Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
Elul is a time of love but it is also a time for change, introspection, and reassessment of our lives.
Our moments of joy are invariably related to connection and achievement. Connection is one of our most basic spiritual needs. If a person doesn’t have a relationship with Hashem, the desire won’t disappear. It will turn into a state of ahava nefeila-unfocused love, where the person goes from one relationship to the next in the hopes of finding something that will fill the void. With every failure, the lack becomes deeper and the abyss less penetrable. The more the person wants connection, the less achievable it becomes. In a failed relationship, a person’s ability to love becomes progressively narrower. His relationships become superficial because his fear of giving of himself is greater. If he can find the place within him where his insecurity developed, empty the space, and turn it towards Hashem, there’s room for hope.
In Elul, every step you take towards Hashem is rewarded with a certain level of Divine Providence not normally found during the rest of the year. There’s a direct response where we can feel Hashem allowing Himself to come into our life.
There are different ways to draw close. To begin the process, make a history of your life. Break it down to segments, such as early childhood, later childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and middle age. Focus on the smaller units of time where the critical stages in your development took place. Set aside a half hour or an hour to ask yourself, “What were the important events that took place in my life at this time?” Don’t intercept with judgment calls because then your narrative will become self -centered and less honest. If you do this year by year, a sense of what is and isn’t important will emerge.
The next question should be, “How did I respond to these events?” Visualize yourself experiencing it all over again. Then ask, “Did my responses get me closer to where I wanted to be or did it take me further away? What was I thinking when I made these choices. Why did I make it?” Try to find patterns in both your good and bad decisions. Sometimes your good deeds may have been prompted by the need to escape or for idealistic motives. Your slip-ups may have been caused by desire for social acceptance, or fear or ignorance. You may discover that your good side was driven by the desire to be part of something larger than yourself, or in order to know the truth, or to ease your conscience.
All this self- introspection is meant to lead you to your middot. Middot are neither good or bad, It’s what you make up of them. The Gra teaches that life is about perfecting ones middot. “Tzadik v’ra lo” refers to someone with difficult middot. When he succeeds in conquering or turning around his bad middot for the good, he becomes a tzaddik. Conquest is learning to say no, primarily to sins of the flesh. Turning them around is putting desire in the right place. Elul is an opportunity to take stock of our middot, to discover the divinity within us, the part of us that’s eternal and connected. The more carefully we look at ourselves in Elul, the more we can progress.
We will continue this discussion next week.