This Shabbos, which immediately precedes the month of Elul, the month of Elul is blessed. There is a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov which states that it is through the power of the Almighty who Himself blesses the month of Tishrei, the first month of the year, that the Jewish people bless all the other months including Elul,, the last month of the year. 1`hen, on that Shabbos when the month of Tishrei is to be blessed, the blessing of the Almighty become: re-named to an even greeter degree.

To quote Iggeres HaKodesh, every Rosh Hashanah there desk into the world, “a new light of blessing which has never yet shone,” and since Rosh Hashanah is also Rosh Chodesh Tishrei — “the first day of the seventh month” — there is a relationship between the new light of Rosh Hashanah to the blessings of Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei.

The light which descends into the world every Rosh Hashanah, ‘fight of G‑dly blessing that has never yet shone, is distributed throughout the twelve months of the year, and each and every day, as is befitting the deeds of those on earth, every month according to its theme. As is stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, “the descent of. this light is dependant on the (good) deeds of men.”

The Almighty’s blessings apply to all twelve months including Elul. However Elul has a certain unique quality which makes the Almighty’s blessing particularly relevant.

When the Jews bless the month of Elul, they complete the act of blessing begun the previous Tishrei. When they bless Shabbos Mevarchim Elul, it is as the culmination and fulfillment of G‑d’s blessing the previous Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei. Thus in G‑d’s blessing there is manifest the principle of “the beginning is wedged in its end, and the end in the beginning.”

We may illustrate this idea by way of example. The light of the sun heats its own atmosphere to an extreme. In outer space, however, the atmosphere is not heated, but remains cold. Nonetheless, when sunlight reaches earth it again heats up the atmosphere, even though the rays of light have reached the end of their journey. Chassidus explains this as being due to ‘Or Chozer’ or ‘Reflection of Light’.

As explained in Iggeres HaKodesh, the sefirah of Malchus, the vitalizing force of Action, has a more dynamic light than those sefiros which precede it, because of this same quality of rebounding light. Thus Malchus, the lowest sefirah, becomes Keter which is immeasurably greater than the levels between them.

From this we may understand the greatness of Shabbos Mevarchim Elul is comparison to other months. Since this is the lastShabbos Mevarchim on which Jewish people bless the month to come — by means of the strength of G‑d’s blessing (eleven months previous) — it therefore has a more direct relationship to His blessing — as explained by the unique principle of rebounding light.

Since all these things are dependant on (good) deeds of men — this infers yet another great quality of Shabbos Mevarchim Elul; that since it is the last of the Shabb’sos M’vorchim it is the “end-gatherer of all the camps.”

The connection is as follows: The tribe of Dan is refereed to as the ‘end-gatherer of all the camps’. Dan followed after all the other tribes in order to find and return any lost objects. Similarly the month of Elul. follows all the other months, and as such is the ‘end-gatherer of all the camps’.

In other words, if there was a Shabbos Mevarchim through the year when the opportunity was lost to use the G‑d given strength of Shabbos Mevarchim, or if this strength was not developed fully, or was used but later lost for some reason, then Shabbos Mevarchim Elul can help as the ‘end-gatherer’ to fulfill all the lost opportunities of the Shabbosei Mevarchim of the previous year, starting from the month of Cheshvan up to and including the very strength from the Almighty’s blessing of the month of Tishrei.

This ‘end-gathering’ quality of Elul is accomplished through its unique characteristic of reflecting light; for the blessing of the Almighty on Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei is sustained and continuous and therefore must ultimately have an effect in the world. To quote the often repeated maxim of Chasidim which the (previous) Rebbe said on many occasions, “a chassidishe piece of bread is never lost forever, G‑d forbid.”

This then is how the month of Elul is considered to be the ‘end-gatherer of all the camps’ — for in this month there is the fulfillment of all the strength put into the year by the Almighty’s blessing.

Even though everything is dependant on the actions of man, still, ultimately this in itself is a manifestation of the blessing of the Almighty. The blessings of the Almighty also include the capability to use the strength granted for the purpose for which they were given.

Understandably, if G‑d blesses us material blessings of health, family and prosperity, how much more so does He give us the strength to utilize the powers of His blessings, and again, how much more so in the case of the blessing of the month which is a general and all-inclusive blessing.

Therefore we must conclude that the three-fold strength which is given us on Shabbos Mevarchim Elul is directly dependant on the Almighty’s blessing; and this three-fold power in Elul is; i) that the Jewish people bless Elul by means of the strength given to them by the Almighty’s having blessed Shabbos Mevarchim Tishrei; ii) Elul as the last of the months has in it the strength described as ‘Or Chozer’; iii) Elul is like the ‘end-gatherer of the camps’.

Shabbos Mevarchim Elul is the last Shabbos Mevarchim of the year. The job of gathering up all that was ‘lost’ throughout the year must be accomplished now; this is the last chance. Certainly, this job will be done, as it says “the outcast will not be banished.”

(The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya when referring to ‘the outcast will not be banished’ as follows. “It is most certain that one’s end will be to do teshuvah, either in this incarnation or in some other incarnation.” However this applies to the generation of the Alter Rebbe when there were still many generations to come before Mashiach’s time, and the possibility for teshuvah was in a future generation.) Now, we are at the heels of the Mashiach, according to all signs at the end of Gemara Sotah. All the keitzim have been completed and Mashiach’s coming is only dependant on teshuvah, which could be accomplished in ‘an instant or a moment.’

May all have success in the above during the month of Elul “when the light shines from the King’s face and there is life.” During the month of Elul “the Kin is in the field and shows a smiling face to all,” as explained in Likkutei Torah.

For this is also a time when “the L‑rd, G‑d, will shine on us.” and more so, “G‑d will shine His face upon you.” The light of His face will be drawn down ‘upon you’ and we are truly at a time when “the light from the King’s face shines and there is life.”

Soon there will be drawn down the all encompassing blessing of the true and perfect redemption with the coming of our righteous Mashiach, very very soon.

* * *

As mentioned earlier, Shabbos Mevarchim Elul is the “end-gatherer of all the camps.” This corresponds to the fact that Elul is the month of reckoning for the entire year.

One makes a reckoning of things pertaining to the soul by analyzing and investigating all the events which have transpired through the year. This is not solely for the sake of knowing one’s station in life, but in order to correct faults and perfect what has not yet been finished, according to the principle that “things of holiness should be on the ascendant.” This is precisely the idea of Elul as “end-gatherer of all the camps” which is equally relevant to those seeking to correct some failing, and also to those whose deeds are seemingly perfect.

Regarding those seeking to correct their failings, it is written, “Who is a fool? One who loses what is granted him.” The Alter Rebbe explains in Likkutei Torah this loss refers to the alienation, or loss of contact with, the G‑dly soul which is given to every Jew. And the reason is “that a spirit of folly” possessed the person and caused him to transgress, H.f.

Concerning this, the Zohar asks in wonder, how could it be possible for a Jew in possession of a G‑dly soul, “a part of G‑d above,” to commit a sin — even accidentally.

And in the month of Elul, which is a month of reckoning, the folly which led to sin is seen for what it is — shetus — foolishness — and so it can be easily corrected.

Moreover, in Elul, even one whose actions are seemingly flawless is able to reconsider from a more elevated perspective and he can find some area that leaves room for improvement, even though earlier everything had seemed perfect.

In explanation, to quote Likkutei Torah, Elul is the time when the king goes out into the fields and “all who desire may seek His audience, and He receives all with a gentle smiling face.” This situation, to be together with the King, uplifts and exalts a Jewish person.

Curiously, one might have considered that a field is no place to meet the king. Indeed, a person will generally change into rougher clothing before venturing into the country; As the Gemara describes, concerning Aba Chelkaieh, who went into the fields only after changing from his regular clothes so as not to damage them.

