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    The month of Elul is
    an extraordinary time
    of opportunity and
    investment. Firstly, it is
    the last month of the year
    and we have a Talmudic
    rule that, “Hakol
    holeich achar hachasom – Everything is
    determined by the finale.” So, we can
    greatly upgrade the entire year of 5783
    with enhanced behavior during this
    month. Furthermore, as the Chofetz
    Chaim, zt”l, zy”a, says in the Mishnah
    Berurah to the preface of siman 581, our
    repentance is more favorably accepted
    during the month of Elul. This is because
    it was on Rosh Chodesh Elul that Moshe
    Rabbeinu went up to shomayim to
    achieve atonement for Klal Yisroel for
    the sin of the golden calf. Ever since
    then, this fabric of time is most suitable
    to achieve repentance.
    The name Elul is of Babylonian origin.
    What does it mean? Rav Shlomo
    Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, zy”a, reveals
    that when the posuk says, “V’yasuru
    es eretz Canaan – To investigate the

    land of Canaan,” the Targum Onkelos
    translates it in Aramaic as, “V’yalalun
    yas ara.” Thus, he says the word Elul,
    which is at the root of v’yalalun, means
    to investigate and to search. This, he
    concludes, is the ultimate task of Elul:
    To make a chesbon hanefesh, a personal
    accounting, to investigate all of our
    deeds to see what needs improvement.
    The Chida and the Kaf HaChaim sing
    the praises of a man or a woman who
    takes the time and the honest effort to
    search their ways. They say that such a
    person receives the honorific of a morei
    d’chushbina, a master of reevaluation.
    This pursuit in itself achieves for one a
    great protection for, in Bereishis Rabbah,
    it teaches us that one who makes such
    an honest accounting will be protected
    from Divine judgement. As the Medrash
    says, “Im yeish din lamata, ein din
    l’mala,” meaning if we make a personal
    accounting below, then Hashem doesn’t
    need to inspect us from above.”
    How does one go about making a
    cheshbon hanefesh? I like to recommend
    that one should start from the moment

    they wake up and go through their
    day systematically, from beginning to
    end. For example, one should start all
    the way at the beginning. What’s the
    first thing one does when opening up
    their eyes? Every good Jew should
    start their day with the declaration of,
    “Modeh ani lifonecha…” This praise
    deliberately omits Hashem’s Name so
    that we can proclaim it even before we
    wash negel vasser and our hands are yet
    still tomei. Unlike so many who wake up
    to hear what the Yankees did last night or
    where the Dow Jones is holding, our first
    thought is gratitude to Hashem. You’d
    be surprised how many Torah Jews are
    not in the habit to start their day this way.
    If you are remiss, don’t feel bad. This is
    just an opportunity to improve.
    After all, all of us want the next year of
    5784 not just to be another year but to be a
    better year. We want better health, better
    wealth, better friends, better shalom
    bayis, better, better, better! Hashem,
    Who loves us, surely wants to grant it to
    us. However, He expects us to tell Him
    how we are going to be better. After all,
    it’s only fair if we want better that
    we have to demonstrate concretely in
    what ways we are going to be better.
    So we make a cheshbon hanefesh to
    fashion a To-Do-Better list that we
    bring with us to Rosh Hashanah and
    Yom Kippur to make our case for a
    better new year.
    After modeh ani, take a look at how
    we wash our hands and whether we
    are doing it correctly, liberally and
    up to the wrist, starting with the right
    hand and doing it alternately at least
    three times. We should clean our
    mouths in preparation of prayer, we
    wash our faces to polish the bust of
    Hashem, our tzelem Elokim, and
    to look pleasant for Hashem, our
    spouse, and our fellow man. Are
    we careful to make the al netilas
    yada’im, asher yotzar and Elokai
    neshamah after that? Then, we’re
    on to say reishis chochmah, to make
    the bracha on our tallis katan, then
    to greet our spouse lovingly or, if
    they’re still sleeping, not to wake
    them up. Do we look at, or kiss our
    bedroom mezuzah meaningfully
    when we exit to start our day? If we
    have a coffee, do we say a shehakol
    and borei nefashos meaningfully and

    As we go to shul, do we try to come to
    a minyan where we could say the entire
    davening or do we come in the middle
    to cut corners and cut out as quickly
    as possible? Do we wrap ourselves in
    our tallis having in mind that we would
    really like to perform all the 613 mitzvos,
    for tzitzis is the equivalent of all 613?
    When we put on our tefillin, do we think
    about Hashem’s outstretched arm in
    Egypt? Do we remember its subliminal
    message, that we should learn Torah
    today? Do we bind our heart and our
    mind in loyal service to Hashem? Do
    we say our prayers with the thought that
    they really can make a difference on
    whether we succeed or fail at our daily
    pursuits? When we leave shul and go
    out into the world, are we on the lookout
    for opportunities to make a Kiddush
    Hashem? Are we practicing our craft
    with honesty and integrity? This is the
    way that we should go through the rest
    of our day until Krias Shema al hamitah
    and the bracha of hamapil.
    In the merit of making an honest and
    blunt cheshbon hanefesh and following
    up with improvement, may Hashem
    bless us all with long life, good health,
    and everything wonderful.