Friday, August 17, 2012

ELUL ZEMAN; THE 40 DAYS TO DIVINE ATONEMENT


By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

All humanity are brothers and sisters, with the same heavenly father who created us all in His image.
Our Muslim brothers have Ramadan for 40 days. Our Christian brothers have Lent for 40 days. So what do WE have? Did you know that we also have a special 40 day period which we use to draw closer to Hashem and become better Jews, just as the Muslims use Ramadan to become better Muslims and Christians use Lent to become better Christians? And did you know that they borrowed this idea from us? For thousands of years we have used this forty day period which begins in Elul and culminates on Yom Kippur as a time of inner healing and an opportunity to repair and fix all our broken relationships, beginning with our Divine relationship, the root of our soul.

Why 40 days? The number 40 in Judaism alludes to deep transformative internalized change. Examples are replete in our tradition. We have the Noah's Ark narrative where it rained for 40 days and 40 nights to cleanse humanity and all living things for a fresh start. We have the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai where the beaten generation of the Exodus who had grown used to slavery could die out so that a new generation committed to living lives of freedom could be born who would have the backbone to liberate and conquer our land. We have 40 days from the time of conception, from ovum to novum, during which its zygotean status is considered as just water, at which point it assumes its legal status as a quasi-life, deserving of the utmost protection until birth. And speaking of water and life, we also have the life giving waters of the mikva, which contains exactly 40 seahs by volume of water. The mikva waters transform from impurity to purity, allow for the holy marital union which leads to new life, and which help a gentile transform to become a new member of the Covenanted People. The mikva is so important in Judaism that Jewish law mandates that a community build a mikva even before it builds a synagogue!

Our 40 day period wherein we undergo the transforming process of becoming better Jews and igniting a renewed Teshuva of Return and Commitment begins on Rosh Chodesh Elul, on the first day of the month of Elul. And it lasts through the first ten days of Tishrei, concluding climactically on Yom Kippur Day itself! The Zodiacal sign for Elul is Virgo. We return to a spiritual state of virginal purity in preparation for the Days of Awe. In Tishrei we experience both a global and personal weighing of our lives and our deeds, weighing on the scales of justice. Hence the zodiacal name of Libra, represented by scales. The word "scales" itself comes from the Hebrew word Shekel, the unit coin by weight of a measure of silver. So too is the Yiddish word to "shuckle," to sway back and forth in both prayer and study, as the scales sway back and forth before resting with their verdict.

Elul is known as the acronym for Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine," from King Solomon's Song of Songs, Shir Hashirim. We renew our love for Hashem in this month, and by extension, our deep love for his Torah and Mitzwoth. We renew our commitment to study more Torah and to undertake observance of some of the mitzwoth we may have perhaps neglected. They say that "the King is in the field" at this time. Hashem descends from His holy abode, as it were, and intimately joins us in the fields. He meets us half way. His yearning for closeness with us meets our yearning for closeness with Him!

Let us use these 40 days given to us by our tradition to renew ourselves in Torah. Let us take this time to renew and to heal the broken relationships in our lives, so fragile and yet so important. Let us start to make amends with those we may have hurt, either advertently or inadvertently. Let us draw closer once more to our loved ones, our children, our fellow workers, our friends and our neighbors, and transform them from being disgruntled to perhaps newly gruntled as once before. Let us begin once more to appreciate all the blessings in our lives. Appreciation is the key to happiness. The word "Jew" comes from Yehuda, which means "I appreciate all that Hashem has done for me." Amen.


© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html 
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!