Most of us have heard that during Elul the King is in the field. Yet, what does that really mean and what does it demand of me? If the King is in the field must I stop my work, clean my fingernails and change into my Shabbat dress to greet Him? Rabbi Sheur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad compares the Divine revelation during the month of Elul to a king that leaves His inner chambers of his royal palace and descends down into the field, to the lowest place. When the King is in his castle only special selected people merit to enter the King’s chamber. However, when the King exits the capital and goes to the field, towards the people, anyone can come meet Him and speak with Him. The King receives each one of us with love. All can approach Him. He shines His countenance to all (Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b). How does it affect me that the King in the field and no longer sits on his royal throne surrounded by his ministers and servants? This implies that if we’re interested, each one of us is free to receive the King’s face. There is only one thing that we need to do, that is to – that is to go out towards the King. To even notice that the King is in the field with us in the first place so we can take advantage of this special time, when the King is so very close for all – to approach Him.
I’d like to share a poem I wrote several years ago inspired by the atmosphere of the month of Elul describing how we can feel the King in the Field:
The King is in the Field
In the sweetness of the fig fresh from the tree
In the shade of the apple tree where I love to be
In the green plant-leaves of many shapes
In the juicy purple of the hidden grapes
The King is in the Field
In the black rich smelling organic soil
In the effort of the hoes during daily toil
In the dry thorns so easily hacked away
In the golden light draping the end of day
The King is in the Field
In the faint Shofar calling from afar
In the terrible news of impending war
In the gentle tug urging my heart to give
Reach out and pray that we all may live
Meeting the King in our Field of Work
We would think that the month of Elul, with its extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with the King and when the thirteen principles of mercy shine just as on Yom Kippur, would receive a special holiday status at least as a chol hamoed (half-holiday like the intermediate days of Pesach and Sukkot). The Admor Ha’Zakein explains that on Yom Kippur Hashem reveals Himself to us after we have prepared ourselves through prayer, fasting, repentance and good deeds, whereas during Elul Hashem reveals Himself in our current state, the way we are holding during a regular everyday weekday. Even within this state Hashem enables us to come close to Him. Everyone works in the field – be it the wheat field or cornfield, or the field of banking, steelmaking, medicine or politics. ‘The field’ represents the entire spectrum of our workday endeavors.
The Meeting Place for Holiness of Time and Space
The metaphor of the King being in the field also emphasizes the importance of work (action) – the ‘sense’ of the month of Elul. In the field, one works. The works connected with making bread are done in the field. Interestingly, these very works and all other works connected with creating a sanctuary for Hashem (The Mishkan) are specifically those prohibited on Shabbat. These are the very works that create holiness of space. Although, in reality, even the mundane realm is holy, as its purpose is to create a dwelling place for G-d in the lower world, nevertheless, during Shabbat and holidays, the dimension of holiness of time supersedes the holiness of space. The reason for this is that when we’re in the midst of our everyday pursuits we may be carried away by the mundane material reality in which we operate. We may forget that whatever physical work we do, it’s all about creating a sanctuary for Hashem. Throughout the year we need Shabbat and the holidays to remind us about our holy pursuit even during our mundane workweek. In this way the lights of Shabbat and the holidays also shine into our daily day and illuminate it. During the month of Elul when the King comes to the field, the holiness of time and space unite. The true essential underlying holiness within even this physical world becomes that much more accessible during the month of Elul. When the King visits us in our mundane work field, the material trappings of life no longer conceal and distort its purpose. In contrast to Shabbat and holy days, when we are elevated above and beyond our workday lives, the encounter of Elul is hosted by our physical selves, within our material environment, on our workingman’s terms. Only during the month of Elul we can greet the King in our work clothes with our dirty fingernails! (Based on Rabbi, Menachem Mendel Shneerson, Sefer HaSichot 5750, vol. II, pp. 642-648 Elul 4, 5750 (August 25, 1990). Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
