This week on Wednesday , September 18, will be “Chai Elul” – the eighteenth day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Chai Elul is the birthdate (in 1698) of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement. Nearly 50 years later, on that same date, the Baal Shem Tov’s spiritual “grandson” was born. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (also known as the “Alter Rebbe,” founder of Chabad Chasidism) was born on Chai Elul in the year 1745.
A customary Chasidic saying is that Chai Elul gives the Chayot – life and spirit – to the month of Elul. In simpler terms, perhaps it means that Chai Elul reminds us not to go through the month of Elul in a habitual manner. Everything we do can and should be infused with new “life” in preparation for the New Year.
Saying our daily prayers, giving charity, being kind to others, spending time studying about the upcoming holidays or any other Jewish subject, all must be permeated with a special energy.
In addition, during the month of Elul we sound the shofar every day to remind us that the time to do “teshuva” – return to the proper path – has arrived. Even the unusual activity of sounding the shofar can become rote. So, this too, must be permeated with the added spirit of which Chai Elul reminds us.
Let us all strive to add an extra measure of chayot to our lives this month, in preparing for the High Holidays, and the coming new year. Moshiach NOW!!!