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The Hebrew month of Elul which we have just entered elicits thoughts of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thoughts of standing before our Creator, the Master of the Universe, "pleading our case" in the heavenly courts.
The Hebrew month of Elul which we have just entered elicits thoughts of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thoughts of standing before our Creator, the Master of the Universe, "pleading our case" in the heavenly courts. The process of divine judgment over the next 40 days is an interesting one. Books of judgment are opened and inscribed on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.
Our sages tell us that on Rosh Hashanah, the divine judge Himself writes the name of each of His children into one of three books: Sefer Tzadikim, (the Book of the Righteous), Sefer Resha'im, (the Book of the Evil-doers), and Sefer Bainonim (the Book of the "In-between"). Some people are easily classified and listed in one of the first two books; many others will find their names in the third "In-between" book on Rosh Hashanah. They are observed and assessed during the Aseret Y'may Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, and are recorded in one of the first two books on Yom Kippur. On that day, all names must be entered into either the Book of the Righteous or the Book of the Evil-doers. What determines which book the "in-betweens" are transferred into?
If the person whose verdict was pending did teshuvah (repentance) and it is accepted, he will enter the Book of the Righteous. Conversely, if he forgoes the opportunity to repent, he will enter the Book of the Evil-doers. (Obviously, this is all in simple terms and our understanding of the Divine judgment is limited.) What is noteworthy is that positive action to do repentance earns reward, whereas a lack of the same earns discredit. One does not need to actively commit a crime during the Ten Days of Repentance in order to end up in the Book of the Evil-doers. Squandering a wonderful opportunity to draw closer to Hashem is an offense of unparalleled proportions; therefore a mere lack of repentance will do the trick.
On Rosh Hashanah, we commemorate the release of Joseph from the prison of Pharaoh in Egypt. This was the day that his chains were broken and he stepped into freedom once again. This celebrative event is more than just a historical one. It serves as an example for us. This is the day when we, the children of Joseph, have the opportunity to leave our "prisons" of mind and heart, and to step once again into freedom. We can shed the chains of bondage which we allowed our evil inclination to secure upon us, and we can proclaim wholeheartedly our allegiance to the King of kings. Then, we will be inscribed in the Book of the Righteous.
The first day of the month of Elul is the beginning of the season of repentance. By making every day before Rosh Hashanah count, by doing our best to perform the actions every day that will turn our life around, we can guarantee that Hashem will write our names into the Book of the Righteous. May this month herald a good and sweet year for all of Israel.
Jeff Ram, a long time resident of Atlanta and past Yeshiva Atlanta president, now resides permanently in Jerusalem.
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