The 18th of Elul: How to Bring Life into Elul

Presented with permission, from Sichos In English, Volume 49, p. 223-227 (translation of a talk given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on 17th of Elul, 5751). Published and copyright © by Sichos In English. [Clarifications by the Director of AskNoah.org are inserted in square brackets.]

As is customary every year, we gather together in the month of Elul [before Rosh Hashanah]. More particularly, this gathering is being held in the second half of the month of Elul and on a Tuesday, a day associated with the repetition of the expression, “And G-d saw that it was good” [Genesis 1:9 -13]. Furthermore, today is the day before the eighteenth of Elul, the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe.[1],[2]

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the “Alter Rebbe”, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement.

Both the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe were renown for their efforts to spread Torah among children. In particular, in regard to the Baal Shem Tov, before he revealed himself as a leader of the Jewish people, he served as a teacher’s helper. Indeed, when the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s life is related, before the miracles that he wrought are recounted, it is also told that he began as a teacher’s helper. Then, he would remind children to begin their day with the praise of G-d. This is accomplished by the recitation of “Modeh ani” [“I give thanks”][3]… In this manner, a child not only makes a statement of thanks to G-d, he trains himself to feel genuine gratitude for all the good things which G-d has given him…

And this is emphasized on the eighteenth of Elul, [known as] “Chai” Elul (“the life” of Elul) [since in Hebrew, חי = chai = “life” has the gematria (numerical value) of 18]… This awareness motivates him to the service of “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” [Songs of Songs 6:3, of which the first letters of each word in Hebrew spell the word “Elul”], i.e., his “I” is totally devoted to G-d, (his “Beloved”). And he spreads this relationship throughout the world at large, encouraging the entire world to acknowledge G-d as Creator and King, as Adam did directly after [his] creation [by G-d].[4]

Throughout the day, the acknowledgement of G-d is further expressed by various blessings, recited before one eats, drinks, or derives other pleasures of this world. Indeed, not only Jews, but people of all nations continually acknowledge G-d’s goodness. And this is reflected in the fact that the phrase “In G-d We Trust” is printed on the money of this country [the United States of America].

This heightens the awareness that G-d created this entire country and rules it. And just as a mortal ruler of a country concerns himself with providing for all the needs of his people, so too, G-d provides for all the needs of the entire creation.

There is also a connection to this week’s Torah reading, [the portion] Ki Savo. This Torah reading begins [Deut. 26:1], “When you will enter the land,” which is a reference to the Future Redemption when every Jew will enter the Holy Land which G-d has promised to the Jewish people [Deut. 30:3-5]. And upon entering that land, the Jews will surely conduct themselves in a manner which will emphasize the holiness of that land and its connection to the Jewish people. And from Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel], the Redemption will be drawn down throughout the world at large, granting a good and sweet year not only to the Jewish people, but to all nations. And there will be peace and brotherhood among nations as the prophet declared [Isaiah 2:4], “[They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;] nation will not lift up sword against nation [nor shall they learn war any more].” And the world will reach an ultimate state of fulfillment when there will be no more war and G-dliness will be drawn down to every creation in the world…

Today is a Tuesday which is connected with the repetition [on the third day of Creation] of the phrase, “And G-d saw that it was good”. This is a lesson for all created beings, Jews and Gentiles alike, to spread goodness in their surroundings. And this begins by doing a favor for another person and in this way, conducting oneself in a manner which brings joy and satisfaction to his parents. And when a child [or an adult] spreads good in the world at large, he elevates the world, both its physical substance and its spiritual state. (This applies to [Noahides and all] Gentiles as well. They also have the potential to appreciate spirituality, and thus to elevate both the physical and spiritual state of the world.)

And when this process is carried out throughout the world at large (the Jews in their portion and the Gentiles in their portion), the Jews will gain full control of Eretz Yisrael. And this will lead to the entry of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael and into the fundamental element of Eretz Yisrael, the Beis HaMikdash [the (3rd) Holy Temple].[5] This leads to an understanding of our Sages’ statement that in the Era of the Redemption, “[the holiness of] Eretz Yisrael will spread out into other lands.” Just as Eretz Yisrael is unique in that [the tithes and first-fruits of the Jews’ crops] can be brought from [their crops that are grown] there to G-d,[6] similarly, the entire world will be made suited for such service. This will come about because every created being – Jews and Gentiles, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects – will add more life and more fulfillment in his surroundings.

And in keeping with the present date, the seventeenth [of Elul], everything will be “tov”, “good” [since in Hebrew, טוב = tov = “good” has the gematria (numerical value) of 17] and in keeping with tomorrow’s date, “chai” [= 18 and “life”], infused with “life”. And this will lead to the coming of the Redemption when G-d’s Kingship will be expressed through every element of existence. And “G-d will reign forever and ever” [Exodus 15:18], for all negative qualities will be nullified.

The mitzvah [commandment] connected with this week’s Torah reading, [for a Jew to bring] the first fruits [in the Land of Israel to the Holy Temple], teaches how we must give [from] the best of everything we have to tzedakah [charity for the poor of any nation], and by doing so, how in effect, we give it to G-d… We should also influence them [people of the Gentile nations] to give tzedakah to others. This is particularly relevant in America for the inhabitants of this country are renown for their generosity.

Footnotes:

[1] The Alter Rebbe was the 7th generation in the David dynasty descended from the famous Maharal of Prague, whose yahrzeit (anniversary of passing) is on the 18th of Elul.

[2] On the 18th of Elul, there are 12 days left (including that day) in the month of Elul, before Rosh Hashanah. On each of those 12 days, a person can repent for all the wrongs and errors he did during the corresponding previous 12 months since the previous Rosh Hashanah.

[3] (Director’s note: The translation of the “Modeh ani” prayer, which is said after awakening in the morning, is “I give thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.” See the booklet Prayers, Blessings, Principles of Faith, and Divine Service for Noahides.)
This concept is heightened by the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov which relates that the creation of the world is renewed every moment.

[4] Director’s note: As described in Psalm 93, which is attributed to Adam, the first human being, on the day that he was created.

[5] In the Holy of Holies in each Beis HaMikdash was [and will be] the “even hashtiah”, the “foundation stone” [which was the beginning point of the creation of the Earth]. This emphasizes that the foundation of all existence is in the Beis HaMikdash and furthermore, that this foundation is strong and firm like a stone.

[6] This is particularly reflected in the commandment of “bikkurim”, “first fruits”, mentioned in this week’s Torah reading.

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