We’ve begun the month of Elul this past week. Elul is the last month before judgment. Next month comes Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when each member of mankind is judged for past year’s actions and decrees are written for the upcoming new year. Elul is the acronym for “Anee L’dodee V’dodee Lee” [“I am for my Beloved’s and my Beloved is for me”]. Elul is a time of closer connection w/ G-d.
Concept of Jewish Calendar: Ma’agal Hashana – the wheel of the year. Based on past events, time has significance. We don’t merely commemorate past events in Judaism (as does secular society in things like July Fourth). Rather, Jews know that certain times have certain powers. Elul in history was right after the Golden Calf incident and after Moshe had set things right by punishing the instigators. When the Jews had messed up big time, Moshe broke the set of Luchos [tablets with Ten Commandments] to have the destruction be transferred from the people to an inanimate object. G-d wanted to wipe out our entire nation and only leave Moshe alive. Moshe begged Hashem to forgive the Jews. Hashem agreed – and Moshe goes back up to Heavens for another forty days. He leaves Rosh Chodesh Elul [first day of the month of Elul] and returns Yom Kippur. So, in history, this time was a time of G-d giving us a second chance and forgiving us despite our horrible mistake. Therefore, in every generation, this time of the year is a time to get a second chance from Hashem, to move past any mistakes we make.
If you get called into traffic court for speeding and you have a whole list of outstanding other parking tickets you didn’t yet pay, it would be smart to pay off all the tickets before standing in front of the judge. It would give more of a chance for the judge to be lenient if you took care of everything else. That is why we would be stupid not to use Elul to try to clear up our mistakes- -we know we have a judgment day in a month – before seeing the Judge and getting judged it is easier to take care of past mistakes.
Teshuva [repentance] – how do you do it? Teshuva means to return – return to the state of innocence your soul was in before you did the wrong deeds. According to the Rambam there are four steps to the repentance process: leave the sin, regret the sin, admit (must speak) the sin, and take upon yourself not to do it again.
For sins between man and man, there are additional steps – you must right the wrong (if you stole, you must give back money, etc) and you must ask the person for forgiveness. G-d will not forgive, if the person you harmed does not forgive.