I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine…
Song of Songs 6:3
Tonight we greet Rosh Chodesh Elul, a month when the King, Hashem, is in the field.
Yesterday, the United States watched as the moon’s umbra moved across the sun, a momentous occasion. A total solar eclipse had not been seen anywhere in the United States since February 1979, but the last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the contiguous United States as it was yesterday, was June 8, 1918.
This eclipse comes at a pivotal moment. Tonight is Rosh Chodesh, the eve of the first day of the Jewish month of Elul. Elul is a time characterized by teshuva, repentance, and turning to face our King, who comes out to the field to speak with us. Our prayers have added power, our pleas readily reach His ears. While Hashem walks about His fields, surveying His lands, and observing His people, He stops and stares at the sight He beholds.
What damage we’ve done to His creations: the world is crying, the Earth groaning in pain. Humans, who were given dominion over His precious Earth, have been abusing it and their fellow creatures. The scene is bloody and violent.
According to our ancestors, “When the sun is in eclipse it is a bad omen for idolators…if in the west, it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the west” (Succah 29a).
While Elul may be a holy time, the people of the world desecrate it with their bloodshed and hatred. The solar eclipse of 2017 was heralded as an incredible, once in a lifetime event, and yet it may spell our ultimate destruction. This generation has reached a level of degeneracy lower than Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know how those cities met their end. How much more so will God exact His justice on us?
For those of us who continue to have their backs to God, this is a time to turn and face Him, and return to love, peace, and truth. For those of us who are already turning to face our Creator, this is a time of love and redemption. The month Elul, in Hebrew, is the acronym of the Hebrew words, “Ani ledodi ve’dodi li,” or, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” from the immortal words of King Solomon in Song of Songs.
Love is the aura of this month. Love for Hashem, love for His creatures, love for our fellow humans, love for the great gifts He has given us.
It seems counter-intuitive to shift from the heavy mourning of Tisha B’Av to joy, love, and celebration of life. Yet it is that ability – to transition from destruction and misery to love and joy – that defines the soul of Judaism.
God has proven to us over the centuries that He loves us. He has shown us in a myriad of ways: He has blessed us with numerous descendants “like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). He gave us a Beit HaMikdash; He granted us the gift of the Land of Israel, more than once; He has made promises to us that span generations, promises which have not been broken despite their age.
God has gone out of His way to take us out of our physical and spiritual Egypts continually. In fact, it is how He often identifies Himself to us: “I am Hashem, your God, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2).
God loves us so much that He even wrote us a love story, the Torah.
And what, might you ask, does He ask for in return?
He asks only for us to love Him back.
“I will love you, Hashem, my Strength. Hashem is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Rescuer; my God, my Rock in Whom I take shelter.”