lulai heh-ehmanti lirot b’tuv-YHVH b’eretz khayyim
Would that I might, through G~ds goodness,
perceive the Truth while in the land of the living!
When we’re in a state of unity, when we’re feeling high and connected with the Divine (for example, during prayer, love-making, listening to music, dancing, ecstatic moments in nature), we don’t need Teshuvah, purification, or free will. These three processes, all connected, come into being at the “moment of Creation”,that is, the moment at which the multiplicity of the World emerges from the undifferentiated Oneness of Eyn Sof. Thus, the origin of falsehood that is, evil and impurity can be directly traced to the separation from oneness.
Free will is our ability to knowingly choose between good and bad, true and false, right and wrong, and to then act in accordance with what we have chosen. We can choose to love or hate, to be at peace or at war with ourselves or with others. When we human beings choose to deny or turn away from the Source of the World, then free will becomes a barrier, an obstacle preventing the world and everything in it from drawing life from its Source.
In order for creation to continue drawing life-force, to avoid being cut off from its Source, we must choose again and again to reach from the midst of our lives in this world “back” to the level of “before creation”, to perceive and witness and unite with the Oneness which is the Tzur Olamim (the Rock of Worlds): the underlying vibration, the continuity of breath, the movement that continues ongoingly when all else becomes still.
[adapted by R. Diane Elliot from Rebbe Nachmanof Bratzlav's teaching “Mayim” (Water) in Likkutei Moharan I:51 and commentaries on it]
“I am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is Mine”
The initials of the month of Elul (aleph, lamed, vav, lamed), which stand for “Ani L’dodi v’Dodi Li, I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”, are not a mere metaphor; rather they are the essence and substance of the Teshuvah of these 40 days (from the first of Elul to Yom Kippur).
The matter of Teshuvah is a unique and very deep level of spiritual work that is required of us. As the Sages said (Babylonian Talmud, Brakhot: 34b): No completely righteous person can stand at the level that a master of Teshuvah stands. (This is because) the essence of Teshuvah is “Ani L’ Dodi” (I am my Beloved’s), that is, a return to The Holy One of Blessing, a re-connection with the One, not only a return to being as before the sin.
This is by virtue of giving yourself over to “Ani”, (Great Self), making your “I-ness” (ego) transparent to the Beloved, giving yourself over completely to HaShem, you and all that belongs to you- all your concerns, your desires, your passions…
And this is the special, unique spiritual level of Teshuvah, as Rabbeynu Yonah wrote at the beginning of Gates of Teshuvah: “Teshuvah is among the goodnesses with which HaShem showered all creatures, preparing this way for them to rise up from the pit of their actions…”
In other words, G~d who is good and who bestows goodness provides a path of Teshuvah through which people can rise up and expand themselves, not only achieving a state (of purity), as if they had not sinned, but lifted farther than before. So that after they have missed the mark, even in very base and humiliating ways, they emerge with spirits enlarged, as it says in Torah, “If I scan the heavens, there You are, and if I descend to the pit, behold- You!”
[from Rabbi Shalom Noah Barzovsky's teaching on Elul, Netivot Shalom, pp. 241-242, translated by R. Diane Elliot]
Rabbi Diane Elliot, RSMT