September-1-2012 – Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat KiTetse
September 1, 2012 – 14 Elul 5772

Dear Friends,

In Talmudic times, the Jewish people dedicated two months of the year, Adar and Elul, to more extensive and intensive Torah study.   Both of these months are associated with the approach of harvest seasons in the Land of Israel.  Adar is the month of Purim when preparations for Passover begin and Elul is the month when we begin our penitential season and our preparations for the High Holy Days.

I am often asked:  Why do we need the entire month of Elul in order to prepare for the High Holy Days?  A similar question might be asked about a situation described in the very beginning of our weekly Torah portion, Ki Tetse.

The Torah tells us that if an Israelite returned from a war, in love with a non-Israelite woman who had been taken into captivity in that war, he may marry her, but only after she had been given the opportunity to weep for her mother and father for a full month.

According to the ancient mystical tradition of the Zohar, this month is the month of Elul.

Based on the Zohar’s connection of this month with the month of Elul, in his book, Shabbath Shiurim, Rabbi M. Miller teaches us that just as the captive woman is entitled to a full month to reflect on her past and to prepare herself for the newest phase in her life, so too, we may require a full month to let go of preconceived notions about our own lives – a full month in which we may find ways to re-invent ourselves in light of Torah values and in light of our present situation.

Transitions are not easy but the Torah, in her wisdom, gives us time so that we may reflect on our lives and make our lives more meaningful, year after year.

In ancient times, our ancestors used this month of Elul not only to reflect on their lives, but also to study Torah more intensively, because one of the many benefits of Torah study, especially if it is shared with a chevruta (a study partner), is that the dialogue we create with and through Torah study, broadens our horizons and offers us deeper insight into our lives and into the world around us.

May our transition to the new Jewish year of 5773 be a smooth transition and may it be a year of peace and of blessing for us and for all people everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror