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    We often picture
    G-d this time of year
    as a judge, sitting at
    His bench, waiting
    to catch us, judge us
    and hold us
    accountable. Not
    only is this not a healthy and
    constructive image, it is not the image
    our rabbis and our tradition want us to
    Our rabbis list many acronyms for
    Elul. In fact, I saw one list of 55
    different pesukim or parts of pesukim
    in Tanach that have words beginning
    with aleph, lamed, vav, lamed.
    However, the most famous is the pasuk
    in Shir HaShirim – ani l’dodi v’dodi li,
    I am to my beloved and my beloved is
    to me, a sense of reciprocal love with
    Hashem. Our rabbis did not want us to
    live this month gripped with fear and
    paralyzed by fright. The image they
    painted is not one of a strict judge
    seeking to exact justice.

    When they sought to provide an
    image, when they looked for a verse, of
    the 55 in Tanach they could have chosen
    from, almost all selected ani l’dodi
    v’dodi li. The Mishna Berura and
    Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, two works on
    Halacha, quote it. The Avudraham
    emphasizes that it is this acronym that
    best conveys the sentiment of this time
    of year, a deep and profound sense of
    Our rabbis chose a pasuk from Shir
    HaShirim, the ultimate love story
    describing the yearning, longing, love
    and affection between Hashem and His
    people. Note that Shir HaShirim is not
    the story of our boundless love and
    dedication for Hashem. Nor is it the
    story of Hashem’s unconditional love
    and affection for us. It is ani l’dodi
    v’dodi li, it is the story of reciprocal
    love, of give and take, of two parties
    both invested in the relationship with
    each other.
    We don’t talk about this often enough

    and perhaps it is
    because another
    religion essentially
    stole it from us and put
    it on bumper stickers
    everywhere, but we
    need to know –
    Hashem loves us. He
    doesn’t just know we
    exist. He isn’t just
    aware of every detail
    of our lives and He
    doesn’t just involve Himself in our
    lives. He thinks about us, cares about
    us, craves a relationship with us, and
    most of all, He loves us.
    Hashem loves us means He isn’t
    looking to catch us or punish us. He
    wants what is best for us. He roots and
    cheers for us. He wants us to succeed
    and He wants us to be happy. Hashem
    knows all of our faults and shortcomings.
    He is aware of our mistakes and our
    challenges, and yet He loves us. He is
    never jealous of us, He is never
    competing with us and He is never tired
    of us. He simply loves us. What
    He wants in return is to be loved by
    us as well.
    We sometimes struggle to feel
    Hashem’s love or to feel His
    presence in our lives and if you are
    going through a difficult time, that
    is certainly understandable. But
    nevertheless, even then: Ani l’dodi
    v’dodi li – Elul is all about
    reciprocity. Hashem relates to us as
    a reflection of how we relate to
    Him. We want to count on Him, but
    can He count on us? We wish He
    would talk to us, but do we sincerely
    talk to Him? We want Him to think
    of us but how often do we think of
    In the mid-1920’s, a chassid
    approached the Imrei Emes, Rabbi
    Avraham Mordechai Alter of Ger:
    “Rebbe, I am traveling to Paris on a
    ten day business trip. Would the
    Rebbe give me a bracha (blessing)
    that I be successful in my venture?”
    After a warm blessing the Rebbe
    continued to make his own request.
    “In Paris they sell an exclusive
    cigar brand that is reputed to be the
    best in all of Western Europe. I

    would appreciate if you would find that
    brand and bring me back a box.” The
    chassid was puzzled by the request, but
    responded enthusiastically.
    “Of course, Rebbe! No problem. I will
    find out which is the best brand in all of
    France and bring you back two boxes!”
    The men went on his trip and indeed
    returned two weeks later. He visited the
    Rebbe to thank him for his blessing.
    “Do you have the cigars?” asked the
    The man blushed. “Rebbe, you have to
    forgive me. When I was in Paris, I was
    so immersed in business that I totally
    forgot about your request. But do not
    worry. On the way back I made a special
    stop in Belgium and got you the best
    Belgian cigar available. I was assured
    that it is of equal quality to the French
    cigar if not better!”
    The Rebbe shook his head. “My dear
    chassid, I did not need cigars. The
    reason I asked you to get me the cigars
    while you were in France is because I
    wanted those cigars to be on your mind.
    In that manner you would remember
    during your stay there that you have a
    Hashem gives us lots of mitzvos,
    asked us to do many things. He doesn’t
    need our mitzvos. He gives them to us
    because He wants us to have Him on
    our minds, to think about Him, to care
    about Him, to love Him.
    Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – Hashem loves us
    so much. He showers us with blessing.
    If we would only take the time each day
    to think about it. If we would only make
    the effort to keep a gratitude journal we
    would recognize how much goodness,
    how many blessings we receive that far
    surpass what we deserve. Hashem
    loves us. Do we show Him love in