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“Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li…”
[Likkutei Torah p. 32]
This Mamar is the famous Mamar of the Alter Rebbe on the acronym, Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li. This is the verse that a Jew lives and breathes throughout the month of Elul, and it serves as the preparatory Avoda for the month of Tishrei and the High Holidays contained within it. It is the verse that breathes life into Elul and changes the perspective towards it, turning it from a month of fear, trepidation, and downheartedness from the upcoming judgment, to a month of joy and excitement to once again be with our King. It is the Chassidic medicine that the Baal Shem Tov injected into this holy month. What is the meaning of this statement? Is it merely a poetic, romantic, proverb that touches the heart or is it a demanding style of life-changing service of G-d? The Alter Rebbe delves into the meaning of this statement and the Avoda demanded from a Jew during this special month. Through doing so, he explains the great advantage of revelation that occurs during this month as Hashem’s way of encouraging each Jew to perform the life-changing service of Him. Every person desires to know in what way he can enter into the New Year as a better Jew and a better person, and secure for himself G-d’s blessing in all of his physical and spiritual needs. This Mamar is the formula to accomplish just that. It is, however, left to us to implement and live in accordance to its message. Doing so will surely secure each and every Jew with a Kesiva Vechasima Tova, that he will be written and sealed in the Book of Life of spiritual and physical blessing. Amen!
Explorations of the Mamar
1. What is the Avoda demanded of us in the month of Elul?
2. How do we stimulate our relationship with Hashem and arouse Him to embrace us and show us revealed love?
3. What revelation do we experience in this month?
4. How does the parable of the King in the field practically relate to us today?
Why are there no Mamarim of Likkutei Torah in Parshas Shoftim?
The Parsha of Shoftim does not contain any Mamarim printed in Likkutei Torah. The Parsha of Re’eh, however, contains many Mamarim, including the Mamarim relevant to the month of Elul. This is especially peculiar, being that in truth the Alter Rebbe did say Mamarim on the Parsha of Shoftim. These Mamarim were later printed within the Derushim of the Tzemach Tzedek and the Mittler Rebbe. Hence it seems that the Mamarim in Shoftim were purposely omitted. The explanation is as follows: The Mamar of Ani Ledodi is printed on page 32 לב in Likkutei Torah. This signifies that it is the heart of Likkutei Torah on Sefer Devarim. It represents the idea of Ahavas Yisrael. This is because the entire idea of the month of Elul is that Hashem comes to the field and greets every Jew equally. There is no differentiation between levels of Jews, and every Jew has an equal chance to greet the King and unite with Him. This is because in this month, the essence and internal part of the G-dly soul are revealed in each Jew and regarding this inner aspect we are all equal. This is the heart of the Jewish people, and for this reason the Mamar is on page 32, which is the numerical value of “Heart”. This is also the meaning behind why this Mamar is brought in Parshas Re’eh, as the blessing of Re’eh represents the blessing that each Jew receives as access to the inner part of the G-dly soul. This is also the reason why there are no Mamarim printed in Shoftim, as the idea of Shoftim [judges, policemen, defendants] represents the various ranks within Jewish society. This contradicts the theme of Elul, in which unity and equality are its premise.
Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li:
Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li is a verse from Shir Hashirim. The Abudarham writes that the above verse is the acronym for the word אלול, thus teaching us that the meaning behind this verse is the message of this month.
