This Shabbat, we begin the month of Elul. It is a special and awesome time of opportunity for spirituality and connection. On Rosh Hashanah we approach God as HaMelech, the King on His throne. But a story is attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, a master of Kabbalah and founder of Chassidism, who said that Elul is a time when God makes an effort to be especially accessible to the people and their prayers. The Baal Shem Tov likens it to the King leaving the Palace to be able to meet the people in the fields. He said that a King may always be approachable, but one must travel, make an appointment, obtain permissions, wait many weeks or months to gain an audience which, even if granted, may only be very short. During the meeting one must be very careful of their dress and speech and may be very nervous indeed. The Baal Shem Tov related that during the month of Elul, God wants to be especially approachable and makes it easy for his people to find and meet with Him if they will only try. They can be who they are and come as they are. We should not wait until Rosh Hashanah, after the King has returned to the palace, when we can approach Him now when he is still enjoying His summer vacation with us.
Our Parasha Re’eh begins with the words “Re’eh Anochi” which literally means “See, I…” But the word Anochi is also the word that God uses to identify himself (e.g. first word in the 10 Commandments). So the Sages teach us that as we begin Elul (when Re’eh is traditionally read), we must begin by literally looking for God in our lives. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that with God being in the field and not in the palace, this should be easier than ever.
May this Elul be a special time of spirituality and connection for you.
P.S. Our Shabbat Torah Study at Adat Shalom Synagogue gets back to our regular schedule beginning next week, August 25th. Until then, we are enjoying our wonderful summer of learning interspersed with the Torah reading.