This week is Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul. One would think that when comparing the two, Shabbos is greater than Rosh Chodesh. However, from the Gemara in זבחים דף צא ע"א it appears that Rosh Chodesh is greater and more holy because the Gemara wants to prove that תדיר precedes מקודש because the musafei Shabbos come before the musafei Rosh Chodesh which is תדיר even though Rosh Chodesh is more מקודש. How can we understand this?
The Avudraham says that אלול is alluded to in the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim אני לדודי ודודי לי teaching us that the month of Elul is about the love between Hashem and כלל ישראל. However, the significance of the month of Elul comes from the fact that Moshe Rabeinu spent forty days in heaven in preparation for receiving the second luchos. However, the Yerushalmi in Rosh Hashanah says that the months of the year only came about through the עולי בבל. Therefore, it is difficult to understand that the מעלה of חודש אלול should be expressed as a רמז in a Pasuk that only came to be many generations later when this month was given the name Elul, but until then, it never had the name Elul?
Rashi explains that the Psukim earlier in Shir Hashirim talk about when the Jews were given the permission to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash and the goyim wanted to participate in the building. To which the Jews responded אני לדודי ולא אתם לו ולא תבנו עמנו. In the beginning of חגי, the prophecy of the rebuilding of the second Beis Hamikdash was given on the first day of Elul. We see that the connection of Elul to the Pasuk of אני לדודי ודודי לי is not just because it alludes to it in the Roshei Teivos but because this Pasuk is connected to the time period where the Jews received the prophecy to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, and It was in that context that the Jews said אני לדודי ודודי לי.
It also says in חגי that גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון. This is seemingly perplexing because it would seem that the opposite is true being that there were five things that existed by the first Beis Hamikdash but weren’t in the second Beis Hamikdash, as the Gemara in Yuma 21b says. Therefore how could it be the second Beis Hamikdash was greater than the first?
There is a similar idea expressed by the First and second לוחות. The אבן עזרא (שמות לד, א) quotes a Gaon who says the second לוחות were more נכבד than the first in seven ways. But the אבן עזרא disagrees very strongly and says it’s obvious the first לוחות were greater because they were written by Hashem as opposed to the second pair which were by Moshe and how could you says that מעשה משה was more נכבד than מעשה אלוקים. The Gaon, in his fourth reason why the second pair were better than the first pair says exactly the opposite that the מעלה of the second pair was כי בם חלק מן השמים ומן הארץ, as opposed to the אבן עזרא who says specifically for that reason was the first pair better than the second pair.
However it’s seems from the Midrashim that the לוחות שניות were greater, and that Hashem told Moshe not to be sad that he broke the luchos because the second pair were greater. However, the אבן עזרא still has his question? The Beis Halevi (דרושים שו"ת ס' יח) says based on the Yerushalmi in Shekalim that the Luchos Rishonos had תורה שבכתב and תורה שבע"פ written on them as opposed to the Luchos Shniyos, they only had תורה שבכתב and the Torah Shbal Peh was left available for the Chachamim to expound. Therefore, the reason why the Luchos Shniyos were greater than the first pair was because it left room for Humans to bring out the רצון ה' by being מפלפל בפלפולה של תורה. This level of involvement creates a greater connection to Hashem. We could suggest this to explain what the Gaon was saying that the Luchos Shniyos were greater because they were from שמים וארץ because it was the human involvement and toiling to bring out the Torah Shbal Peh which wasn’t written that gave them their greatness.
The Gaon uses the words נכבדים יותר specifically to express this point. Based on the Gemara in Chulin 60a that says יהי כבוד ה' לעולם ישמח ה' במעשיו. This Pasuk is referring to when the דשאים made a ק"ו from the trees to be יצא למינו. At that moment, that Pasuk was said. The idea is that כבוד come when a person does something on his own without being commanded explicitly. The same is by the Luchos Shniyos, that they are more נכבד than the Rishonos because of the the Torah Shebal Peh that was not written explicitly but rather which was brought by the Chachamim.
This is the same idea by the second Beis Hamikdash as opposed to the first. Even though it was missing the five things that existed by the first Beis Hamikdash, the second Beis Hamikdash has the human involvement element and the exclusion of the help from the goyim. Just like by the luchos Shniyos, it was a fulfillment of the Pasuk ונפלינו אני ועמך. Because the Medrash says the fact that the luchos Shniyos did not include Torah Shbal Peh was in order to prevent the אומות העולם from taking the Torah from us, and thus it remains in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. This is the same idea by the second Beis Hamikdash that it was the Jews involvement and the exclusion of the help of the goyim, being that it was an exclusive and unique relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people of אני לדודי ודודי לי. This all explains why the month of אלול is hinted in the words of אני לדודי ודודי לי and was only revealed at the time that the Jews were going up from בבל to build the second Beis Hamikdash, and was also the month where Moshe went up to receive the Luchos Shniyos. Because all these things are expressing the same message that there is a greater מעלה when the human effort plays a role as opposed to when it is just given with not human effort.
In spite of the fact that the significand of the month of Elul was always there, but it only became fully expressed in the time of Bayis Sheni when prophecy ceased and it was the beginning of the era of Torah Shbal Peh. It was at this point specifically that the significance of Elul was fully expressed as אני לדודי ודודי לי that we reach out to Hashem and he reaches back out to us. Until that point, we still communicated with נבואה which was Hashem reaching out and us responding. But with the onset of Bayis Sheni, נבואה ceased and it now was about us reaching out to Hashem and him responding, which is the idea of אני לדודי ודודי לי.
The Gemara in Brachos 49a says אין חותמין בשנים. But the Gemara ask that we sayמקדש ישראל והזמנים to which it answers ישראל דקדשינהו לזמנים. The Gemara asks again what about מקדש השבת וישראל והזמנים to which it answers חוץ מזו which is the נוסח of the Gemara as we have it. But the Rabbeinu Yonah has a נוסח because it is all one because Shabbos is mekadesh the Jews and the Jews are mekadesh the Yomim Tovim. When it comes to Kedushas Yisrael, there are two dimensions of Kedusha. There is the Kedusha of Shabbos which is inherent and can’t be taken away as it was a מתנה as it says in Shabbos 10a. That’s the idea of אע"פ שחטא ישראל הוא because it is a Kedusha that is God given and therefore irrevocable. The other dimension is that of the Moadim that Jews have the ability to be מקדש the Zmanim. We are meant to be mekadesh that which is not Kadosh inherently like are שכל. That is the Kedusha of the Zmanin. Based on the previous idea explaining the מעלה of the Luchos Shniyos and the second Beis Hamikdash, it could be understood how the Kedusha of mekadesh hazmanim is greater than the Kedusha of Shabbos, because it’s the human effort which creates that higher level.
A person might think that the previous generations had a better and more effective Elul than what we have today. But really it’s the opposite because the farther away we are, the more room there is for choice and with choice comes the human effort which has a greater מעלה than when there is less choice and therefore less human effort.
The Parshah starts with ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה. Everyone ask why does it start with ראה which is singular and then switch to לפניכם which is plural?
The ראה-seeing expresses that each person has their own psychological makeup and unique way of thinking. Therefore, the path to Torah is for the individual. But the destination is one. That’s why the ראה is singular to indicate that the path is individual but the destination is לפניכם, which is the same for everyone but person is only reaching the common destination through his individual path.
Additionally, the Pasuk can be telling us ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם, “SEE” meaning Hashem is giving us the power of seeing, but that can either be a Brachah or a Klallah and it depends what you use that strength for. There is Brachah or Klallah in the ראה.
Also, when it says אנכי, Hashem is giving us the sense of אנכי, the sense of self. The sense of self can also be either a Brachah or a Klallah. A person can have a sense of self that encourages him to do more when it comes to the service of Hashem. But on the other hand a person’s sense of self can cause him to become selfish and self-centered and move him away from Avodas Hashem. The Pasuk says כי יהיה בך אביון. The אור החיים says that אביון is referring to מלך המשיח because he is going to be a עני ורוכב על החמור and he concludes שמו חיים. The אור החיים name was also חיים and therefore he seems to be referring to himself.
Similarly, in the end of אבן העזר סימן קכט, the בית שמואל goes through the different names and spellings of men and women for writing גיטין. By the name שכנא, he says שכנא is with a כ and that מוהר"ר שכנא, the Rebbe and father in law of the רמ"א and prominent Talmud of Reb Yackov Pollack, gave a סימן from the Pasuk לשכנו תדרשו in order to not mix it up the כ with a ב. Reb Shachna restored Limud Hatorah in Poland after the גזירת ת"ח ת"ת. On the bottom of the page in the הגהות שי למורא, he is bothered why a Pasuk was needed to explain that the name is with a כ and not a ב. He explains that a ש"ס in Krakow was found with הגהות from Reb Shachna and in Perek Chelek when it discusses the various names of Mashiach, he added אני אומר שכנא שמו שנאמר לשכנו תדרשו and this was the Siman Reb Shachna gave to himself.
It is very hard for us to relate to what the Ohr Hachaim is saying and what Reb Shachna is saying. However, one thing is clear that these people who had a tremendous impact on the Jewish people did have a sense of אנכי, a sense of self, that brought them to be active and do beyond what mortals can do. Reb Shachna was responsible for building Torah in Poland when it was at an all-time low.
Similarly, the Beis Yosef, the author of the Shulchan Aruch and the Posek for all generations to come, wrote a sefer called מגיד משרים where he has conversations with a מלאך. The conversations are constantly about the Malach telling the Beis Yosef about his role in history and how he is going to write the Shulchan Aruch. But these things don’t happen to a person who thinks he is a nobody and a nothing. Similarly, Reb Chaim Vital in his ספר החזיונות, he mentions many times that the אריז"ל told him that he will be Mashiach. Even though it didn’t materialize, nonetheless he was the main expounder of Kabbalah which changed the landscape of Jewish scholarship and practice for the rest of history.
We might not feel that we will be the one to bring the final redemption, but every person should feel אנכי נתן לפניכם and have that sense of self. Firstly to himself he should have a sense of self and when it comes to impacting others, he should have a sense of self and responsibility to others. It is not a sense of self that makes a person arrogant and feel that he is above, rather it’s the sense of self that imbues in him a sense of responsibility to make a positive difference not only in one’s personal life but in the lives of other as well.
The Pasuk says בנים אתם ליקוק אלהיכם לא תתגדדו ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת. All the Rishonim deal with what is the connection between the first part of this Pasuk to the לאו of לא תתגודדו.
The אבן עזרא says once Hashem tells us that we are his children and he loves us more than a father loves his son, therefore don’t tear out your flesh when seemingly bad things happen such as a death, because everything he does is for the good. And even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we must rely on him just like children rely on their father even when they don’t understand.
The Ohr Hachaim says the idea that when a person dies, he is not lost rather its comparable to a father who sends his son to do business in another city and after a while his father calls for him back. Therefore, when a person dies, he shouldn’t rip out his flesh because the person who dies is just going back to his father which is the Mekor Hachaim.
The Ramban says that בנים אתם ליקוק אלהיכם tells us that the Neshama is eternal and that is who we are. Therefore, death is not such a significant thing because the Neshama lives on.
Based on all this, it would seem that there is no room for the concept of אבילות. The Ramban write in the preface to his sefer תורת האדם that nonetheless the Torah does allow for mourning because it caters to human nature which is to be sad when there is a separation.
Chazal learn from לא תתגודדו שלא תעשו אגודות אגודות that can’t have a place with two Minhagim. How did Chazal get to that Halacha from the main prohibition of not tearing out your flesh?
The prohibition of ripping out ones flesh is giving prominence to the body. But if we identify as our soul, then we are all one and we are expected to live like one in harmony and unison. Therefore, לא תתגודדו שלא תעשו אגודות אגודות is only possible on the level of the physical. But if we experience ourselves as spiritual beings, then we experience ourselves as all one and we will therefore not be אגודות אגודות.