ELUL: THE MONTH OF COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS
The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei
"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture its [people as] captives. And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form... And she shall shave her head and she shall do (i.e., either cut or grow) her nails...And she shall remove the garment of her captivity...And she shall weep for her father and for her mother for a full month..." (Devorim 21:10-13)
Rashi says that the Torah text is speaking about an optional war. It is written in the name of the Arizal that the Torah text is hinting about a Baal Teshuva (someone who is repentant for his past sins). When a man returns in repentance to Hashem, he will "go out to war against his enemies"; the enemies being hinted at here are his evil inclination and the limbs of his body. "And Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand (Devorim 21:10)"; that is, Hashem will deliver your evil inclination into your hand. Then, "you will capture its captive (Devorim 21:10)"; this means that you will gain control over the limbs of your body. "And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form (Devorim 21:11)"; this refers to the Neshama, the soul. "And she shall shave her head (Devorim 21:12); she (the soul) will remove from herself false beliefs. "And she shall do (cut or grow) her nails (Devorim 21:12)"; this refers to removing and preventing unnecessary luxuries. "And she shall remove the garment of her captivity (Devorim 21:13)"; this is the garment which was made from the acts of the sins that he did, as is written (in Zechariah 3:4): "Remove the soiled garments from upon him, and then he said to him: Behold! I have removed your iniquity from upon you". And afterwards it says, "And she shall weep for her father and for her mother"; her father refers to the Holy One Blessed Be He, and her mother refers to the congregation of Israel (See Berachot 38). "For a full month (Devorim 21:13)"; this is the month of Elul (according to the Zohar Chadash). For the entire month of Elul one needs to cry about his sins since because of them he is separated from his father -- the Holy One Blessed Be He, and his mother -- the congregation of Israel.
"And you shall destroy the evil from within the midst of you, and all Israel shall hear and they shall fear." (Devorim 21:21)
Someone who wants his words to have influence, first he needs to fix himself, and afterwards others will accept his words.
"Remember what Amalek did to you..." (Devorim 25:17)
Before the remembrance of Amalek, it is written about the remembrance of what happened to Miriam: "Remember what Hashem Elokecha did to Miriam...." (Devorim 24:9) The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) explain why these two remembrances are close to one another in the Torah. It is to tell us, that just as we like to beautify the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek by listening to the Torah Portion of Zachor about Amalek, so too we should beautify the Mitzvah of remembering the story about Miriam, by not speaking or listening to Lashon Hara (derogatory speech).
Regarding the Days of Judgment
"Elokim has ascended with a blast, Hashem, with the sound of the Shofar." (Tehillim 47:6)
It is known that the name Hashem is associated with the trait of Mercy and Compassion, and the name Elokim is associated with the trait of strict Justice. Thus, the explanation of this verse is that "Elokim has ascended", that is, the trait of strict Justice is exchanged by means of the Shofar to Hashem, which is the trait of Mercy and Compassion.
"Had I not (in Hebrew: Lulei) believed that I would see the goodness of Hashem..." (Tehillim 27:13)
The first word of this verse in Hebrew is "Lulei", which has the same Hebrew letters as the month of Elul. The implication is that in the month of Elul, we need to strengthen ourselves in faith.
The Rambam on the Shofar
Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev on the Shofar
It is said that Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev remarked after the sounding of the Shofar: we blew 200 Shofar blasts on two days (of Rosh Hashana), and we are requesting from the Holy One Blessed Be He only one Shofar blast, and that is the Shofar of Moshiach who will be revealed speedily in our days Amen.
"...He walks along weeping as he carries the bag of seed, he will come with joyous song as he carries his sheaves." (Tehillim 126:6)
The Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) explain: "He walks along weeping"-- if a man grumbles and has complaints, then "he carries the bag of seed", that is, he receives a small package. "He will come with joyous song" -- if a man is happy with his portion, then "he carries his sheaves", that is, he will receive great abundance.
The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei has 110 verses. 27 positive commandments. 47 negative commandments.Haftora: "Rani Akara" followed by "Ania Soara" (Yishayahu 54).
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom.
May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.