The Avoda of Elul-In Elul, Hashem demands a Jew to stimulate his relationship with Him:
The term אני לדודי is the expression of a Jew’s intimate relationship with G-d. Ani Ledodi refers to the Divine service performed by a Jew to become closer to G-d. This refers to the Divine service of a Jew in arousing his inner love and fear for G-d during this month. This form of service is defined as an אתערותא דלתתא [arousal from below] and it is the Divine service that affects the relationship Hashem will decree to have with us on the upcoming Rosh Hashanah. The next part of the acronym, ודודי לי, refers to an אתערותא דלעילא, an arousal from above, from G-d, to draw down and reveal G-dliness below. This revelation takes place on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Thus Elul is the aspect of אני לדודי, while Rosh Hashanah is the aspect of ודודי לי, and it is the Avoda of a Jew in his Ani Ledodi, in his Divine service, that affects the Vedodi Li. Thus in this month, a Jew is to initiate the first steps in his relationship with Hashem and this will then be met by Hashem greeting the Jew in return. [This is in contrast to a different verse recited by Shlomo in Shir Hashirim of “Vedodi Li Ve’ani Lo”. This verse refers to the month of Nissan and represents the initiation of the relationship by Hashem and the reciprocal arousal it then creates within the Jew. This was represented in Nissan by Hashem revealing Himself to us with all His might and glory, which aroused within us a deep love and desire to cleave to Him. Thus while Nissan represents the Avoda of Hashem to stimulate us to love Him, the month of Elul represents the Avoda of Bnei Yisrael to stimulate Hashem, so to say, to reveal His love to us.]
The effect of our Avoda in Elul-The revelation of Kingship on Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur:
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is a revelation of G-dliness that is drawn down into the lower worlds, as stated in the verse, Semolo Tachas Leroshi. From Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, we experience the level of Semolo, which is a fear and awe of G-d that is aroused due to the revelation of His Kingship. It is for this reason that we refer to Hashem as the King during this time, as this is when all the worlds feel His Kingship and are aroused in fear to the point that even the hidden worlds that experience great closeness to G-d are taken aback with awe and trepidation. This revelation of His Kingship also affects the Jewish soul below to accept Hashem’s Kingship and sovereignty [Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim] and leaves a lasting fear and awe of Hashem throughout the entire year.
Our love and fear of the entire year is dependent on Rosh Hashanah: The reason why this revelation of fear is needed, and it’s not enough for a person to arouse it on his own, is because the love and fear of G-d that one has throughout the year cannot be aroused solely through one’s own efforts as it does not exist on its own in one’s heart. Rather, it must be originally drawn into one’s heart on Rosh Hashanah from the ray of G-dliness that is revealed at that time, and commensurate to that revelation is one’s ability to arouse his love and fear of G-d throughout the year.
Why do we need a revelation each year in order to arouse love and fear of G-d? If one was not successful in arousing love and fear of Him in the past year, is that a sign that he failed to receive this revelation on Rosh Hashanah?
The necessity to receive an empowering revelation on Rosh Hashanah for one’s potential love and fear of G-d for the coming year can be explained as follows: In a relationship, the only way of keeping the feelings shared between the two parties fresh and active is through having constant renewal of the friendship and closeness that they experience together. All relationships that see a lack of contact of friendship and closeness begin to dwindle and decline until the feelings are almost forgotten and lie dormant as a memory in the storage of the soul’s past history. This applies in all types of relationships, whether it be siblings, parents, friends, relatives, or spouses. The same applies with our relationship with Hashem. If the friendship and closeness to Him is not renewed and rekindled, we will be unable to arouse true feelings for Him, and these feelings will remain dormant as a past memory. Rosh Hashanah is the time of the year when we receive special attention of closeness and bonding with Hashem. It is this revelation that enters our soul and rekindles its feelings, emotions, and longing for Him. This experience remains fresh in the soul for the entire year, similar to one who received a letter of closeness and friendship from a relative, and this letter remains fresh in his memory and heart for quite some time. Nevertheless, this feeling that has been renewed within us on Rosh Hashanah requires constant refreshing throughout the year. This is accomplished through the contemplation of matters that arouse our love for G-d. Thus, while Rosh Hashanah empowers the soul with the experience of closeness and love and fear of G-d, it is daily contemplation that brings those feelings to the forefront of our heart.
