DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays
We stand now in the second half of the Hebrew month of Elul,
a powerful month that radiates with intense spiritual compassion.
This month prepares us for the awesome High Holidays. This
coming Saturday night after midnight we begin saying the special
Selichot prayers, which signal the ushering in of the Days
of Awe. In this spirit we bring you another excerpt from Simon
Jacobson's 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.
THE STRENGTH OF GIANTS
As we approach the final week of Elul,
when we begin to recite Selichot, the special prayers
for forgiveness, we have the confidence that, as weak as we
may feel, we have tremendous strength nevertheless.
The cumulative mitzvot of the past generations
gives us that strength. The good that our parents, grandparents,
and great-grandparents did lives on forever and accumulates,
and is our inheritance.
We might be midgets, but we stand on the shoulders
of giants. Although we are puny, we can see even farther than
the giants, because we are standing on the shoulders of past
Nine generations ago, the Baal Shem Tov would
go to a special place on Rosh Hashana, he would light a fire
in a special way, say a special prayer, and as a result the
entire world would be blessed.
In the next generation, his successors knew
the location of the special place and they knew how to light
the fire but they forgot the prayers. So instead, they would
pray, Whatever the Baal Shem Tov achieved here with
the fire, we should achieve.
The next generation knew the location but they
forgot the rest. So they just stood in the location and said,
Whatever the Baal Shem Tov achieved here, we should
Today, we have forgotten even the location.
So what do we do? We tell the story
We are asked to do only that which we are capable
of. We do not have to be like the giants of the past. We just
have to do what is in our powerstand on their shoulders.
When we do so we lay claim to everything they achieved plus
we add our own small partand that small part, added
to the good deeds of our ancestors, might just be enough to
tip the scales and bring redemption.
Ask yourself: Do you know what your small part
in this world is? What can you add to the cumulative accomplishments
of the giants of the past?
Exercise for the day:
~ Do one small mitzvah you have not done
~ Identify something positive that your parent
or grandparent did and take it one step further.
G-d will answer you on the day of distress.
(Psalms 20:2) David knew that the Holy Temple was to be destroyed
and that the offerings were to cease. He was aggrieved for
the sake of Israel and asked: How will they attain atonement
for their iniquities? G-d answered: David, do
not be distressed, for I already disclosed to Moses the sidrei
selichah [the orders of prayers for forgiveness] and I
said to him: When troubles come upon Israel because of their
iniquities, let them stand before Me as one band and utter
the seder selichah, and I will respond to them.
Eight days left to Rosh Hashana. Today is the
day of accounting for the month of Shevat. Look back
eight months to last Shevat. The 15th of
ShevatTu BShevatis known as
the New Year for the Trees. Do you recall how
the energy of Shevat impacted your life in the past
But if we had not waited so long, we could
have returned there and back twice by now. (Shavnu
zeh paamayim)Judahs words to his father
Jacob urging him to allow Benjamin to be brought before Joseph
(Genesis 43:10). Shavnu paamayimreturn
twicerefers to two types of teshuvah: a)
The general teshuvah of Rosh Hashana, and b) The specific
teshuvah of Yom Kippur, in which we specify our iniquities.
Both these types of teshuvah are dependent on the accounting
of Elul. Elul is the same letters as the word
lule (but if we had not). In Elul
we wai and reflect on our actions and behavior, and
that prepares and enables us to return twice,
in the two types of teshuvah on Rosh Hashana and Yom
Kippur. Elul however, is a general preparation; the
more specific preparation to Rosh Hashana is in the days of
Selichot; and the specific preparation to Yom Kippur
is in the Ten Days of Teshuvah that begin on Rosh Hashana.
(Baal Shem Tov) 
 How did G-d disclose this? R
Yochana said: [With the verse] And G-d passed before
him and proclaimed
(Exodus 34:6). This teaches
that G-d came down out of His thick cloud like an emissary
of the congregation who wraps himself in his talit and
descends to face the Ark [to read the prayers], and thus
disclosed to him the seder selichah (Eliyahu Zutta,
Kesser Shem Tov, additions, ch. 17.