My friend Rabbi Shmuly Schlanger the Chabad Rabbi in Bakersfield, CA (and you thought Folsom was an interesting place for a Chabad rabbi!), together with some of his children, was visiting Lake Tahoe for a day last week. Our daughters are virtual classmates in their online school classroom and we try to grab at every opportunity for them to get together in person.
And so, with my boss’s (my wife, Goldie’s) approval, I spent last Thursday afternoon at beautiful Lake Tahoe.
We spent some time at the lake but then we walked around a little in South Lake Tahoe and came across mini-golf and this frightening looking (to me, at least) Bungee Trampoline. The thought of one of my kids bringing up their lunch was none too appealing and neither was the $14 price tag for a 6 minute jump. But, of course, my kids got the better of me and soon they were flying through the air squealing with delight.
This Bungee Trampoline concept is simple; on a regular trampoline you can only jump as high as gravity will allow. On a Bungee Trampoline you’re not only jumping on a trampoline, you’re also strapped into a harness and attached to bungee cords. With the assistance of the Bungee Trampoline you have a special ability to jump much, much higher.
Which got me thinking – this Bungee Trampoline is much like the month of Elul. This past Shabbat and Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of Elul. Elul is a time of introspection and preparation for the new year, which begins on Rosh Hashanah.
Usually, during the rest of the year, our efforts in serving Hashem are limited – after all we ourselves are limited, understandably therefore, our efforts to connect to Hashem are limited too.
Occasionally Hashem may reach out to us and awaken us to strengthen our bond – and being on Hashem’s terms that experience is not limited to our ability. But since the inspiration didn’t originate from us, it can be temporary and not have a lasting effect on us.
The month of Elul has a unique gift embeded in it: It is a month of divine inspiration. “The King is in the field” and easily approachable. But still, we must approach. We have to put in our effort to reach and connect to Hashem. But here too there is a unique “Elul bonus;” our efforts are far more effective than usual.
In fact, it’s just like the Bungee Trampoline. Usually when you jump you only get so high; when you’re attached to the Bungee Trampoline though, your simple jump can take you soaring through the air. Likewise during Elul our efforts to connect to Hashem soar far beyond our own, usually limited, ability.
And just like the Bungee Trampoline, you need to be attached to the harness to experience it – just standing next to it won’t do the trick. So too, the month of Elul will only take you soaring to the greatest heights when you are strapped into the “Elul harness.”
So strap in to the Elul harness – spend a few extra minutes in davenning (prayer), or begin to daven regularly. Give extra tzedokah (charity) and study extra Torah. During Elul you won’t just jump a foot or two off the ground, you’ll go soaring through the air!
Imagine how Rosh Hashanah will be when preceded by a soaring Elul!