Elul — Opening the Gates
Every time I do a mitzva every time I do something good, G-d opens the gates for me to do another mitzva. Why don’t I go in? I never do. The Tanach writes that wicked people are always walking around, always circling, never going in. On the first Shabbat of Elul we always read Shoftim. “Appoint judges and officers in all your gates.” What is Elul all about? Doing good. G-d is opening all of the gates.
I want you to know that the Tshuva of Elul is not Tshuva for sins. That is for the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In Elul the important thing is, I am doing Tshuva for all the gates that were open to me and that I didn’t enter.
Let me say something very deep. Can you image what kind of gate G-d opened to us on Mt Sinai? The deepest gate in the world. The gate was so wide open, the Gemora says, that there was no longer any death in the world. We could have gone straight into Eretz Yisroel. We could have fixed the entire world. But instead what did we do? We made the Golden Calf. We said to G-d, we are not interested in Your gates. Gevald! How could we do that? How could we do that to G-d? So Moshe had to go again to Mt Sinai to re-open all the gates.
In former good days, every city was closed with gates. When they were opened, they blew the shofar. In Elul we blow the shofar to let the world know, to let ourselves know, G-d is opening all the gates, G-d is re-opening all the gates. And we are saying “Appoint judges and officers in all your gates which G-d gave you.
Rosh Hashanah – The most important prayer
You know my beautiful friends, just to make 100% sure, I’m sure you do know. This is the nusach of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is the way we are chanting our prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Let me tell you the story. You know the prayer says, “Let the whole world know that there is one G-d. Let the whole world know that He created them. And let the whole world know that the G-d of Israel is the King of the World.” So I need mamash the softest harmony, just hold onto my last note all the time.
It’s a beautiful story. The Chiddushe HaRim, the old Gerer Rebbe, before Rosh Hashanah, received a letter from one of the Chassidim, and this is what he said, “Heilage Zeisa Rebbe, my Holy Master, please let me know… please tell me… please enlighten me… Which is the most important prayer of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays? The Chiddushe HaRim answered him back and this is what he said, “I want you to know, I want you to know, I receive so many letters that I could never answer them. But I hasten to answer your letter, because your letter was wet with tears, when I received it. So I hasten to answer you.” And he says, “Please know that every prayer, every prayer is important. Every prayer reaches heaven. And the heavens are open. But I want you to know, I want you to know, when it comes to this prayer, I want you to concentrate, with the deepest, deepest depths of your heart, of your soul, of everything you have. Because this is all there is to Rosh Hashanah. This is what we are praying for on the first day of the year, and the last day of the last year. “Vayaydah kal pa-ule kee Atah p’alto”. And every creation will know that God created you. To know that there is one G-d. Let the whole world now. Let the whole world know.
Reb Nachman says, the Heilage Reb Nachman says, you know why people hate each other? Because deep, deep, deep down they don’t really believe that God created them. And they hate each other. If it would be clear to them that there is only one G-d, and G-d created them, they’d love each other.
All year long I’m doing Tshuva without hearing the shofar. If I do something wrong, I say to myself, “G-d I’m sorry, I wont do it again” and that’s enough. After I made the golden calf I realized that I sinned because I wasn’t connected enough. So Rosh Hashanah is a Day of Remembrance, the day I say every word in the Torah touches me deeply. The service of Rosh Hashanah is not for fixing mistakes, for atoning for sins. That is on Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is when I re-establish my connection with G-d.
Why is it that Rivka was tested before marrying Yitzhok, but Rochel was not tested before marrying Yaakov? Because Yaakov and Rochel were so connected. Rochel re-establishes our connection with G-d. The Haftorah of Rosh Hashanah is “Rochel cries for her children”. Yosef, Rochel’s son came out of prison on Rosh Hashanah. Leah is even deeper. I don’t have any words to describe Leah’s connection to G-d because Moshiach hasn’t come yet. Yaakov and Leah didn’t have a personal connection –it went even deeper. Leah is the mother of Moshiach. Moshiach will come even to those who are not connected.
In Psalms it is written “aromimka haShem ki dilisani”- I will praise G-d because he has “dilis” with me”. The Pshischa says the word “dilis” has two meanings: one to lift up, the second to make into a door –“deles”. I am a door through whom people come to You. I want to add to what the Pshischa is saying: “Ozeir dalim”. G-d helps those who open the door.
How does a person know how much he is connected to someone? Everything depends on how one hears. When someone tells me that someone else is sick, I feel sorrow. If he is my best friend and I hear he is sick, gevald, it breaks my heart. When we heard the Torah on Mt Sinai, our problem was that we didn’t hear it deeply enough. Blowing the shofar on Elul is to help us to hear better. Basically the shofar was blown at Mt Sinai. So why do we blow it on Rosh Hashanah? We blow the shofar in Elul because it is connected with Torah. On Rosh Hashanah we are saying now I can hear the shofar, now I can hear the voices on Mt Sinai.
The deepest depth of connection is not only what you hear. Its also what you see. You can tell how much you love someone from the way look at them. The question is how much you understand the Torah when you look at it. The question is, when you take the Torah out of the Aron what do you see?
Rosh Hashanah is all about hearing. Rochel is hearing. From its haftorah: “Kol b’rama nishma” A voice is heard in Rama, Rachel is crying for her children.
Succoth is like seeing through a veil. On Simchat Torah we really look at the Torah. Not only at what’s written in it. We look at the whole Torah.