Yet when a person reflects on the Alter Rebbe’s statement that the King is together with him in the field, and not hidden in His palace, he becomes inspired by His grandeur. He recognizes the King and sees His bright and shining face smiling at him. Everyone is approaching the King to ask for favors; and he, too, can go up with his request. Contrary to his previous assumption, he feels an exultation even here in the field, because the grandeur of the King is upon him.

And what of the person who is not aware of the Alter Rebbe’s teaching that Elul is the time when the King is in the field? One must say that he, too, is influenced by the month. Even before the times of the Alter Rebbe, when this concept was not generally known. Elul still effected Jewish people and helped bring them to a different level of awareness. The body and animal soul may have remained unenlightened, but the Divine soul is always conscious from its highest levels to the lowest, for it beholds the King. And as Chassidus explains, on the exaltedness of the King depends the existence of the kingdom, and all its subjects, even the very rocks and stones. Thus when the King goes out into the fields, revealed to all His subjects in such a smiling, friendly manner, all are uplifted by His presence, even those who might have “turned to Me their back”; — even the stones and rocks, devoid of wisdom or feeling of their dependence on the King.

Thus, in Elul, when the King is in the field, and one makes a “soul-reckoning,” perceiving one’s life from a higher level, Cheshvan’s flawless accomplishments now can be seen to need teshuvah.

As explained in Tanya, “the essence of teshuvah is in the heart, and in the heart are found many distinctions and gradations.” This means that after rising to a higher level of heartfelt teshuvah, the penitent may feel his former teshuvah insufficient and must do teshuvah again on a higher level.

Thus, if one has already done teshuvah in the simplest form, and has arrived at a position where “no charge or semblance of accusation can be made against him” as explained in Iggeres HaTeshuvah; or on a higher level, if even special appeasements had been offered, as quoted there from Gemara Zevachim; nonetheless, in the month of Elul, a more encompassing and far-reaching teshuvah is desired — to the level of “ and his spirit shall return to G‑d.

The avodah of teshuvah in Elul is a service of joy; for Elul is the “end-gatherer of all the camps.” Just as a person who has lost some treasured possession feels joy on its being restored to him, and to an even greater degree than before it was lost, so too it is with teshuvah, which brings on a joy that bursts through all limitations, both physical and spiritual.

As it says about Mashiach, “He who will burst through (all limits), shall rise up before us” and this will herald the development of “Mashiach will come to bring the righteous ones to teshuvah.” This means that even one who was perfectly righteous will be brought by Mashiach to the level where he too can do teshuvah.

Through the avodah of teshuvah all the ‘lost’ thin s will be gathered, just as “you shall be gathered one by one, every single Jew.” Down to the smallest detail, like the small jars of Yom, they will be gathered from the scattered ends of heavens. The Almighty, through Mashiach, will assemble every one of us with gentle compassion and there ensue the physical reality of the return to the Holy Land, may it be rebuilt and restored speedily in our days through our righteous Mashiach, now in our times.

The month of Elul is like a city of refuge, as hinted by the fact that during Minchah of Shabbos Mevarchim Elul (or Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul) we read from parshas Shoftim, which contains the laws about cities of refuge. Unlike the discussion of cities of refuge in parshas Ma’asei, this discussion (as the rest of the Book of Devarim) has its own significance haring been said by Moshe Rabbeinu on his am behalf.

If a person should kill someone accidentally, or even deliberately he should at once flee to a city of refuge. As the Talmud tenses, first thing to do is to flee to a city of refuge.” Only then can there be .”..and the community should judge him,” so that .”..the community should save him” — by finding some merit which would prevent the death sentence being handed down.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains in many places that teshuvah helps a person by transforming the quality of his transgressions, from deliberate and willful, to accidental. This is achieved even by the lowest level of teshuvah; and from this stage, he can atone for accidental transgressions by bringing a sacrifice.

Similarly, when a deliberate murderer flees to a city of refuge, and there does teshuvah, sincerely and properly, Hashem so arranges events that he will not suffer the death sentence.

