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The “High and Holy” Days

Ever wonder why these days are called “High Holy Days”? Well, these high and holy days are high and holy because Hashem is so close, He is right nearby. The Torah tells us in a most eloquent fashion, exactly how we may succeed in seeking Hashem and finding Him. “And you shall seek out Hashem from there and you shall find Him, because you sought with all your heart and all your soul.” (Devarim 4-29)

What do we need? We need sincerity in our Avodah, since as we know, “רחמנא ליבא בעי”  – “Hashem wants our heart.” If one is sincere in his quest for Teshuva, then no matter where he is, he will surely find Hashem. The word, “משם” – “From there,” says the holy Baal Shem Tov ZT”L, means from wherever you happen to be! One should never feel that he is too far removed from Hashem to have a real connection, a love relationship with his beloved Father. In fact, Hashem is forever waiting and beckoning for every one of His children to come home. It’s not where He is; it’s where we are!

It is told that when the Baal HaTanya, R’ Shneur Zalman of Liady ZT”L, was imprisoned by the Czar of Russia for his religious activities, one of the guards asked him with a smirk, “If your G-d knows everything, why did He call out to Adam in Paradise, ‘Where are you?’ Did He not know where Adam was?’”

The Baal HaTanya answered. “Torah is not just a storybook. It is filled with timeless lessons that apply to every generation. Hashem calls out to every person, ‘Where are you’ – are you here in this world? What have you accomplished, what are your goals? Adam symbolizes mankind and everyone must be prepared at all times to answer the Almighty G-d when He asks the question.”

Picture this: A crowd is waiting anxiously at a Jerusalem bus stop. A woman holding a sleeping baby in her arms, is also standing among the crowd at the 400 bus stop. Finally, the bus arrives and she alights, sits down and watches the scenery on the trip to Bnei Brak. After many twists and turns she finally arrives at her destination and descends from the bus with her baby still sleeping in her arms. Did that baby travel the same distance she did? Of course he did. Is that baby aware of the journey that transpired? Of course not. As far as the baby is concerned he has not moved at all. He is still in the loving embrace of his mother. It makes no difference where he started or how long he traveled. He expended no worries or fears on the entire journey, for all he felt was the love and security of his mother.

This is how we must feel, says R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz ZT”L, so closely connected to Hashem that no matter what would transpire in our lives we would feel safe and secure as a baby in his mother’s arms. This is the explanation of “אני לדודי ודודי לי”  – “I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me.” The closer we bring ourselves to Hashem, the closer He will come to us. Isn’t that the true goal and yearning of a Jew? Isn’t that the purpose of all our tefillos, no matter what it is that we are asking for? There is no greater joy than the feeling of being close to Hashem. The feeling of security and love, of being carried in the arms of the “Kol Yachol.”

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In Shir Hashirim we learn: “אני לדודי ודודי לי” reminding us of our special bond with Hashem; the need to maximize our Torah learning and “chap arayn” as many mitzvos as we can in order to feel His closeness. This will create the atmosphere we need for objective number one: Teshuvah.

The Torah infers our second objective. We read: “ומל ה’ אלקיך את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך“  – which alludes to our great power of Tefillah, which is known as “עבודה שבלב” (service of the heart) and reminds us in Elul to take one prayer each day and focus carefully on every single word.

Lastly, in Megillas Esther, it says:  “איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים”, which once again spells out the acronym א-ל-ו-ל. This is no coincidence, of course. This, too, is reminding us of our third great objective; that of loving and helping our fellow Jews, of doing Tzedakah with our fellow man.

Here is a practical suggestion. Try this and see if it helps: During Elul and the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, write down each night, how you’ve accomplished one small act in each of these areas so that you can come to Hashem with the Three Big T’s; Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka – and thereby have the power to change any and all decrees to good.

And then close your eyes and imagine yourself as a tiny baby being carried by Hashem without worry or fear. The ultimate feeling of security and Ahavas Hashem – love of Hashem.          Let us answer Hashem’s call with the sincere cry of, “Hineni” – Hashem Here I am! As close to You as I can possibly be. This year, may we actually achieve “אני לדודי” so that we will merit the ultimate goal of “ודודי לי”.

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