We are approaching the Days of Awe and Judgment. The Jewish people approach these days with joyful anticipation mixed with concerned introspection. How could joyful anticipation become part of that experience? If one is truly being expected to enter the Heavenly Palace and to declare the Kingship of Hashem, one should be filled with trepidation and deep concern.
Who are we after all?
What right do we have to expect and rejoice?
The word Hayom (this Day) has been accepted as a code-word in Jewish scripture. Whenever the Biblical text uses the word “HaYom, The Day”, it either refers to or insinuates the day of Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment ( the Jewish New Year).
As an example we see its use in the encounter between the prophet Elisha and the Shunamite woman ( Kings II chapter 4:11-13). That hidden subtext teaches us much regarding that encounter.
Yet the most obvious usage of the word is found is in the Torah portion of Nitzavim. This portion is generally read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, the days of judgment of the world, and begins with this dramatic verse ;
“You stand this day, all of you, before HaShem your G-d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers, and every Israelite man; your young ones, your wives, the stranger in your gate; from your wood hewer to your water drawer.”( Deuteronomy 29:11)
Rabbi Moshe Sofer, known as the Chatam Sofer, asked what is meant by the words “You stand this day….” Were they not standing before G-d earlier at Mt. Sinai? Were they not standing before Him at the shores of the Red Sea?
To understand this, one must remember that the Israelites had seemingly lost the the spiritual courage to “stand before G-d.” They had been through so much. They had failed too often in their long journey. They felt so completely unworthy.
In fact earlier they had implored Moshe to stand in their stead. “Go thou near, and hear all that HaShem our G-d may say; and thou shalt speak unto us all that HaShem our G-d may speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it.”( Deuteronomy 5:23)
Yet now in the midst of Moshe’s last speech to his people, we read
“You stand this day, all of you, before HaShem your G-d “.
What they are being taught is that until “this day” they had been used by G-d as the tools to reveal His involvement in this world. After “this day” they will become active participants in that very revelation. From this ‘day” forward they were going to be given the power to stand themselves before HaShem their G-d .
During the days of Elul, each individual soul undergoes a spiritual voyage that is gentle, intense ad inspiring. In essence we are being asked to come into the Place of the King and coronate Hashem as the ruler in the universe. That prospect is daunting and seemingly beyond the scope of our abilities.
Our tradition tells us that in Elul , “ the King is in the Field” . The King metaphorically leaves the place and encounters us where we are. He gently persuades us to enter. He empowers us to “ Stand before Him”. That is the essence of this month where the Hebrew letters that make up the name Elul are also the first letters of the verse, Ani Ledodi VeDodi Lee – “I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine.” .it is that month of courtship that has given us the power to “stand this day, all of you, before HaShem your G-d
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved