By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock zt”l, the long-time Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta of Long Beach where he taught thousands of talmidim, was a talmid and confidant of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, and a member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. He recently had passed away.
Q: The RY stated that Elul is a gift to Klal Yisroel from Hashem. Can the RY elaborate?
RYF: It is a time that is most mesugal to become ever closer to Hashem. They are days of mercy and ratzon where Teshuvah is accepted in an easier fashion. Rav Chatzkel Levenstien zt”l used to relate the very special conduct of Rav Yitzele Peterburger zt”l as the month of Elul approached. He would approach the Aron Kodesh with his hands spread upward to the Heavens and declare with great emotion: Master of the Universe! Behold I give praise and thanks that You have bestowed upon us this month! We accept it with love and with joy! Those gathered would hear his voice and would respond with great emotion and trepidation.
It is said in the name of the Steipler that the reason we still have in our generation a modicum amount of fear of Heaven is only on account of the month of Elul – for in remains a spark of fear and trepidation before the Creator. Therefore, we must thank Hashem for this wonderful gift that He has given us in the abundance of His kindness. Who can imagine how far we would fall without Elul to achieve teshuvah, forgiveness, and atonement.
Q: What is the main Avodah during this month?
RYF: The main task is to beautify one’s actions and to change one’s conduct in a manner that it is apparent that Elul is different than the other months of the year.
Q: How so?
RYF: By strengthening one’s seder halimud – coming on time. Arising early to daven, watching over one’s speech, not saying or hearing lashon hara and not accepting it. And certainly by working Teshuvah. The minhag in Yeshivos is to make certain kabalos – even a small one that one accepts upon himself until after Yom Kippur so that he will be in a matzav of doing Teshuvah – even though it is something that he would be unable to keep for the rest of the year.
Q: Any further thoughts on this?
RYF: Yes. Remember that it is easier to change one’s path during one’s youth – where the pattern of sin has not been entrenched, and it is not so difficult to remove oneself from the aveirah. Also, teshuvah is not as effective in one’s old age as it is during one’s youth. Also, the more one adjusts himself to the AVodah of Elul in their youth, this remains with him after he leaves Yeshiva. If one has no connection to the AVodah of Elul while in yeshiva – he will end up with no concept and perception of the Avodah of Elul. It will become to him as just another regular month.
*An i-Interview is a re-construction of the words of the interviewee in an interview format in order to facilitate greater comprehension. The words found in the responses are all quite real. However, the questions are imaginary, so to speak. This article was based upon the sefer Yehge Chochma.
The author can be reached at [email protected]