The preparation in Elul-arousing love and fear:
The above revelation on Rosh Hashanah is the reciprocal reaction of Hashem-Vedodi Li– towards the stimulation that we toiled to create in the month of Elul. Therefore, as one’s service of G-d in Elul is a preparation for drawing down this love and fear on Rosh Hashanah, the אתערותא דלעילא, which is the commensurate form of Avoda required in Elul, is for a Jew to toil to arouse within himself a love and fear for Him. [The above information provokes the following question: Every Jew knows his spiritual state and standing from his previous year. We are aware of our sins and lack of attentiveness that we gave to G-d. How are we suddenly to begin serving Him with love, fear, and excitement? How can we be expected to do all the work to rebuild the relationship when we feel so far and distanced? It seems almost unfair and unrealistic to demand from us, in our current spiritual state, to do all the work and stimulation of the relationship, and then, based on that, Hashem will respond. It is this question that the Alter Rebbe now attends to in the Mamar, and explains that in truth Hashem does give us a bolt of motivation for us to do our Avoda.]
The revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of mercy:
It states in Mishnas Chassidim and Peri Eitz Chaim that in the month of Elul, G-d reveals His Thirteen Attributes of mercy. Although the month of Elul, as explained above, emphasizes the service of man towards G-d, which then elicits a revelation from above in the month of Tishrei, nevertheless being that every service done below (אתעדל”ת) must have its potential elicited from above (אתעדל”ע), therefore in this month G-d reveals His Thirteen Attributes of mercy towards man in order to give him the potential to do his service of the month. Thus even those people who are in a very distanced state from spirituality and G-d, now are given the potential to make amends for their wrongdoing and reunite with Him.
Represents a loving unity with G-d: The Thirteen Attributes of mercy represent not only a revelation of G-d’s will to forgive even the most severe sins, but mainly a revelation of the most internal level of His radiance termed פנמיות אא”ס. This radiance is represented by the first of the Thirteen Attributes, the name א-ל. So too, each and every Jew also has an aspect of שם א-ל within him, this being his G-dly spark that enlivens his G-dly soul. This is the reason why we are called י-שר-א-ל, as the name represents that our level of א-ל is constantly within us and retains its holiness even after it has been brought down by man into impurity due to his sins. Thus by one revealing his level of א-ל in the month of Elul, he brings about a unity of his most inner self with the highest level of G-dliness.
The fact that Hashem reveals His Thirteen Attributes of mercy during Elul raises a number of questions:
- If Hashem elicits a great revelation of His Thirteen Attributes in Elul, how can we say that this is the month in which man initiates his relationship with Hashem? It is not Ani Ledodi and then Vedodi Li, but rather Vedodi Li and then Ve’ani Lo, which is the Avoda of Nissan. The above statement in Mishnas Chassidim completely contradicts the entire theme of this month!
- If Elul has the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of mercy, then why is this month not a Holiday on which the performance of Melacha is forbidden, as on any other Holiday? The other holidays, which have an even lower revelation of G-dliness, also prohibit the performance of Melacha due to their revelation. So this should certainly apply to Elul. Furthermore, on Yom Kippur there is also a revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of mercy, so what is the difference between Elul and Yom Kippur?
The following famous parable of the King in the field is thus given by Admur in order to answer these queries.
The Parable of the “King In The Field”:
The abovementioned points regarding the month of Elul and its effect on the revelations of the month of Tishrei are explained by a parable. When a king sits on his throne, only a very select few may enter his inner chambers and bask in the king’s presence. However, when the king decides to descend from his throne and visit the fields of his kingdom, every man and woman is then given the chance to greet the king despite being common folk. All that is required of them is to leave their city and enter the field to greet the king. The king then shows his subjects פנים מאירות ופנים שוחקות [a shining face], and when he returns to his throne all those who came to greet him are given permission to follow. This parable is an exact analysis of the events of the month of Elul and of Tishrei.
The King Descends To The field-A revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of mercy: In Elul, G-d reveals His Thirteen Attributes of mercy to all. This corresponds to the king descending from his throne and giving the ability to greet him to all his subjects. Just as when he is in the field, the king does not come with all of his external glory and majesty but rather in a simplistic way, which does not arouse awe and trepidation towards his subjects but only gives his subjects the ability to greet him, so too this revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of mercy does not arouse one to fear or accept G-d’s Kingship, but simply gives him the potential and will to accept it. This part of the parable explains that despite there being a great revelation in Elul, it is still termed a month of אתדל”ת, of man’s service of G-d, as this revelation does not arouse him to do the service and the arousal must be brought about through man’s own initiative.
