By Hazzan Jenna Greenberg
In the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, the classic 19th century code of Jewish law, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried shares the following teaching derived from three biblical verses. These selections allude to three special responsibilities incumbent upon us, as we spiritually prepare for the High Holy Days during the the Hebrew month of Elul:
‘Dorshei R’shumot (Interpreters of Torah) teach first: It is written “And Hashem your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) The initials of the words in Hebrew, et levavecha ve’et levav, form the acronym Elul. Likewise, the initials of Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” (Song of Songs 6:3) form the acronym Elul. Also, the initials of a verse from Megillat Esther, Ish lerei’eihu umatanot la’evyonim, “One to another delicacies and gifts to the poor,” (9:22) form the acronym Elul.
These acronyms are an allusion to three things: Repentance, Prayer and Charity which should be practiced with particular eagerness during this month. “Hashem will circumcise etc.” alludes to repentance. “I am my Beloved’s etc.” alludes to prayer, for prayer is the song of love. “One to another and gifts to the poor,” alludes to charity.’
I find these interpretive acronyms for Elul (Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed) and Rabbi Ganzfried’s connection to T’shuvah, Tefila, and Tzedakah to be particularly meaningful.
The acronym with which many of us are most familiar from this passage, is the Songs of Songs reference.
Shir haShirim is understood to be a poetic biblical love story between God and the Jewish people. To tie in these three grand themes (T’shuvah, Tefilah, and Tzedakah) that we recite in our holy day liturgy, each of these values connect to the three kinds of loving relationships that each of us can strive for every single day of our lives:
May the month of Elul give each of us the opportunity to love ourselves, reciprocate the deep and eternal love that God gives us. And so too, let us all work on loving one another, finding the best in each other, as we continue to find strength in the incredible community that is Highland Park, that is Beth El, that is each and every one of us.