Today is the first of Elul, the final month of the year. Rosh Hashana is just 30 days away. Most of us recognize, to a greater or lesser extent, the spiritual import and profundity of the new year. Yet the mystics teach that Elul, the last four weeks of the year, contains incredible power and potential.
There is a custom to blow the shofar every weekday throughout the month of Elul. Thirty days prior to Rosh Hashana, we begin to rouse ourselves from our dormancy in preparation for the upcoming Days of Awe. In addition to the daily blowing of the shofar, there is also the custom to recite chapter 27 of Psalms twice daily throughout Elul. The 8th verse of this psalm reads: “Lecha amar libi, bakshu panai, es panecha A-donai avakeish/On Your behalf, my heart says, ‘Seek My face.’ Your face, O Lord, I will seek” (Psalms 27:8).
Reciting this Psalm twice daily throughout the month leading up to Rosh Hashana, we focus ourselves on the ultimate task of this holy time: SEEKING THE “PNEI HASHEM/FACE OF GOD” that has been hidden from us. At the beginning of the morning service every single day of the year, we recite the verse “bakshu panav tamid/seek His face constantly,” thus indicating that the search for God’s face is supposed to be a daily, and even constant, undertaking. Nevertheless, as the year draws to a close and the new year approaches, we recognize that we have not sought Hashem’s face as aggressively and earnestly as we could have and should have. We have become distracted by our worldly involvements, and we have let nearly another complete year slip by without fulfilling our most fundamental task.
Yet there is still time! A month remains before the world is to be reevaluated and recreated on Rosh Hashana. We blow the shofar every morning of this final month to remind ourselves of the urgency of the waning weeks and days of the year. With each shofar blast, we begin to awaken, to remember, to be drawn inward toward the source of that breath and voice within us. With the recital of the verse “seek my face, Your face O Lord I seek” twice daily throughout the coming month, we reinforce our most essential intention and mission.
One of the deepest secrets of Chassidus, according to the Alter Rebbe, is that the ultimate judgment on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is the extent to which we will be able to see and experience Hashem’s presence in the year ahead. This revelation is commensurate with the effort we expended to find it in the year that passed.
Wishing us all a month ahead of intense exploration, introspection, and revelation. Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov!