Achas Shoalti (Miami)

August 10, 2021

Erev Shabbos challah baking. Pre-Pesach deep cleaning. Pre-Shavuos Omer counting. Our calendar is full of practices and rituals that are meant to prepare us for the more momentous moments that follow. There is yet another period of preparation on our calendar, one that is widely talked about but often overlooked. I’m of course speaking about the month of Elul.

Possibly more than any other time of year, Elul teaches us the importance of spiritual readiness. All the bustle in our lives means that it’s easy to enter Rosh Hashanah out of breath and unprepared. On the fast-paced highway we call life, Elul is the onramp to the Yomim Noraim, giving us the opportunity – begging us, in fact – to slow down and get personally prepared for the upcoming Days of Awe.

The question is how. How can we go from where we are to where we really need to be? We live in a world of enormous spiritual opportunity, and yet, it is also the world of “trial by fire.” Distractions sidetrack us day and night. Passions, jealousies, and petty hatreds burn within us. We fail – repeatedly. We let our failures define us and erode our belief in the fact that we are even fighting a winnable battle.

Conceptually, we understand that Elul is a time of abundant Heavenly love and yearning, making it especially opportune for reconciliation and forgiveness. But by the time Elul rolls around, we are too disheartened to appreciate what it has to offer, all too often just giving up before the month even had a chance to begin.

We need help, and the truth is, the Gemara tells us that there is no way that we can possibly win the battle without Siyata Dishmaya. It is for this reason we employ several exclusive Elul exercises that will assist our ascension. We sound the shofar daily to awaken us from our spiritual slumber; its piercing cry spurs us to commence an honest inner-appraisal and to initiate an internal realignment.

We also add Kapittal 27 to our daily tefillos in an effort to rouse our desire to return to our real selves. Within L’Dovid Hashem Ori, we are given the means to elevate our souls above the mundane and to reattach ourselves to the Divine. Each word is a guide – each pasuk encouraging us to focus our energies during this most auspicious time of year.

אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת הַ’ אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ
In one sentence, Dovid HaMelech shares with us the secret to success, and with it a message of hope to each and every one of us. Achas Shoalti, I have asked Hashem for only one thing – I have but one request. When all is said and done, no matter what distractions I am forced to do battle with today – underneath it all, I am in this fight for one reason, and one reason only.

שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית הַ’ כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם הַ’ וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ
Hashem, you know that in my heart of hearts, the reason I wish to be free of disruption, trouble, or pain is not so that I can put my feet up and relax. Deep down, what I really want is to dwell in Your house and serve You. I want to see Your pleasantness, and to learn Your Torah in Your sanctuary all the days of my life. That is the only thing I want and will continue to want as long as I live. I will continue to do battle with whatever You send my way because that is what You put me here to do. However, through it all, I will never stop hoping, desiring, praying for a closer connection to You. And it will only be with Your help, Hashem, that I will be granted my wish.

The song we chose to accompany today’s message is one of many that effectively capture the inspiration we were aiming for. This particular Achas Shoalti was composed by Yerachmiel Begun, and first appeared back in 1984 on his Miami Boys Choir record entitled B’siyata Dishmaya. There is something very potent about a child singing these words, and it seems that I am not alone in this thinking. There are no less than sixteen distinct Achas Shoalti’s that are either sung by child soloists or by boys’ choirs. Perhaps this astonishing fact reflects our inner-child that innocently calls out to Hashem at this time of year, telling Him what we truly want… but I would love to hear your take.

May we all merit a successful Chodesh Elul in which we experience Hashem’s closeness!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *