Hope in Times of Uncertainty
As we enter the new lunar month of Elul – the month of love and compassion – it is a bit difficult for some to feel beauty and hope.
No doubt, there is much beauty in the world. Humans continue to demonstrate noble acts of gallantry. In many little corners of the globe unsung heroes shine and illuminate their environments.
But collectively we are living in uncertain times. The political climate in the USA has never been so polarized. Individually, with all our blessings, we also all face many struggles. Some are afraid about an uncertain future.
On the international front, a deep cloud hangs over the globe – not only for millions of people in the Middle East, but for populations in virtually every hemisphere. Take the latest terrorist attack in Barcelona. The toxic air can ignite a new attack at any moment, in any place. No one knows when and where the next crisis will strike. The Middle East in particular, with its growing upheavals, remains a hotbed waiting to erupt.
Add to the equation the personal and emotional anxieties that people grapple with daily, the psychological forces that drain us, and we have, shall we say, quite a “bundle” (a “pekel” as the good Yiddish expression goes) to deal with. Much, much baggage weighs us down.
The compassionate power of Elul seems very distant.
But what else is new? Elul was never an easy process. The source of this month’s history and power goes back over 3000 years ago, and tells the entire story:
Moses climbs Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. After 40 days Moses returns, only to find that the Jewish people defied G-d by building the Golden Calf. Moses breaks the tablets and returns to Sinai to pray that G-d pardon the people for their grave betrayal. He spends another 40 days on Sinai and his efforts are unsuccessful. But Moses does not give up. Determined, he climbs the mountain for a third time and pleads another 40 days. This time Moses is successful. He elicits not merely Divine forgiveness, but a newfound depth, a more intense dimension in the relationship between G-d and the people.
To Moses’ entreaty, G-d responds with an unprecedented gift: He reveals His Thirteen Attributes of Compassion—thirteen secrets of G-d’s “personality” that carry the mysteries of life and the power to repair whatever is broken.
This third period of 40 days began on the first day of the month of Elul and concluded on Yom Kippur. Elul is therefore a potent month filled with the power of hope, love and reconciliation. The mystics tell us that the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Compassion radiate during the month of Elul, when we relive Moses’ experience.
By way of analogy, the Alter Rebbe explains, that in the month of Elul “the King is in the field.” 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 (on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) and he stands outside in the field greeting his people. When the king is in the field every person has the opportunity, without petitioning for an audience, to greet him and ask for whatever he or she needs. The king is smiling, he is in his informal mode, and he is predisposed to grant all requests.
All year round there are many layers that conceal G-d’s presence, that shroud your own essence from yourself; there is a split between your inner self and your outer self—who 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.
Elul is not a simple month. It is a complex period in time when we have the power to find hope even after loss, to discover love even after betrayal and to rebuild even after we have destroyed. All people make mistakes. The question is whether we repeat them and whether we repair them. A trusting, loving relationship is built not on perfection but on accountability. In Elul we can correct our errors and reclaim our true legacy.
Elul’s message is relevant today more than ever.
As a tentative world enters the compassionate month of Elul, is there any more appropriate message? There is much to be apprehensive about. Many mistakes have been made. The future seems uncertain. But Moses – the one and only Moses – blazed a new path: The road to hope.
The month of Elul, which begins today – and the ensuing 40 days concluding with Yom Kippur – gives us the power to begin anew, to learn from the past, to dig deeper and come up with new reservoirs of clarity and strength.
Ahh, Moses. He paved new paths, tread new roads, opened new doors, pioneered new possibilities. All for whom? For… us.
Elul awakens our inner faith, hope and belief in a better future. We may not have an exact strategy, but if we assume a resigned attitude, we will lose even before we begin. Every challenge, every adversary must begin with absolute fortitude and belief in victory. Faith that we will prevail. Thus it was over 3000 years ago, and many times after that, and thus it will be.
The gusts of Elul have the power to counter the winds of uncertainty. So open your window, breath the fresh air, smell the flowers and feel the hopeful breeze waft through your life.
To help us draw strength from the power of Elul, we offer you a daily e-mail (subscribe below or subscribe by clicking this link) which will guide you along a fascinating 60 day journey of discovering hope and gaining energy to face any challenge ahead. Each daily posting contains an inspirational thought and a practical exercise for the day — excerpted from 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays.
This extraordinary 60 day journey, which begins today and includes Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, embodies the energy of renewal after destruction, rebirth after loss, the energy of love and forgiveness, of empowerment and joy. There is no better time than now to embrace this 60 day journey, a journey that helps us find comfort in uncertain times, strength amidst adversity and fortitude and direction to forge ahead.
From the point of view of Yerushalayim, the situation looks somewhat different, Tourism once again is thriving and although there is much talk about the economy life seems to go on in a more optimistic light. Perhaps even though the threat here looms larger, life is lived to the fullest and instead of doom and gloom we see the signs as those of the imminent redemption. May it be so immediately. As our Rebbe always teaches us: Think good and it will be good,and so it will be.
another magnificent article,My life and Torah-teaching have been revolutionised by your writings,and my students saythe same.
May G=d bless you to witness the coming of Moshiach VERY soon
Moses did not go up the mountain 3 times, only twice! Do you read you Tenach? The first time we rebelled, the second time we believed and obeyed.
Yom Kippur will be finally fulfilled when the Moshiach returns to judge us.
The first time He (the Moshiach) came, we did not recognise him, and sinned as per the golden calf. He then went back up to G-d. (Like Moses going back up)
When he comes the second time, we will recognise him (I suggest you read the last few chapters of Zechariah) and will be obedient!
Then Israel will be as the Bride, and the Wedding will be at Succot!
Check out the prophets, esp Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah! Read the word, not the comments of a lot of Rebbes who cant even agree with each other. we wrote the Book…now we dont read it. Is this because we are scared of what we may find out?
Chag Sameach anyway!