In But A Moment
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo; Chai Elul, 5750

There are two significant sayings with which the Rebbe Rayatz described Chai Elul: "Chai Elul introduces chayus (life-energy) into the service of the month of Elul," and in particular, "Chai Elul introduces chayus into the service of ‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.’"

Each of the last twelve days of the year correspond to one of the twelve months. In these days, we are granted the potential to compensate for any deficiencies and elevate our conduct of these months. In this context, Chai Elul parallels the month of Tishrei.

From these statements, we see that Chai Elul is of general significance, adding chayus to Elul and affecting the entire year. Since Elul is the month of stocktaking and teshuva for the year, what is the nature of the addition of Chai Elul?

From the Rebbe Rayatz’s statement, it appears that the addition is one of chayus. Chai Elul infuses the service of Elul with energy and vitality. However, since we can assume that each Jew conducts himself in a proper manner, surely the entire Jewish people have carried out the service of Elul with energy, vitality, and joy, for these are fundamental principles in the service of G-d.

It would appear then that the Rebbe Rayatz’s statement indicates that from Chai Elul, a new phase of service begins. Although Elul is a month of stocktaking, from Chai Elul onward begins the "Elul of Elul." This relates to the new life-energy that Chai Elul introduces. This new energy not only adds vitality to the previous service, it initiates a new phase of service.

Elul is a month of general significance that includes the entire year and grants the potential to compensate for any deficiencies in our conduct of the previous year and elevate it to a higher rung. It is the month of preparation for the new year. Accordingly, the service carried out in Elul is of a general nature.

This is emphasized by the fact that the name Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning "I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine," which emphasize the bond of love between G-d and the Jewish people. This bond characterizes the relationship and is relevant in all times and places. The name of Elul is an acronym for verses reflecting the three pillars on which the world stands: Torah, service (prayer), and deeds of kindness, and similarly, services of a general nature, teshuva and Redemption, which further emphasize the all-encompassing nature of the month.

In Torah, there is an interrelation between general principles and their particular application. Every particular element is a reflection of the most general concepts. Since the world was created for the Torah, this concept is reflected in the world. Each point of time or space includes within itself time and space in its totality.

This concept is reinforced by the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that at each moment Creation is renewed. When G-d brought existence into being from total and absolute nothingness, the first moment of existence that He created included every moment that would follow. As G-d brings into being existence anew, every moment includes all previous and all subsequent moments of existence, just as the first moment of Creation included all time.

This concept clarifies a fundamental concept regarding teshuva. It is explained that in one moment a person can compensate for inadequacies in his behavior over many years. How is that possible? Each moment contains within it the totality of time and can thus alter the nature of the events that occurred previously. This concept, although true at all times, receives greater emphasis during the month of Elul, which is, as explained above, a month of general consequence.

Chai Elul contributes the dimension of chayus, life-energy. Chayus is not a particular element of one’s existence one can point to like one of the limbs of the body; it is by nature entirely above the body. Nevertheless, it clothes itself within the body, changing the nature of the body to the extent that the body itself becomes alive.

The relationship between the body and its life-energy is different from that of a particular element and the general category in which it is included. In the latter instance, there is an interrelation between the two. Indeed, as explained above, the entire general category can be reflected in a particular element. This is, however, no more than a reflection. There remains a difference between the particular entity and the general category.

But the relationship between the body and its life-energy is very different. The life-energy of the soul is of a totally different nature than the body. Nevertheless, the soul descends and clothes itself within the body to the extent that the body’s nature changes and not only the soul, but also the body, lives. The reason for this change is because the soul’s life-energy emanates from the essence. An essential quality permeates through everything and exists equally in all places. Therefore, all of a person’s being is affected by his life-energy.

On this basis we can understand the uniqueness of Chai Elul. It includes all the service of the Jewish people. Chai Elul emphasizes the chayus – life-energy – of that service, the bond between the Jewish people and G-d. For this reason, the twelve final days of the year beginning on Chai Elul represent a new phase of service. The stocktaking that began on Rosh Chodesh Elul focused on the particulars of one’s service in the three general services of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness, reviewing one’s thought, speech, and action. In contrast, the stocktaking that begins on Chai Elul focuses on the essence of a Jew’s connection to G-dliness and its expression in his behavior. We are not as concerned with the particular elements of service, but rather with the connection, the life-energy of our service.

This explains how one moment of teshuva can effect one’s entire past. We are focusing on the essence of the connection, its life-energy, and as explained above, an essential quality exists equally in every place. Each moment is connected with the essence and has an effect on one’s existence.

This enhances the significance of Chai Elul, for it corresponds to the month of Tishrei. The Hebrew letters for Tishrei can be rearranged to form the word reishis, which means "the head of." Chassidic thought explains that Rosh HaShana is called the "head of the year," to emphasize how, just as the head includes the life-energy for the entire body, Rosh HaShana includes the life-energy for the entire year. Similarly, Tishrei includes the life-energy for the entire year. Chai Elul, which compensates for and elevates the service of Tishrei, is thus intrinsically connected with the life-energy of the entire year.

