As a person enters the Yommim Noraim there are two, possible paths and feelings that they may experience:
The teshuvah process starts with our supplications during Slichos the week before Rosh Hashannah with prayers such as â€œTo us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukahâ€. The days of Slichos pass with deep introspection as the â€œDay of Judgmentâ€ looms ever closer. A sense of trepidation envelops us as we consider how will the scales of Judgment on this day be balanced? Will there be enough mitzvos to tip the scale of merit or the opposite, chas vâ€™Shalom? Will we be written on the book of Life or â€¦â€¦
Rosh HaShannah arrives. While we partake of apples dipped in honey, angles tremble in the celestial spheres above â€“ the world is being judged. Our prayers reflect their trembling and we fill them with supplication. Who can be found without flaws on this awesome day? We beseech Hashem to silence the Accuser and to bless our year with an abundance of life, children and sustenance. The shofar cries forth mirroring the sounds of the soulâ€™s sobbing for deliverance.
The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent with a keen awareness of how â€œTeshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedukah avert the severity of the decree!â€. We work to add merit to ourselves so that any accusations can be erased and these merits can seal us in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year. We seek the forgiveness of those whom we may have wronged so that we may also be forgiven by Hashem in turn.
Yom Kippur is spent with tears of remorse as our prayers recount our sins and we lament our past. Neliah offers the last opportunity for teshuvah as â€œthe gates of prayer are closingâ€.
Rosh Chodesh Elul ushers in the â€œmonth of accountingâ€. We take stock and reflect on how the past year was spent in avodas Hashem. It marks the second ascension of Moshe Rebbainnu on Har Sinai to receive the Second Tablets; â€œJust as the first 40 days were days of auspiciousness, so too are the days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom HaKipporâ€â€¦.. We take advantage of Elul representing an â€œAri Miklatâ€, a â€œcity of refugeâ€ where we utilized our time to complete any lacking in our avodas Hashem and to propel us forward to a state of â€œAll of you are standing this dayâ€¦.â€
With three weeks of introspection as well as increasing in Torah, prayer and gemilas chassudim â€“ we turn to Hashem during Slichos and pray â€œThe merciful Judge who answers the poor â€“ answer us!â€. While we indeed pray â€œTo us Hashem is shame-facedness; unto You is Tzedukahâ€ – our â€œshamefacednessâ€ is from recognizing Your greatness. We feel transparent like a candle flickering under the blinding light of the sun at high noon. â€œunto You is Tzedukahâ€ â€“ we do not request to be judged measure for measure and receive only a limited shining of Your countenance [which would be â€œTzedekâ€, â€œjudgmentâ€] but rather we pine for Your tedukah â€“ an unearned and unlimited radiance of Your Shechinah [â€œTzedukahâ€]. The month of Elul and the week of Slichos provides us the general preparation needed to enter into the coronation of our King:
The Shofar blasts forth as we completely submit to Your will. Yes, we request an abundance of blessings for life, children and sustenance but only so that we may fulfill Hashemâ€™s ultimate desire to have a dwelling place in this material world.
The Ten Days of Teshuvah are spent striving for deeper levels of intimacy with Hashem through our teshuvah, tefillah and tedukah. We seek to repair our relationships since those who are beloved to the one we love, become beloved to us.
Finally, Yom Kippur arrives. We sing our viduy as we are cleansed with the sweat of our mitzvos and tears of joy â€“ we have returned to who we really are and are united completely with our Heavenly Father. Yes, the gates are closing with Neliah – let them close – so that Hashem can be completely alone with His beloved bride â€“ Klal Yisrael.
Two paths – each a 100% â€œkosherâ€ derek in avodas Hashem. One emphasizes fear of Hashem; the other – love of Hashem. One emphasizes the lowliness of a person; the other â€“ the greatness of Hashem. Each has an advantage the other doesnâ€™t but:
Whereas tears unlock the gates of Heaven, joy bursts through its very wallsâ€¦.
May our teshuvah merit that we experience the sound of the Shofar HaGadol and surely we will be blessed with the ultimate of blessings â€“ the return of our exiles to Zion and the building of the final Beis Hamikdash with the heralding of the complete Redemption.
Originally Posted Sept 21, 2006