Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Purim in Elul: Creating a Loving Engagement with God


We have entered the month of Elul, the month of preparation before the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom HaKippurim and Sukkot, those days of awe.

Elul, the time in which we ask ourselves the most challenging questions: “What have we accomplished?” “What more can we accomplish?” “How can we grow into the people we can truly be?” “How can we improve our relationship with our family, our engagement with society?” “How can we create and reconcile our relationship with God?”

In fact, the Rabbis suggest that Elul [אלול] is an acronym for:

אני לדודי ודודי לי
I am to my Beloved (God), and my Beloved is to me (God needs me, also)
Song of Songs 6:3)

Elul is about a rapprochement between ourselves and God.

However, others suggest that Elul represents something totally different, namely, that the acronym of the word is:

איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים
…[sending gifts] to one another and presents to the poor.
Esther 9:22)

In other words, Elul is a time for us to re-engage with our friends, and this is a time to make sure that we are responsible to help those in need.

What connection does that have to the month of Elul? I thought that that is really the theme of Purim.

In fact, the Rabbis are making a very important point.

If we want to reconcile and improve our relationship to God, we have to first realize it’s “איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים”: We have to improve society.

We have to be concerned about the way we engage and talk with our friends. We have to be concerned with those who are living in challenging times.

It is only when we do “איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים”; it is only when we celebrate that acronym that we can then achieve “אני לדודי ודודי לי”. It is only then that we can create a loving engagement, a loving interaction with God.

Shabbat Shalom and Ketiva v’Chatima Tova.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 32 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.