Ratzon Part 2
SOME INTRO WORDS
About a month ago I did Ratzon Part 1, on topics relating to the 3 weeks between Tammuz and Av. We talked about certain aspects of Ratzon, the essence of it, how nothing stands in its way, a little bit about how to achieve it, the fundamentals, how important it is, and some of the applications of it.
Now we’re going to consider Ratzon and the period of Elul, which is a whole different type of Ratzon.
I’ll be drawing in Rabbi Tsvi Meyer Zilberberg’s teachings as well as my own, and adding in teaching from various other sources, too. This is a little different version of what Ratzon is all about, focused on Elul Ratzon in particular.
THE RATZON FACTOR OF ELUL
The month of Elul is the month of Creation of the world. The actual day of Creation of the world happens on the 25th of Elul, according to the Kabbalists. At that time the six days of Creation occurred, right up to Rosh Hashanah, when Adam is said to have been created.
Everything that comes before those final days of Elul is a time that went up into the will or Ratzon of G-d to create the world, meaning that time itself visited the will of G-d. Therefore, the month itself is very connected to the desire for Creation. It’s the wanting, the Ratzon, and it’s in the air. Ratzon is the time zone we can plug into.
Let me step back for a moment, to a time before Creation. There was the primal or primary creation of all of existence, called the constriction or Tzim-Tzum. This principle is also based on Ratzon, and it went up into the will of G-d, who then moved his presence from a certain place in order to make room for the the world. What was left was his omnipresence, a void, and nature abhors a void, and that void is essentially the Ratzon desire.
Ratzon means something is missing, so there’s a void. And it’s that void pushing us, driving us to fill it up. This is a primal feature of Creation – the void and the filling-up of the void corresponds to the male/female principle as well, but in this context we’re discussing, it corresponds to desire, to Ratzon.
That’s what’s opening up to us this month of Elul, which is a very interesting time. Relative to the New Year, it’s the last month of the old Jewish year, and it parallels the end of the previous week and the coming into the new week. The very last thing we do in the last hour of Shabbat is called the Third Meal, or in Kabbalistic terms it’s called the Will of Wills time. We go up, we elevate to the highest Sephirotic time of Ratzon. And that new week is pregnant with the new week that’s coming into being.
We have the power to determine what that new week will be. We take root of Shabbat, which is the root or the source of everything that will come in the new week, and it’s drawn in there along with sort of a bittersweetness. It’s sort of melancholy because we feel Shabbat at its highest and we feel the new week coming in, and we lose our elevated state. We feel the transition, the contrast, as we feel the transition to the new week.
That’s what we feel during Elul, too, the old year fading out and making way for a new year. That opens up our Ratzon because we feel that contrast, that transition into something new. That opens up our Ratzon, or the higher-level filling-up of our calling, our mission in this life. It’s when we plug in and get the clear messages we are meant to receive at that time.
So, Elul is the Third Meal, or the end of Shabbat for the year, going into the new year.
MORE ABOUT ELUL
In addition, the month of Elul… look at all the portions in the Torah we read during Elul. We see that Moses is doing a review in all of them. Moses is reviewing all the episodes the Jews experienced in their stay in the desert. And his review corresponds to what we are meant to be doing. We are meant to be reviewing our year and all the highlights of our year, sort of an inventory of what we did right and wrong, and what we need and want to do.
So, in that sense, Elul is primed for Ratzon. And, as we know, there were three times Moses went up to the mountain for a 40-day period of no eating, drinking or sleeping. During the last of those 40-day periods began the month of Elul, and lasted until Yom Kippur, the day Moses received forgiveness for the Golden Calf. Yom Kippur is the day of forgiveness, the day of atonement. So, those are days of forgiveness and compassion. They are days of G-d finding Ratzon or desire in us, thereby opening up a way for us to find desire in G-d as well.
There are a number of verses that characterize Elul. Maybe the most important one is Ani l’Dodi l’Dodi Li, “I am my beloved and my beloved is to me.” It’s a verse from King Solomon and it’s about the mutual love affair between us and G-d. It’s the acronym for the month of Elul, the time when we connect-up with G-d, during those days. That verse reminds us that Elul is the time when we can synchronize our will with G-d’s will.
There are verses about longing, “my soul is thirsty for you,” and “G-d is my shepherd, I shall not want,” a Psalm we say at the end of Shabbat. It’s appropriate for Elul as well.
We also say the verses including the 13 characteristics of compassion that we say during the entire month of Elul, especially during the slichot period, which is when G-d told Moses to say the 13 characteristics of compassion and your prayers will be answered.
This opens up Elul Ratzon as well.
Elul is a time of higher-level wantings, a time of getting to the core of what we’re here for, what we want to do. And it’s a preparation period for the new year when we go into Rosh Hashanah. Our Sages say, “Take with you words, take with you a plan and a path, if you want things to happen in your year. That’s what we should bring with us from Elul into the new year.
Elul is a blessed time when we can get clarity on who we are, what we are, what we’ve done right and wrong, what we want to change and what we want to become, going into our new year. So, this is Elul Ratzon. That’s what it’s all about.
HOW DO WE GET RATZON?
How do we get to the essence of Ratzon? The first thing we have to do is yearn, basically. Ratzon is all about desire, all about wanting. It’s about making simple lists of yearnings and praying for it. And we need to understand that, like anything else, we are the last of the generations, the weakest in many ways, the most burnt-out in many ways.
But because of that, because it’s so difficult for us and because we suffer so much, every little, tiny baby step we take moves worlds. Each step is more important than major steps taken in previous generations. So, wanting, and plugging into Ratzon is very, very important. Because Ratzon is so important, there is a huge, evil impulse to not do it, to forget about it, to play it down. Most people can remember the experience of Elul as being distracted, being full of distractions to do anything but want.
The Yetzer Hara will let you do anything but desire and have clarity about who you are and where you want to go in your life. It will give you anything, even to be a righteous person for G-d, but it won’t let you figure out what you want in this life because that’s where the “big money” is, what the real Elul is all about. We have to understand what we’re fighting and what we’re up against.
And we need to make a list, gathering together our greatest highlights were, what our greatest desires will be, and where we are right now, between the two, the past and the future. We have to know where we’re holding in the present, and try to get the essence of what we’re meant to be and who we’re meant to be. We want to project that into the future, and create a graduation speech announcing the end of the upcoming year as we envision it.
And then we set ourselves on the path to achieve it, and we go with our essential Ratzon, our essential core motivation of who we are. The closer we get, the simpler, the more concise, the more laser-like our Ratzon, the more powerful it is. We can break through everything and open up all closed doors.
Don’t forget to take the highlights of your life and study them, analyze them, get to your essential Ratzon of who you are. See your whole life as a sacred text that’s going to open up and inform you of everything you need to do. And then set your sights on what you want to have.
It’s the Jewish secret, like the Law of Attraction, only Jewish. We understand that we’re not using G-d as our genie in a bottle, but we’re doing it FOR G-d and to connect to G-d. That’s the Jewish secret. When you do it in that way, G-d’s on your side with you. When you’re going it for G-d then things are going to happen for you. That’s the Ratzon of Elul.
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