Going out to the field-Kabbalas Ol: Going out into the fields in the parable represents the people accepting the yolk of Kingship [Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim]. It shows that they truly feel His power and awesomeness, and therefore they go out to greet Him. Similarly, during the month of Elul, the main service is accepting the yolk of heaven, which is the beginning and main aspect of Teshuvah.
Why the month of Elul is not a Holiday: The above parable answers why the month of Elul is not termed a holiday when Melacha is forbidden. This is answered by the parable’s statement that the king is entering the field. It means that the king is descending to the level of his people, even towards those of a lower occupation such as those who work in the fields. This represents that in Elul G-d reveals His Thirteen Attributes of mercy to all, even to those who are involved in the mundane aspects of the world. It is for this reason that Elul remains a typical month that remains permitted for one to perform Melacha, and is not a holiday that forbids work, as this is the exact emphasis of the revelation. Furthermore, there is an advantage in the “work of the field” over even those that are occupied in constant Torah learning, as through using the matters of the physical world to serve G-d, and seeing the providence and light of G-d in all one’s mundane activities, he elevates those matters towards G-d, thus fulfilling the Divine purpose of Creation, which was to make an abode for G-d within the physical world. The difference between Yom Kippur and Elul is also understood, as during Elul the Thirteen Attributes descend towards our level, while on Yom Kippur we are elevated to their level, as is seen from the fact that we try to emulate angels and refrain from all physical acts such as eating and drinking, etc.
Once greeted, the King then shows his subjects a shining countenance-An arousal of delight for G-dliness and a desire to cleave to Him: Once one has done his service of acceptance of G-d as his King and Lord, he then receives the full revelation of the Thirteen attributes of mercy which, as already explained above, is an arousal of one’s most inner level of his G-dly soul. This arouses one to have a strong desire to cleave to G-d and thus repent for any wrongdoing from the most inner depths of his soul.
The correct form of Kabbalas Ol:
It was explained above, based on the parable of greeting the king in the field, that the Avoda required during this month is Kabbalas Ol. How does one perform Kabbalas Ol? Must he perform a complete changeover in his character and actions, becoming a saint overnight? Certainly, it cannot be expected for someone to take upon himself a sudden changeover of lifestyle in moments. Rather, what is demanded of us in this month is to create a path of improvement and begin implementing the very small changes that we took upon ourselves as the first steps towards this path. It is specifically when we go out of our way to do an action that G-d asks of us that this shows we truly accept His Kingship, and that His Sovereignty has penetrated us to the point that we are willing to give up some of our time and life to do His will. Practically speaking, in this month it is upon each person to ponder which areas are in need of spiritual improvement. A change is demanded from each one of us, since it is this change that fully expresses that we have accepted G-d’s sovereignty, His Kingship, and His commands.
Lessons of the Mamar
· Think of the great opportunities presented this month, and how Hashem Himself has come to our city and is personally waiting for us to come and greet Him.
· Take time this month to ponder your relationship with Hashem and think of ways to initiate your relationship with Him. Make a good resolution with the intent of having G-d as your receiving partner.
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 Many of the explanations and clarifications that have been blended into the Mamar are derived from the various Mamarim of the Rebbe on this Mamar. These Mamarim can be found in the new Melukat Mamarim on Elul.
 Mamar Ani Ledodi 1986 [printed in New Melukat p. 231]
 Sefer Hamamarim Melukat-Elul p. 224 [Mamar Parshas Shoftim 1972]; Sefer Hamamarim 1940 p. 166
 Vetzaruch Iyun, as above the Alter Rebbe says that the service of Elul is to arouse one’s love and fear. One must thus conclude that although this is also required in Elul, the main Avoda of Elul is Kabbalas Ol and fear of Heaven.