yamim Noraim, or the "Days of Awe." After Yom Kippur, we start with preparations
for Sukkos, when the joyful aspect of simchah prevails. Thus, the relationship
which we have with HaShem from the first day of the month of Elul ends with
Neilah, the final prayer of Yom Kippur. During Neilah (which literally
means "closing" or "locking") the gates are closed. A chapter has closed, and we
open a new chapter where HaShem relates to the Jewish people in a different
The forty days from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur are days of rachamim
-- compassion. It was during this time that Moshe Rabbeinu communed with
HaShem for forty days in order to obtain forgiveness for the Jewish People
after the sin of the Golden Calf. On Yom Kippur he was given the second set of stone
tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. Therefore, these are the days
that have always remained days of rachamim (compassion) and selichah
Once the forty days are over and we have finished this era, we start a new period,
which is the days of joy of Sukkos. This begins right after Yom Kippur, because
we start preparing for Sukkos: we start building the sukkah, and start getting
into the mood of Sukkos.
In keeping with the spirit of this month, then, the Rebbe spoke many times about
helping people get what they need for Yom-Tov. Tishrei can be an expensive
month, with all the food, clothing, a sukkah, the arbaah minim (Four
Species) required for Sukkos, etc. Paradoxically, before Tishrei, you shouldn't
think only about your own spiritual preparations. You also have to think about
gashmiyus (material needs) -- other people's gashmiyus.
You have to worry about your teshuvah (repentance), but for other people,
you have to worry about their material needs. You're not obligated to go around
saying, "Repent! Do teshuvah! Did you daven enough? Did you learn
enough?" That is for you to take care of for yourself. For the other person
you have to ask, "Does he have chickens, does he have meat, does he have challah?"
Because, as the Rebbe has repeated on numerous occasions -- the gashmiyus
of another Jew, for you, is ruchniyus (spirituality). In other words, when
you take care of your own gashmiyus, it's merely gashmiyus, but when
you worry about somebody else's gashmiyus, it's ruchniyus. Therefore,
on erev Rosh HaShanah we have to worry about other Jews; we have to make
sure they have their provisions.
I would like to give a practical suggestion to anyone who has not managed to
really put energy into the direction of giving tzedakah (charity) to help
people get their needs for Yom-Tov. I know that in Yerushalayim there is
an organization called Collel Chabad, that provides meals for people who
are elderly or who don't have families. This is one place you can give your tzedakah.
There are also many other places that provide food. Try to find an organization
that is involved in giving money, food packages, etc., to poor people. Put your
tzedakah into this area now. While it is important to give money for Torah
and yeshivos, now the important consideration is that Jews should be happy,
and you can only be happy if your stomach is not groaning for food. By the eve of
the festival, people should have their needs; people should not have to worry, "How
am I going to buy meat? Maybe we'll just eat cottage cheese this Yom-Tov,
because we cannot afford meat." There is a story of a certain rav to whom
one of the members of his community came on the eve of a festival with a question:
Is it permitted to make Kiddush on milk? The rav thought for several
minutes and then replied that this was permitted. As soon as the person had left,
the Rav told his wife to immediately send over wine and meat and other goodies to
that family. "Why meat?" she asked, "He apparently lacks only wine!" "If he intended
to make Kiddush on milk," the rav replied, "it is obvious that there
was no meat for the meal either, for one cannot have milk and meat at the same meal!"
On Yom-Tov everyone should be happy. This is what should concern us in
Elul. This is the best preparation for Yom-Tov.