In the upcoming weeks, you will undoubtedly hear a word or two about the need for self-improvement as we near the Days of Awe. For some of us, it is not easy to hear that we have areas in our lives that need help, and far be it from me, a complete stranger to most of you, to be the one to point it out. So, over the next month or so, if you hear me talking about any lofty ideals or any grandiose plans for betterment of any kind, just remember, I’m merely talking to myself – feel free to ignore. Stating that, indulge me, if you will, to share a quick message and a melody that may add some meaning to your month. Because isn’t that what we do here anyway – meaningful messages with music to be moved, and then to move on?
To really get to the crux of the month of Elul, look no further than the chapter of Tehillim that we will be adding into our daily davening: Chapter 27 – L’Dovid Hashem Ori. And while there is much to be said on the matter (not to mention songs galore), I was inspired today to write about two particular aspects.
First off, by now, Dovid Hamelech must have known that he had secured his place as one of Hashem’s “favorites” right? So this is surely Dovid Hamelech speaking to every one of us! He begins the mizmor by telling us that we each have a specific relationship with Hashem – Hashem is referred to as “Ori – My Light” – in the first person, possessive form. Light is generally not something that is personalized. If we turn on a light, or experience the light of the sun, that light shines for everyone in our proximity in the same manner. Therefore, the word “Ori” indicates that Hashem shines His light on each person in a way that is tailor-made for each individual, for each specific situation. Dovid Hamelech is providing encouragement to us as we encounter our challenges, that we must be armed with the knowledge that our predicaments are tailor-made for us, and thus our extrication from those battles and the accompanying joy will be a perfect fit as well.
In this way, L’Dovid Hashem Ori gives us a sense of hope during the months of Elul and Tishrei as we take our battle positions. Instead of a sense of dread as we approach the Yom HaDin, the seriousness and intensity is balanced with feelings of encouragement that Hashem creates a lifeline for us that is unique to our situation. We have personal battles every day of our lives, in the realm of child rearing, shidduchim, illness r’l, interpersonal relationships, and the most difficult battle of all, combating our own weaknesses. This mizmor reminds us that each of us must attempt to feel a personal connection to Hashem during the months of Elul and Tishrei.
He then continues further, “Im takum alai milchama, b’zos ani bote’ach – Though battle comes to rise up against me, in this I am secure.” I am secure in the knowledge that Hashem is Ori. We assert that in whatever battles we may engage, whether spiritual, emotional or physical, the knowledge that Hashem is my light provides me with a feeling of impermeable protection. When we are armed with the knowledge of THIS (b’zos) – the perception that I do not have to traverse the battlefield alone in the dark because Hashem Himself enlightens my particular path – then we have the reassurance needed to emerge victorious during the Yamim Nora’im.
And lastly, after establishing the exclusive and everlasting bond that we have with Hashem, it is here that Dovid Hamelech uses unique terminology in articulating what I think is the key takeaway from this powerful time of year.
“Achas shoalti me’ais Hashem, osah avakeish. Shivti b’vais Hashem kol yimei chayai – One thing I ask of Hashem, it is my request to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.
“Lachzos b’noam Hashem – to see the pleasantness of Hashem,” “u’levaker b’heichalo – and to visit His Temple every morning.”
Pay attention here – Dovid Hamelech has just given us the crucial counsel needed to live a truly meaningful and accomplishing life. To live a significant life means to put Hashem’s desires above our own. Because when our one true desire is to feel close to our Father in Heaven, then everything we do, even the smallest of things, are infused with holiness… And it is this holy desire that allows us to experience and appreciate the sweetness of His constant love – kol yimei chayai, every day of our lives.
This is Yiddishkeit in a nutshell, ladies and gents. Read, reap & repeat.
Today’s song choice, Achas Shoalti is a beautiful song written by the great Pinchas Mordechai (Pinky) Weber and is sung by the incredible Yingerlich Boys Choir on their 2018 debut album. This was just one of the many stunning songs from that album and was the perfect choice when looking for a song to express the interpretation above.
Wishing you an uplifting Chodesh Elul