L’David, Hashem ori v’yish’i, mimi ira; Hashem ma’oz chayai, mimi efchad?

Hashem is my light (in the darkness of trouble) and my salvation, (therefore) whom shall I fear? Hashem is the strength of my life, (so) from whom shall I be afraid?

The Midrash teaches us that “ori (my light)” refers to Rosh HaShanah, while “yish’i (my salvation)” refers to Yom Kippur. On Rosh HaShanah, we devote most of our efforts and time to focus on Hashem’s Malchus (Kingship). On this day, Hashem illuminates for us, with clarity, His sovereignty over the entire Universe and over each of our own individual lives. We exert strenuous efforts over the two days of Rosh HaShanah to internalize this light of constant awareness and awe of Hashem’s awesomeness and of His total control and involvement in our lives and in the world at large.

Once we have internalized this on Rosh HaShanah, we yearn to return to Hashem fully and regret all ways in which our thoughts, words, and actions, have distanced us from Hashem. We work over the next week on t’shuvah: regret and acknowledgment of the past, and resolve for the future. That brings us to Yom Kippur, the day of “yish’i” – our salvation – when Hashem forgives us and cleans the slate. After Yom Kippur ends, we are as connected to Hashem as we can be, having been forgiven and having spent 25 hours of pure focus on Hashem and our desire and yearning to love Him and stay connected with Him to our maximum potential.

Now let us take a step back to Elul. From the start of the month of Elul through Sukkos is a time of great love, favor, and compassion from Hashem. Why is that? The 40 days culminating in Yom Kippur are the days in which Moshe Rabbeinu went up to receive the second Luchos. He came down on Yom Kippur, indicating that B’nei Yisrael had been forgiven for the grave transgression of the golden calf. Over the ensuing days, forgiveness grew, to our once again finding favor before Hashem, and Sukkos and Sh’mini Atzeres became days of great love and joy.

“Ani l’dodi v’dodi li (I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine).” The opportunities available during these days are unique and unlike any other time. During these days, we can achieve, with even a modest effort, what we cannot accomplish the rest of the year, even with great effort. This is true in every aspect of our relationship and service to Hashem.

T’shuvah, Torah learning, tefilah, brachos, interpersonal relationships, chesed, and tz’dakah are just some examples of areas that are ripe for potential explosive growth if we take advantage of the phenomenal opportunities we have been granted, and utilize our time and focus during these days. We should consider putting all nonessential activities on hold until after Sukkos. If we had an opportunity over a relatively short time to earn millions of dollars, we would certainly put the rest of life on hold to the maximum extent possible, in order to capitalize on the opportunity before us, which would have a dramatic impact on the rest of our lives. All the more so, we need to capitalize on these days each year. If we do, our efforts will no doubt have a dramatic impact on our eternal lives.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe went so far as to advise his students, who were learning Torah, not to busy themselves to look for an esrog until after Yom Kippur, in order to maximize their efforts in Torah and tefilah. On the other hand, he advised them to utilize Erev Rosh HaShanah to call each other and wish each other a sweet year and ask for forgiveness. These were essential mitzvos to devote one’s full focus on during these days. We mention Rav Wolbe’s advice to stress the message, but not to learn practical halachah from them. Each individual should ask his or her rav/rebbi what is essential for them to devote their time and effort to in these precious days.

May we merit to maximize our potential in finding favor before Hashem and His other children, and in strengthening our connection with Him to the greatest extent possible for us.

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