Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chai Ellul

There is a Chassidic saying that 18th of Ellul, "Chay Ellul", the birthday of the founder of Chabad movement, Alter Rebbe, brings chayus, life, into the month of Ellul.

What does this mean? It means that teachings of Chabad allow one to have his Ellul with chayus, with life and energy. Ellul stands for "ani l'doidi v'doidi li" -- "I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me", which corresponds to our relationship with G-d. This relationship, expressed in Judaism, must be done with chayus, with life and energy.

A person must realize that Torah and mitzvos are not a "lifestyle". They are a living, breathing relationship with the Creator of the world. Every time a person does a mitzva, every time he learns Torah, he must not do it as a habit, as a rote, as a part of his "lifestyle" or "identity", but as an aspect of an ongoing relationship with the Eibeshter.

And the same way, every aspect of his life, from his work and his hobbies to his family to, obviously, his davening and learning and mitzvos, one must strive to connect to G-d. When something happens to a person, or when a person does something during his day, no matter how mundane, he must ask: "How is this a part of my relationship with Hashem?" And if he doesn't know the answer, he must search for it.

There is a story told about Mitteler Rebbe, Alter Rebbe's son. One year, Alter Rebbe was away for the reading of the Torah portion where all the curses that would befall the Jews if they did not keep Torah were listed. When he heard the curses being read out loud, he fainted and fell so ill that it wasn't clear if he would be able to fast on Yom Kippur.

People eventually asked: "What happened? You hear your father read the same Torah portion every year." He answered: "When my father reads this, I only hear blessings."

What's the point of this story? One of the major ideas expressed through the teachings of Alter Rebbe is that G-d is benevolent towards us. There are many mystical and philosophical ways of understanding it, and one must learn them all, but the bottom line that one must keep in mind every day is that anything that happens to one is a direct gift from G-d, whether or not it is a revealed blessing or a blessing in disguise.

May we be worthy of reaching very soon the time when our relationship with Hashem is revealed in this world on all levels.

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