Elul and Holiday Tips
As we begin the month of Elul and the forty day march towards the Days of Judgment, we recite Psalm 27 after the
daily blasts of the shofar – “LeDovid Hashem Ori Veyishi.. – G-d is my light and my salvation”.
Our sages explain that Ori – my light, refers to Rosh Hashanah, and Yishi – my salvation, refers to Yom Kippur,
thereby explaining why we recite the psalm this time of year in preparation for the High Holidays. The Vilna Gaon
alternatively explains that Ori – my light, refers to the Torah, and Yishi – my salvation, refers to Mitzvot because it
is only through Torah and Mitzvot that Jews enjoy the rewards of light and salvation.
The opening verses read – “G-d is my light and salvation, therefore, I need not be afraid. When my enemies arise to
devour me, they will stumble. If they encamp against me, it is in this that I trust. The one and only request that I
have of You G-d, is that I may dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life, to see Your countenance and
frequent Your sanctuary”.
When reading these opening lines it is not clear – in what does King David trust? What is the “this” he refers to?
Rashi explains that the “this” refers to the opening verses – “G-d is my light, my salvation…” The Malbim states
that the “this” is the upcoming verse where King David requests to sit in the house of the Lord continuously. So
which is it – the magnificence of G-d’s grandeur or the great request of King David to be close to the Creator?
It appears to me that both interpretations are not only correct, but complement one another as well. Rashi
teaches that trust in G-d’s loving-kindness and His greatness at all times of life brings security and serenity to King
David. The Malbim teaches that to merit the closeness, light, and salvation of the Creator, one must seek and
pursue a life prescribed by G-d and the Torah. Since this is the way of King David, it was this that he trusted.
In our preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the recitation of the LeDavid prayer twice a day in
Shacharit and Maariv, let’s walk in the footsteps of the great King David. Let’s try and strengthen our trust in the
light of our Creator – Ori Veyishi, through study of Torah and heartfelt prayer, while we invest energy towards
living with the feeling of continuously being in His presence. This will surely prepare us amidst the entire nation of
Israel for a good and peaceful New Year.
Holiday/Yom Tov Plans
One of the most popular phrases heard on the Jewish tongue this time of year is, “What are you doing for Yom
Tov”? Are you going to your parents this year? Are your grandchildren coming to town or are you heading there?
What are you serving this year? Did you take the kids shopping for new Yom Tov clothing? The hustle and bustle of
the Jewish holiday season is coming whether we are ready or not, so it’s time to make those Yom Tov plans.
This year in addition to all of the holiday preparations, let’s also make sure that WE prepare OURSELVES for the
great Days of Awe and inspiration. Without preparation, there will be no celebration. How can we prepare ourselves?
I will leave the recipes and the guest lists to your own discretion, but to prepare spiritually, I will advance a few
Take a Spiritual Accounting (in Hebrew, a Cheshbon Hanefesh).
Let’s look carefully at ourselves and examine our day to day actions, rituals, interactions with others and our
individual character traits etc.. Where are we succeeding and where are we falling short? Although there is always
room for improvement, where is it blatantly clear that efforts must be made? Do I need to expend more effort on
prayer, am I getting along well enough with my family, am I studying enough Torah, am I distributing enough
Tzedakah…? This is the time of year to ask ourselves these vital questions.
Choose a bite size project and strategize how you will tackle it.
The Talmud in Sukkah states: If you try to grasp too much, you will not grasp anything.
Therefore it is best to choose small, approachable and achievable spiritual goals and strategize clearly how you will
accomplish them. What day(s) of the week, at what time(s) of the day, will I do __________. Big accomplishments
are really the sum total of a lot of little ones. So think little and aim big!
Get a Chavrutah – Partner for your project.
King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “Two is better than one”. Find a study partner, a Mitzvah partner, a colleague,
a friend, or a family member and go at it together. There is strength in numbers, and the members of your group
can support one another and celebrate each other’s triumphs and achievements.
It is necessary to keep track of your successes and shortcomings otherwise it all becomes a blur. Choose a time
each week to review how you are progressing in your preparations for Yom Tov.
Jews wait with anticipation all year for the holidays; it is a time of joy, family and celebration. So much goes into
the physical preparations for these great days. This year, let’s aim to prepare internally and spiritually as well. It
could affect positive change of your entire holiday celebration and quite possibly your life overall.