We stand now in the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, a powerful
month that radiates with intense spiritual compassion. This
month prepares us for the awesome High Holidays. In this
spirit we bring you another excerpt from Simon Jacobsons
new book, 60 DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays. Each
of the 60 Days comes with a calendar, inspirational quote, facts
and historical events, laws and customs, a relevant insight
and a daily exercise.
DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays
During Elul the king
is in the field and everyone who so desires is permitted
to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance
and shows a smiling face to them all
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi 
All year round there are many layers that shroud
your own essence from yourself; there is a split between your
inner self and your outer selfwho you truly are and
what you do, your spirit and your activities. In Elul
many of these layers are stripped. You can access, if you
wish, your true self, since it is part of the higher reality
and the essence of all of existence called G-d.
In Elul, the King is in the field,
writes the Alter Rebbe. He uses the analogy of a king who
is returning home from his travels as a way of explaining
the phenomenon of Elul.
The king had been traveling; he had left
his palace and gone to a far off land outside his kingdom.
And now he is on his way home. He is about to enter
his palace and he stands outside in the field greeting his
people. Then he goes back into the palace and again
mounts his throne.
When the king is in the field, every person
has the opportunity, without petitioning for an audience,
to go over to him, say hello and ask for whatever he or she
needs. The king is smiling, he is happy to be home,
he is in his informal mode, and he is predisposed to grant
Thats Elul. On Rosh Hashana
and Yom Kippur, the King is back in his palace on his throne.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are holidays.
Elul is amid workdays. We are in the field, we
are still living our normal lives. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
have a very powerful energy, because on those days we petition
the King in his inner sanctum. But in Elul, we
petition the King on our turf.
It is a profound message of hope that we dont
have to wait for on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to find G-d.
We can go out to meet Him now.
Ask yourself: If you could literally go
out to meet G-d in the field, how would you approach Him,
what would you ask Him?
It takes initiative to go out to meet G-d, even
when He is "in the field," close and available.
It takes initiative to extend yourself and it takes love.
G-d gave us the power to love each otherthe
power to unite the Divine image which was split at the time
of creation of the world into male and femalebecause
He wanted us to learn through that how to love Him.
We learn how to love through our interactions
with one another, and we also, sadly, learn how not to love.
We hurt each other sometimes. But in the healthiest sense,
when we learn to love another person, its the first
step towards learning how to love G-d as well.
After the hurt and losswhich we remember
in the month of Avlove must begin on our initiative.
We have to showdown here belowthat we are ready
for G-ds love to shine on us from above.
Elul is the time in the Jewish calendar
when we take the first step. One of the acronyms of
Elul is: Ani ldodi vdodi li, meaning
I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.
(Song of Songs 6:3)
In Elul I initiate and my
beloved responds in kind. 
The Torah teaches that it is guaranteedG-d
will respond. That doesnt always mean that the
results will be what we want. But something will happen, because
theres nothing more powerful than taking initiative.
When the Jews reached the Red Sea and were despairing,
one man named Nachshon took the risk and walked into the water.
The water reached his nose and then the sea parted. When you
take initiative, the seas part.
Ask yourself: How often do you take the initiative
in your life? How often do you take the initiative in
your relationship with your beloved? And with G-d?
Exercise for the day:
~ Find a new way today to express your love
to your beloved.
~ Dont waitinitiate something beautiful.
Open up for me the eye of a needle and
I will open for you the most expansive corridors of the Great
Hall.  G-d asks of us only one thing: I dont
ask you to change your entire life; I ask only that you open
up for me the eye of a needle. Dedicate to Me, one moment,
one space, one corner of your life. But this moment, this
space, this corner should be only for Me
Laws and Customs
Some synagogues have the custom to announce
on each day of Elul: Shuvu Bonim Shovivim  Return my children, return, echoing
the daily heavenly call that summons everyone to teshuvah.
 Though our ears may not hear the call, our souls
do hear it. It behooves us to cup our ears, absorb the call
and act on it.
The month of Elul, whose astral sign
is betulah (Virgo) is the month of the bride, a month
in which the love between the Divine groom and His bride Israel
is at its height. I am for me beloved and my beloved
is for me. Elul is a time when the initiative
comes from our side of the relationship, and the Divine response
to our love is one that relates to us as finite material beings
and embraces our natural self and personality. We, the bride
purify and refine ourselves in preparation for the wedding
with the Divine that occurs on Rosh Hashana and particularly
on Yom Kippur. This is also symbolized by the yud (the
letter of this month), the purest and simplest of letters,
and also the origin of all letters. Yud is also the
first letter in the essential four-letter Name of G-d.
 Likkutei Torah Reeh 32a.
 The transmutation of the Divine name associated
with Elul is also in this order: Heh, Heh, Vav, Yud. First
comes the feminine dimension (the two hehs, binah and
malchut) the initiative from below, I am to my
beloved, arousing the Divine response from above (vav
yud, za and chochma), my beloved is to me.
 Midrash, Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2. Zohar III
95a. Pesikta Rabsi ch. 15. Pesikta DRav Kahana Parshat
 Birchei Yosef 581:6.
 Chagigah 15a.
 See Likkutei Torah Teitzei 36d. 71d.
 Sefer HaSichot 5750, vol 2, pp. 631-633.