The Hebrew month of Elul precedes the season of the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is described as a period when “the King is out in the field”. As Schneur Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad, explains:
The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of royal secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.
However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace. The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman [Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b], is when the king is in the field.
Although there is a custom to marry only within the first half of the Hebrew month, Ellul is considered an appropriate time throughout the month. As much joy as possible through the doing of mitzvot is to be encouraged.
The month of Ellul is propitious for happiness and joy in that man, sinner that he may be, can come close once again to God through the process of t’shuvah and that is reflected in a love relationship: just like humans marry, so, too, can Knesset Yisrael unite with the Shechinah.
Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, the Divrei Chaim, (1793–1876), has had his thoughts, stories and parables, as well as reminisces of the same and other traditons by his many sons and followers, recorded in a new book, B’sefer Chaim. On page 66, I found this thought:
There is a reference in the Bible to the very special relationship that can be developed between those that stray from the path and God who forgives out of joy as a parllel to the marriage and love between a man and a wife.
In Genesis 24:14, the chapter that describes the mission of Eliezer to obtain for Yitzhak a wife in Aram-Neharayim, and the sign that he sets for himself by discovering an act of unique grace, we read
14 So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto my master.’
The Hebrew for “for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know” is:
לְעַבְדְּךָ לְיִצְחָק, וּבָהּ אֵדַע
and the first letters of those four words are ל, ל, ו, א and rearranged they spell אלול, the Hebrew month of Ellul.
May we all find our way to the field and to that special relationship and during the month of Ellul, prepare ourselves.