Opening the Gate of Righteousness and the Door of Return
According to Arizal when you spell out each of the letters of the name א-ד-נ-י /adni you get 12 letters one for each of the months of the year. The first letter alef is spelled out אלף/alef, lamed, peh. The first month Nissan receives the alef, lamed for Iyar and peh for Sivan. The second letter דלת/dalet, lamed, taf connects to the following three months: Tamuz receives dalet, Av, lamed and Elul taf. The two letters for the months of Tamuz and Av spell together דל/dal – poor. During our bitter exile, these months are poor while lacking in holidays they include only days of fasting and mourning. However, when you join the month of Elul to the month of Tamuz and Av, the word דל/dal – poor turns into the word דלת/delet – door. During Elul the door is open to those who return to Hashem in teshuvah. This is why the days of Elul are days of goodwill even within our poverty as it states, “I will extol You, Hashem, for דליתני /dalitani – you have raised me up, and not allowed my enemies to rejoice over me” (Tehillim 30:2). The word for “raised me up” דליתני /dalitani is connected with the word for ‘door’ – דלת/delet. During Elul we thank Hashem for opening the door from the poverty of the oppression of our enemies. This verse furthermore alludes to the fact that when the months of the year were divided between Ya’acov and Esav, Tamuz, Av and Elul fell into the portion of Esav. This made him very happy as he thereby thought to block the way of teshuvah for Ya’acov and his descendants. Ya’acov worked hard to extrapolate the month of Elul from Esav’s grip. When he finally succeeded to open the month of Elul for teshuvah he rejoiced with this verse on his lips (B’nei Yissaschar, Article for Tamuz and Av 1:6). The letter ת/taf is a feminine letter connected with actions in the lower world. When this letter completes the word דלת/delet – door, it is associated with tzedakka and good deeds of welcoming guests as it states, “The stranger did not lodge in the street; I opened the doors to the guest” (Iyov 31:32).
The sense of Tamuz is ראיה/re’eya – seeing, and of Av is שמיעה-she’miah – hearing. Together these two words make up the acronym of רש/rash – destitute. During Shelichot prayers we say: “ כְּדַלִּים וּכְרָשִׁים דָּפַקְנוּ דְלָתֶיךָ – k’dalim u’k’rashim dafaknu d’lateicha – like poor and destitute we knocked on Your doors.” We emerge from the poor and destitute months of Tamuz and Av, and enter the door of Elul with utmost humility. Here something really neat happens, if we add the first letter of the ‘sense’ of the month of Elul, עשיה/asiyah – action to the acronym of the senses of Tamuz and Av רש/rash – destitute, we get the word שער/sha’ar – gate (B’nei Yissaschar, Article for the Month of Elul 1:8). May Hashem open the gate of righteousness for us during this month of Elul!
The King is in the Energy Field
As a spiritual energy healer, it strikes me whenever we say, “The King is in the Field,” that is must refer to the energy field that surrounds us all. These energy fields are another name for our seven surrounding auras. (Note the word ‘aura’ emanates from the Hebrew word ‘אוֹר/Ohr – light). Each aura corresponds to one of the lower sefirot. The last aura that surrounds the other six auras corresponds to the highest sefira of Keter. It is interestingly enough called the The Ketheric Template Layer or Causal Layer which is the link to Hashem, connecting us to all knowledge. This layer protects and holds all other aura layers together, and contains the blueprint of our spiritual path, reflecting all of the soul’s experiences and events throughout time. During the month of Elul our personal energy field – our higher spiritual selves – gets a special illumination. This means that we have a unique ability to connect with our spiritual goals during the month of Elul, and align ourselves with our higher selves. In addition, it implies that the month of Elul is a special מסוגל/mesugal – exceptional time suitable for spiritual healing. During this month when the King is in our Energy Field and we are aligned with our soul, we have a special gift for tuning in to our spiritual intuition and get true answers from within. Our soul always knows the deepest truth. It’s just that it is often blocked by fears, and other negative emotions. During Elul, when the King is in the Energy Field, we have the special opportunity to release emotional and spiritual blocks in order to access the depth of our neshamah (soul), the part within us intrinsically linked to Hashem. In Elul both the gate and door is wide open. Let us take advantage of this exceptional time to heal ourselves and our loved ones during the auspicious month of Elul.