The chayus of Elul — the love relationship with G-d, as expressed by the verse, "I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine" — is expressed in the service of prayer, a process of connection with G-d. This connection relates to G-d’s essence, as our Sages commented, "Pray to Him and not to His attributes." In contrast, deeds of kindness relates to G-d’s attribute of kindness and Torah study relates to G-d’s intellectual attributes. Through an increase in prayer, we are connected to G-d’s essence. To quote the second version of the Rebbe Rayatz’s adage, Chai Elul adds life to the service of "I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine." For this reason, it is customary even for Torah scholars to place greater emphasis on the service of prayer in this month…

2. The above concepts are also connected to this week’s Torah portion, which begins by mentioning the mitzva of bikkurim, the first fruits. Our Sages explain that the first fruits refer to the Jewish people, G-d’s first fruits, as it were. G-d’s conception of the Jewish people existed before the world, preceding even the Torah itself. Offering bikkurim represents developing a connection with that level, the source of the souls of the Jewish people, and brings about a connection with G-d. In this way bikkurim are related to the service of prayer. This explains the connection to the concepts of Chai Elul.

The mitzva of bikkurim is to be fulfilled "When you come into the land... take it as an inheritance, and settle within," alluding to the service of the Jewish people in refining the world. The epitome of this service is the transformation of the land of the seven Canaanite nations into Eretz Yisroel. This service will be completed in the Messianic age when, in addition to the lands of these seven nations, we will be granted the lands of the Keini, K’nizi, and Kadmoni.

The chayus introduced by Chai Elul is reflected in the parshiyos read in the weeks that follow. Parshas Nitzavim describes how the entire Jewish people, from the most elevated to the most simple, are standing all together, unified and as one, because they are one with G-d, establishing a covenant with Him.

This leads to VaYeilech, which grants the Jewish people the potential to proceed from strength to strength. Since G-d is totally unlimited, there is no limit to the bonds a Jew can establish with Him. We can — and should — continue to ascend level after level.

This leads to Parshas Haazinu, which according to our Sages describes a state in which one is close to Heaven and removed from the earth. Each Jew who realizes the essential connection he shares with G-d, can be close to Heaven.

From this we proceed to Parshas V’Zos HaBracha, "This is the blessing which Moshe...blessed the children of Israel," extending (for the word "bracha" can mean both blessing and extension) the influence of Moshe to all the Jewish people.

This generates the potential for Bereishis. A Jew becomes a partner with G-d in the work of creation, drawing down G-dliness into the world, revealing how the entire world depends on His creative potential. This refines the world and transforms it into a dwelling for G-d.

3. This Shabbos, we study the third and fourth chapters of Pirkei Avos. Not only are the chapters numbered three and four, they begin with teachings that emphasize these two numbers. Chapter three begins: "Reflect upon three things...," and chapter four begins by mentioning four categories that reflect the epitome of developed character traits.

The numbers three and four are of general significance for the Jewish people. We have three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs. Three and four equal seven, the number of branches in the menora, representative of the seven paths of service of G-d. The numbers three and four are connected with the service of the intellect. We possess three intellectual potentials (chochma, bina, and daas) and, at times, we speak of four potentials. Daas is counted as two since it is the source of the two general emotional categories, chesed and g’vura.

As a preface to both these chapters, we study the teaching, "All Israel have a portion in the World to Come, as it is written, ‘Your nation are all righteous...’" This teaching emphasizes the essential connection G-d shares with every Jew. It is because of this essential bond that "All Israel have a portion in the World to Come." This essential connection gives rise to the seven services alluded to in chapters three and four.

The above concepts must influence our behavior on the level of deed. From Chai Elul onward, the new life-energy drawn down in Elul must bring about an increase in all aspects of the service of Elul, allowing for a deeper dimension of correction and completion to be contributed to the service of the previous year.

It calls for an increase in prayer, for it is through this service that this essential connection is expressed. There should also be an increase in Torah study. Focus should be placed on the laws pertaining to Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos, and on the inner dimensions of the service of these holidays.

Also, in preparation for the coming festive season, efforts must be undertaken to ensure that every Jew is given his holiday needs so that the holidays can be celebrated in a manner of "eat succulent foods and drink sweet beverages." …

May the good resolutions made regarding the above lead to the fulfillment of the promise made at the beginning of the Torah reading, "When you will enter the land..." with the coming of Moshiach, who will lead the entire Jewish people back to Eretz Yisroel. This is particularly relevant at present, at the conclusion of "a year of miracles," as we prepare for a year when "I will show you wonders."



In one moment a person can compensate for inadequacies in his behavior over many years. How is that possible? Each moment contains within it the totality of time and can thus alter the nature of the events that occurred previously.




Chai Elul, which compensates for and elevates the service of Tishrei, is intrinsically connected with the life-energy of the entire year.


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