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A HAPPY ELUL
Teshuva is a happy thing. If you are doing Teshuva and you are not happy, you are not really cashing in on all your benefits. Happiness is what changes the evil decree of sin. Happiness is what brings upon you G-d’s mercy.
This is found in Rabbenu Bachye in this weeks parasha, at the end of the prayer of the one who brings his Bikurim to the Bet Hamikdash. שָׁמַ֗עְתִּי בְּקוֹל֙ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹקי עָשִׂ֕יתִי כְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּיתָֽנִי: I listened to what Hashem, my G-d, said; I did all that You commanded me. (Devarim 26 ) Rabbenu Bachye writes on these words: I listened to the voice of Hashem my G-d, by bringing the Bikurim, to the Bet Hamikdash. I did all that You commanded me, that I was happy and I made others happy.
How do our Rabbis infer that the words I did all that You commanded me means that I was happy and I made others happy? The answer is found in the word Kol ,all, as we find it elsewhere meaning happiness. ושמחת בכל הטוב. And you shall be happy with all the good. (Rabbenu Bachye) The secret to this happiness, the secret to making others happy, is hidden in the word “Kol”. When you realize that all you have is all that you are supposed to have, because G-d is G-d and you are just human, you can begin to be happy.
And then, Rabbenu Bachye says the most amazing thing. The passuk continues הַשְׁקִיפָה֩ מִמְּע֨וֹן קָדְשְׁךָ֜ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבָרֵ֤ךְ אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל (Devarim 26 15) Look down from the holy place in Heaven called Maon- the place where happiness is from, and bless Your nation, Yisrael. Rabbenu Bachye asks, isn’t the word השקיפה usually linked to G-d’s Attribute of Judgement, as we find וַֽיְהִי֙ בְּאַשְׁמֹ֣רֶת הַבֹּ֔קֶר וַיַּשְׁקֵ֤ף יְקֹוָק֙ אֶל־מַחֲנֵ֣ה מִצְרַ֔יִם… וַיַּשְׁקֵ֗ף עַל־פְּנֵ֤י סְדֹם֙ וַעֲמֹרָ֔ה? Why, over here, does it link with G-d’s Attribute of Mercy?
The answer is that when someone is happy, he accesses the Attribute of G-d of mercy, as he is connected to Maon, a different part of Heaven. R’ Nachman from Breslov is quoted as having said that happiness nullifies and prevents decrees from being enacted upon a person. This is seen in the Megilla. After having invited King Achashverosh and Haman to a special, festive meal, Esther was particular to make a second party, and only then did she make her accusation against Haman. Why should she not have spoken out against him in the first instance? Why was it necessary to have a second party?
At the first party, Haman was happy, and when someone is happy, suffering and evil decrees do not fall upon him. This is true even in regard to a Rasha. Once Haman became depressed for having suffered the disgrace of leading Mordechai around the city on the King’s horse, while Mordechai was wearing the Kings clothes – this put Haman in a position that made him vulnerable to his fall. Happiness is the way to change one Attribute of G-d to another.
So how am I supposed to be happy in Elul, when I am saying how wrong I was all year long?
This is something that is so important, so crucial for relationships. The words “I was wrong” when you make a mistake, have so much value. People shy away from admitting they were wrong, because it brings them down from their place of inflated ego, to a place of being human. This is the ultimate test of Rosh Hashana, how humble you really are, how bent over are you, how similar you are to the Shofar, with its bent over shape. But this is what Teshuva is really about, recognizing that you are just a human, and humans make mistakes, and only G-d can help you become better.
How great it is to become more humble, more human? How much calmer would that make us? How much more happy would we be, if would stop thinking that we are anything more than that?