By Rivki Silver
Every year Elul arrives, and every year I vow (bli neder, calm down) that I will not squander this incredible opportunity.
We know that this time of year is an eis ratzon, when the King is in the field. Hashem is, so to speak, walking among us, close enough that we can simply reach out to Him and express our deepest desire for closeness and connection, to improve and prepare ourselves for the awesome days coming upon us.
And yet, every year I am inundated with the whirlwind of the end of summer/back to school/planning for the marathon that is Tishrei. Despite all my good intentions, I too frequently arrive at the Yom HaDin feeling barely prepared spiritually.
While I’m not giving up on my dream of doing a more thorough cheshbon hanefesh this year, I take comfort in a message from Psalm 27, the perek that we recite from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Hoshana Raba.
The fourth pasuk in this famous chapter says “One thing I ask of Hashem, only this will I seek – that I may dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of Hashem and to visit His home every morning.”
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh explains that “Shivtei Baveis Hashem,” to dwell in the house of Hashem, cannot mean a physical dwelling in the actual house of Hashem, since no one was constantly in the Beis Hamikdash. Rather, the phrase describes the concept of a life lived in pursuit of mitzvos, which can make any place a Divine sanctuary.
Dovid HaMelech’s goal is that “Kol Yemei Chayai,” all the days of his life, he wants to be plugged into the concept of dwelling in the House of Hashem everywhere and at all times.
I find this comforting. While I am trying to keep up with my ever-growing to-do list, busy in the kitchen, laundry room, driving carpools, and meeting my work deadlines, I’m not just doing activities instead of preparing for Elul.
Rather than viewing these tasks as impediments to preparing for the Days of Awe, I can reframe these activities as avodas haKodesh, holy work that I am doing building my Jewish home, my mikdash me’at. They are opportunities to contemplate how the past year has gone, to reflect on what went well, what I’d like to improve, what I would love to have occur next year.
Judaism doesn’t limit spirituality to only certain places or certain days of the week (though certainly there are times and places that are distinctly kadosh), but encourages us to elevate all our mundane activities. We can infuse whatever “mundane” activities we are busy with this month, whether domestic responsibilities, school, or work, with the attitude of “Shivtei Baveis Hashem,” to bring the House of Hashem with us in all our interactions, and through this, develop the appropriate mindset for the important days ahead.