Shavuot we looked at G-d. Head knowledge. We still made the golden calf.
On Simchat Torah we don’t learn a word. We know nothing in head knowledge.
We look at the Torah and it connects us with our deepest depths. A so called secular woman once told me that she sends her little boy to Sunday School and one day he tells her, “Do you know that we Jews have a Torahle and our teacher tells us we can buy it in a bookstore?” So she goes and buys him a little Torahle. Now he wont go to sleep without holding this Torahle in his arms. Can you imagine what holy soul this little boy has? Can you imagine what this little boy, who sleeps every night with the Torah in his arms sees in the Torah? There are two types of gates that G-d opens for us. The Gemora says, “if one comes to be purified, he is helped. If he comes not to be pure, they open for him”. Does G-d help someone to be bad? The truth is that one split second before you do wrong, G-d opens all the gates for you to let you know how beautiful it is to do good. G-d says to you, “You know why you are doing bad? Maybe its all My fault. Maybe I didn’t teach you well enough how it is to do good?” So one split second before you do wrong, G-d opens all the gates for you. He gives you a taste how good you can be. Before, you ignored all the gates. This month Elul, you should remember these gates.
The Holy Ropshitzer says that whatever you do, they call it out in heaven. But we know that in heaven you don’t say anything bad. So what do they say in heaven when someone makes a mistake. They call out, “Someone is paving a new way to G-d”. Teshuva is always new. Whatever the simple meaning of “he who comes to purify” is, the deepest meaning is that when one wants to do teshuva, he is helped. One second before he can do wrong, all the gates are opened for him.
Aharon haCohen is the master of Inside. Aharon haCohen is teaching us that when we built the Golden Calf its not that G-d opened gates for us and we didnt go in. No. We were already inside and we walked out. What does Aharon bring about? We sit inside the Sucaca. The Succa has no gates. We sit inside with G-d. Until Neila we do teshuva for the gates. Rosh Hashanah is the gate of the year. We open the aron and then we close it. Then Neila comes. We open the aron and leave it open. We have arrived inside. From there to the succa.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we ask G-d to forgive us for not going through the gates. Neila, G-d tells us, “Nvo’a sharekha” Come inside, Stop standing at the gates asking for forgiveness. Come Inside”. Moshe Rabbenu is the opener of all gates. But Aharon brings us Inside. Succus we live Inside. Simchat Torah we can go out into the world again. After being Inside we can go anywhere in the world because we shall always remain Inside.
A lot of people think that on Rosh Hashanah they have to walk around sad. The truth is you shouldn’t be sad because another year has passed and some of us really didn’t do what we are suppose to do, but here listen to this story.
Everybody knows that by the Heilige Lubliner on Rosh Hashanah night, the Simcha and joy was divine. When the davening was over gevalt would they dance. The tears of joy, the tears of prayers… and every Chassid wished the other with a good year. You could see with your bear eyes how every blessing opens the gates of heaven… the joy was not in this world.
One year a misnaged comes in and he is from the school that on Rosh Hashanah night you have to be sad, repenting with sadness. He thinks to himself ‘gevalt oy yoy yoy, tomorrow I’ll be standing before the heavenly court and who knows what’s going to happen to me, it’s too heart-breaking’. He walks into the beis medrash of the Lubliner and he can’t believe what he sees. All the Chassidim are dancing with so much Simcha.
He walks up the Seer of Lublin and he tells him ‘Master of Lublin, I want you to know that until this moment I didn’t want to believe what I heard about you but now I am seeing this with my own eyes. This is blasphemy; this is against anything holy and Jewish. On Rosh Hashanah night people are suppose to be serious and your Chassidim are dancing?’. So the Seer of Lublin says to him ‘my dear friend, come over here’. The holy Seer of Lublin put his holy hands on the eyes of that misnaged. Suddenly he looks up in heaven and he sees that all the people who are dancing are already inscribed in the book of life. He sat there and davened ma’ariv and opened all the gates of heaven, for their house, for their wives, for their children. No wonder they are filled with joy.
The Holy Seer of Lublin took off his hands and he said to the misnaged ‘now you understand why we are dancing? Can you see in this corner the one person who isn’t dancing?’. He says ‘yes’. The Seer of Lublin again puts his hands on the eyes of that Misnaged. Suddenly he is up there in heaven and that person isn’t inscribed in the book of life, no wonder he doesn’t have joy. And suddenly the misnaged realizes ‘I am also filled with sadness. Maybe, maybe I need to become happy, and maybe I too can become inscribed in the book of life. He began to cry in front of the Holy Lubliner ‘Heilige Rebbe, please… how can I get back into the book of life, how can inscribe my wife and children into the book of life?’. The Seer of Lublin says to him ‘there is only one way, there is only one way. With a lot of Simcha, a lot of trust in G-d…so why are you standing here? Join the Chassidim and dance your way with your feet, dance your way into the book of life’.
Friends I bless you, maybe we didn’t make our way to the book of life with our deeds, but Ribbono Shel Olam gave us such holy days like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur….and at the end Simchat Torah. And if everything didn’t help there is always one moment, dance and dance until you’ve reached the book of life.
Blessing our Children
Everyone knows the highest blessing is Rosh Hashanah night, when we bless our children. I bless those of us who don’t have children yet, to have them fast, and that we bless our children with prophetic eyes, “in the eyes of all Israel”, “and G-d saw the light that it was good”. In the coming year may we all see a glimmer of the Light.