The goal of this essay is to convey a tremendously profound and inspiring concept of the Bnei Yissachar which can be found in the fourth entry of his first essay on Chodesh Elul. In order to do so effectively we will need to begin with some essential introductory background information.
Our task is to understand the following line: If the world physically came to be in the month of Tishrei then the thought of creation and the processes leading up to it took place in the month of Elul. What does that mean and how does that play out in our understanding of how to act in this month?
Buckle your seat belts; this is going to be a ride.
God, in His essence; intrinsically, in the truest way we can state, is totally beyond our comprehension. It’s a level of unique perfection far surpassing the capabilities of the human mind. There is no grasping God Himself. It just doesn’t happen.
But on the other hand, God gave us His self-titled Attributes, Names and Descriptions that we do use to relate to how He interacts with us. This much we can say. Can we relate to God intrinsically? No. Can we relate to how He interacts with us. Yes.
With this on the table we can discuss a totally crucial peg of all Jewish thought as taught to us by the Ramchal. The first of these attributes that God titled Himself with was “Tov” – ‘Good’. Before anything else, God calls Himself Good, Good in the truest, most perfect sense. Good, but not in anyway you would see in a finite context. He’s uniquely good, infinitely good, divinely good.
Continues the Ramchal, the nature of that which is good is to bestow good on others. This how the good of any object is realized. Good becomes good only when it is extended into or onto something else, thus making that good recognizable, activated and altogether present.
Based on this, it is the self-titling of God as Good that sparked creation to be. For at the exact moment that God calls Himself good, it requires that there be something or someone for that good to be bestowed upon, and –bam- creation happened.
But with this information on the table we can now more acurately reformulate it in the reverse. The reason that God gave Himself the title of Good was in order that there would be a creation that He would be able to bestow that Good upon.
The slight change we just stated is as follows: Until now we said that a title of Good was placed, and that title necessitated the creation that could receive that good. We are now giving this understanding a new nuance by saying that the it was the end result, the desire for those subjects onto which good could be bestowed, that was the cause for the title – which in turn set the stage for those creations to exist.
But there’s a nuance, for while it is true that all aspects of the created world are relevant to receiving Goodness, the goal of all things that were created was so that they could set the stage for and facilitate the Jewish people -Am Yisrael reaching the highest level of that Good.
How do we know this to be true? From the first word of the Torah. Bereishis - ‘In the beginning.’ Simple enough, but Chazal tell us that Bereishis has contained within it a deeper message. “Bereishis, Bishvil Yisrael She’nikra ‘Reishis’”, “What does is mean, ‘In the beginning’? It means for Am Yisrael which is called a ‘Beginning’.” And verses are brought to prove this.
With this in mind we need to address a new question: What is the best to go ahead and bestow that good? God knew that free handouts of good would feel like charity, and no one likes to be on the receiving end of charity. We’ve all felt some sort of guilt or unworthiness that sours any undeserved freebie.
Thus God set up the system (ie: the universe we are currently in) in such a way that the creations, and Jews in specific, would have to work to receive their good. By putting in effort to receive the good that Hashem sought to give, the creations could receive that good, and not have that pleasure tainted by the feeling of receiving unmerited and unjustified freebies. Thus we have Torah and Mitzvos to help us get connected Hashem’s Goodness.
This system of earning our connection to Goodness through our actions is called Isarusa Di’Lisata, literally ‘An Awakening from Below.’ This means, us (the ‘Below’) cause the arousal of Good through our actions.
It is in the month of Tishrei that man was brought into the world, thus commencing the physical reality. But all the thoughts and plans for how the world would be brought about so that Goodness could be achieved through Isarusa Di’Lisata were conjured up in the month before, in the month of Elul.
With everything said, here is where everything gets problematic. In theory we can propose the following question: Any system that is true to itself does not work against its own principles. And if the end-goal of all of creation is to receive goodness through a system of Isarusa Di’Lisata, where was there any Isarusa Di’Lisata to begin creation? That was all on God’s side! All effort from the side of creations is all after the fact! And thus an entire system predicated upon Isarusa Di’Lisata does not have a practical foundation in that very concept!
Here the holy Bnei Yissachar reveals a massively novel idea about the nature of the basis of creation:
Is must be that the thought of the future actions of Am Yisrael alone was considered enough of a Isarusa Di’Lisata to stimulate a creation.
This is a potential tapped into again and again by Jews throughout history. When times are rough and we don’t feel that we have enough merit to support us and back us up to a positive outcome, we know that on a very real level God appreciates actions we know that we want to do in the future.
But this power comes to its fullest fruition in the month of Elul. For it was in the very first Elul, in the Elul before there was a world, that God looked to the future, perceived the actions that we would do as a retroactive Isarusa Di’Lisata and bestowed good – all good that would ever be – because of it.
It is because of this that in our prayers we say “Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha V’Nashuva, Chadesh Yameinu K’Kedem” – “Hashem! Return us to you and we shall return, renew our days as they were previously.” What is the deeper meaning here? ‘Hashiveinu Hashem Eilcha - Hashem! Return us to you.’ Connect us to you. Bestow good upon us. ‘V’Nashuva - And we shall return.’ We’ll try our very best to be better in the future. ‘Chadesh Yameinu K’Kedem – Renew our days as they were previously.’ Treat us now as You did previously, before there was a world, before creation, before existence was – in a time where the mere thought of our future righteous deeds was enough of an Isarusa Di’Lisata to do good with us.
Elul is a time where we are in a unique position. God wants our will. Because Elul puts in a place where, more that ever, a pure thought can lead to a legitimate action. Where the desire to be good in the future can really be a first, concrete step to a brighter future. Elul is a time where positive thinking is a real Isarusa Di’Lisata of a better tomorrow.
B’Ezras Hashem we should be Zoche to tap into such a holy (albeit attainable) state of mind. If we can do that, if we can really focus on creating better realities for ourselves, there is no doubt that we will live lives of meaning and happiness moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the redemption!