At first, this is difficult to understand. A person’s claim of having done teshuvah cannot sway a court from handing down a sentence. Since teshuvah comprises resolutions made in the heart the judges can never be sure that a person has in fact done teshuvah. As the Talmud veils us, that “only visible evidence is acceptable.”

However, since the death-sentence cannot be handed down without thorough cross-examination of the witnesses, it is most difficult under Torah law to give out a death sentence. A Tanna of the Mishnah even said, that if he were in the Sanhedrin (highest rabbinic court), he would have cross-examined so rigorously, that a death sentence would never have been passed.

This being so, then, when a person’s teshuvah, done sincerely and properly, is recognized by Hashem, He will certainly ensure that the cross-examination of witnesses in the court proceedings will preclude the death sentence.

The same idea can be seen with re rd to the laws of perjury. In the case of a ‘ frame-up,’ the law states that, “if the defendants ware not killed, then the perjurous witnesses are killed; if they were killed, then the witnesses am cored.” This is puzzling, became when the witnesses do not succeed in causing the death of the defendants, they (the witnesses) are nonetheless killed; Why, then, when they do succeed in causing the death of those they falsely testified against, should they also net be killed?

The Ramban resolves this by pointing out that since nothing can take place without G‑d’s prior consent; and ere see here that G‑d allowed the Torah courts to arrive at a ruling of death; — and the sentence was in fact carried out; this indicates that those who were killed deserved such punishment (for whatever reason).

This does not justify the false witnesses, who certainly have done a terrible wrong; yet, on the other hand, the death of the defendants, coming at the hands of a Beis-Din, indicates Divine consent. Therefore, “the false witnesses are not killed.”

In the same way as we see that G‑d controls events and situations to ensure that those who deserve to die, are in fact killed; surely He will also prevent a person from being killed unjustly.

With regard to cities of refuge, this means that even the deliberate murderer, who was fully aware of his actions, even he is granted the chance to do teshuvah (in the cities of refuge). If he, in fact, does a sincere and meaningful teshuvah, Hashem will so arrange events to ensure that he is not sentenced to death.

This relevant to every sincere person, who, in his soul realizes that he falls into the category of those who transgress unwittingly, and to a degree, he also numbers amongst those who transgress fully aware of their actions, or, for example, someone like a Torah-student who errs is judged severely, for he ‘ought to have known better.’

To this person, the Torah says, the month of Elul is like a city of refuge, which can even help a deliberate and willful transgressor.

Teshuvah, of course, helps the whole year; but especially so in Elul. The Rambam writes, “teshuvah is always approved; during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, it is considered more favorably and accepted immediately.” In the same way, teshuvah attains a height in the month of Elul, during which G‑d’s thirteen merciful attributes are aroused. Although this arousal is incomparable to that of Yom Kippur; nonetheless, it is immeasurably greater than the rest of the year when (the thirteen attributes) ‘are aroused only after one has davened. In Elul they are constantly aroused and give a person strength to do teshuvah.

The Avodah during the month of Elul in all the above respects is the true prelude to the new year — to ensure that we have a Kesivah VaChasimah Tovah, for a good and sweet year, in all things spiritual, which will automatically ensure the same, for all things physical; as a matter of fact, our focus is more on things physical as explained previously with regard to Or chozer.

This avodah commences on the first day of Elul, when we begin to blow the Shofar, (and even on the first day of Rosh Chodesh, when one practices the art) in general terms, and certainly when the eighteenth of Elul arrives, the avodah, takes on more specific form, — one day for each month of the year. In the words of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, that Chai Elul breathes life into the avodah of the month of Elul.

Until one comes to such a time when “Israel and the King are alone together,” and “He will be alone with you — and no others with you,” and even before that we have, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved, is to me, who gives to feed amongst roses,” and the King is in the field, and one is absolutely alone with Him.

At which point, the whole world is completely different, as it says, “He sees a new world,” and “He will see a new world,” which will he realize with the true and complete Geulo along with “the correction of the world, by the Kingdom of the Almighty,” with the coming of the righteous Mashiach really soon.