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On Tuesday evening, September 3, Shira Smiles shared an inspiring shiur for women at the Young Israel of Holliswood. She noted how Elul always coincides with the beginning of the school year. The Satan knows we get distracted with technicalities of school so we have no time to focus on Elul. “Coming here tonight for a shiur says I want to learn and grow and come into Rosh HaShanah prepared and ready.”

She noted how the Kohen Gadol went into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur with “this.” What is “this?” Elul is a time of k’dushah and connection. “The King is in the field.” She explained that there is a Kodesh HaKodashim inside each of us. We can enter into a Holy of Holies. “This” is the critical key in the life of a Jew. So how do we access this holiness in Elul? “This” according to a midrash is Shabbos. A person can elevate himself to the level of k’dushah through Shabbos. We talk differently and dress differently on Shabbos. One focus in Elul is the way we take in Shabbos. “Shabbos is the source of blessing.” We should go and greet the Shabbos. “Make it come in earlier. We have to be proactive in bringing it into our life.” Making Shabbos something that we anticipate is a source of brachah. She noted that we state, “Yom HaShishi” when we recite Kiddush. The Yom HaShishi is teaching us that we need a Friday to enter into Shabbos.

The word shamor implies anticipation. She suggested that we take in Shabbos ten minutes earlier. This shows we value Shabbos and this creates k’dushah. She quoted the idea that “All brachos come to the world in the merit of Shabbos. Shabbos draws heavenly blessing on all the other days of the week.”

She noted how starting Shabbos early is a s’gulah for finding your life’s partner. She taught that it is a s’gulah for all the brachos you are looking for. In Elul, allow Shabbos to be an experience of k’dushah.

Another interpretation of “this” is that it is learning Torah. We enter into k’dushah by learning Torah. She suggested that women could learn something related to halachah three minutes a day. She suggested a book called Learn Shabbos Three Minutes a Day.

Still another interpretation of “this” is that the way to go into k’dushah is through being a captain. “There is no such thing as neutral action. Everyone has responsibility. Everything we do impacts our responsibility to be a person.” She explained, “A person has to look at himself as captain of his life.” He has to make sure that everything he says and does is consistent. It’s a challenge that whatever you say or do impacts other people.

Being captain of your ship is about personal responsibility. We need to think before we act. Today, people don’t want to take responsibility. We have to take responsibility. “Self-discovery is a key to responding to life’s challenges.”

When someone asks you what you do, you should respond, “I am an eved Hashem trying to serve G-d in all aspects of my life.”

Hashem helps us have clarity of what we need to work on. We need to know our strengths and weaknesses. She taught that “Responsibility is the ability to respond.” She noted that we don’t invest sufficient effort into improving our character traits. “Life is about responding appropriately. Imagine situations that will provoke you, and work on how to deal with them.”

She went on to teach that man was created with two yuds symbolizing days above and days below. Hashem has envisioned the way our day should be. My job is to work on expectations that Hashem has for me in Heaven. A tzadik is someone who connects heaven and earth together. He has the ability to take the view G-d has for us in heaven and bring it back to earth.

In Elul, our job is to be able to bring heaven down here to earth. “A mitzvah is a moment to experience. You have to be present when you perform a mitzvah. You can’t go through mitzvos mindlessly.” She stated, “Elul is about saying I want to connect with Hashem and to do His mitzvos.”

She concluded that we should ask Hashem to help us bring k’dushah to the world.

By Susie Garber