AIMeM would like to wish all our readers a Shana Tova, a healthy and happy year!
As the month of Elul comes to a close and Rosh Hashanah and the Aseres Yimei Teshuva begin, it is time to look forward to the next ten days, but also to look back at what we have accomplished over the past month. One idea I wanted to focus on is the concept of eimas hadin, fear of judgement. There are many stories told of not even 100 years ago when the month of Elul was a serious time in the Jewish world. Many people wouldn’t speak, there was little excitement or enthusiasm, and overall, there was a feeling of overriding tension that weighed heavily on everyone’s mind.
Nowadays, even among the most pious of people, while the idea of Elul is strong, the same sense of eimas hadin does not exist. What happened? How come this feeling, so strong only 70 years ago, has all but disappeared from our lives? And how do we bring it back in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
The Alter of Kelm zt”l, one of the foremost experts on the subject of mussar, says that in order for you to change your perception of anything, your emotions and intellect must be on the same page; because if they aren’t, no matter how logical a subject may be, you will not accept it as your perception. This is one of our main goals at this time of year, to awaken our hearts to the correct path, because otherwise, we can never change our actions.
There is a famous medrash that if we want to bring Hashem into our lives, He only requires us to open a tiny hole for Him, and He will enlarge that hole to fill up the entire space. This, explains R’ Shalom Schwadron, the Maggid of Yerushalayim, in his famous sefer on Elul, Kol Dodi Dofek, is referring to the effect of the physical world on our neshama. If our hearts are totally filled up with Olam Hazeh, there is no room for Hashem to come in. But by removing just a small piece, He will expand it until it fills the entire space.
This, explains the Maggid, is the reason why we don’t have the same level of eimas hadin nowadays. It’s not that we are bad people, there are in fact many good, righteous Jews who have a strong belief in Hashem and keep the Torah and mitzvos; however, we have all absorbed the effects of Olam Hazeh more than previous generations. It’s not even necessarily our fault, we have more opportunities to enjoy Olam Hazeh than our ancestors did; however, it is our responsibility still to keep our hearts and minds straight.
The good news is that it is well within our abilities to return to this previous level. By removing the effects of Olam Hazeh from a small place on our hearts and opening up that piece to Hashem, He will quickly fill us our entire hearts and minds with the knowledge and recognition necessary for us to connect to Him and make Him the biggest part of our lives. (This doesn’t mean that we have to give up Olam Hazeh, just that we must make sure our priorities are straight. Though that may mean giving up some of the things we enjoy.)
During the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, Hashem is more present in our lives than any other time of the year (See Yeshaya 55:6). There is no better opportunity than now to start training ourselves to allow Hashem into our hearts and minds. And if we are successful at this time, perhaps this will be the last Rosh Hashanah we spend in galus.
K’siva V’chasima Tova!
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