On Tuesday evening, September 5, Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel shared a virtual shiur on behalf of Emet Outreach on the subject of preparing for Rosh HaShanah. She taught that we have to take advantage of this time of year. It’s a unique opportunity. She shared a teaching of her rebbetzin, Rebbetzin Esther Baila Schwartz, that Elul is a month that is holy in and of itself, and not just because it is leading to Rosh HaShanah. The spiritual potential in this month is higher than any other time of year. She shared a mashal of how you feel reenergized and like a new person after a vacation. In the same way that vacation recharges you, so, too, Elul does this for your neshamah. Rebbetzin Kigel added that it’s like plugging your soul into an outlet to recharge. During Elul, we can feel more connected to Hashem.

When you make a wedding, the parents of the bride and groom arrive early. They were busy with all the preparations. The less connected you are to the simchah, the later you come. In Elul, we are preparing; we’re showing Hashem that we’re here early – we’re family!

She taught that on Rosh HaShanah everything we have is up for renegotiation. Everyone on Earth is being judged for every physical brachah. We need to work for our blessings. It isn’t a given that all our blessings we received since last Rosh HaShanah will be renewed.

The first thing we must do is to thank Hashem for everything He bestowed on us during this past year. We ask Him to renew these blessings. This comes before asking for what we want in the upcoming year. Our whole attitude is to thank Hashem every day for all we receive each day – each moment. When we wake up, the first thing that we say each day is Modeh Ani. We thank Hashem for giving us a new day of life, for renewing our soul. The morning blessings then detail thanks for each thing, like eyesight, being able to get up, clothing, etc.

So much about being a Jew is being grateful, she taught.

Also, we thank Hashem for bad things that could have happened and didn’t. There are things we don’t even know about that Hashem saved us from. No t’filah is lost. Even if we didn’t see the answer, every prayer helps kindness and goodness to come into the world.

Starting right now, we have this unbelievable kindness leading up to Rosh HaShanah, when we have the power to change judgment from Hashem. If we change ourselves, then we change our judgment. We become different people, so our judgment is different. Hashem judges us on Rosh HaShanah how we are right then.

She shared ways to work on a good judgment. First, amp up your behavior. Be your best self. Work on areas like prayer, chesed, and tz’dakah. Every time you perform a mitzvah, keep in mind that you are elevating your ancestors and bringing them merit. Be careful of the yeitzer ha’ra that tells you to take on too much. This can lead to dropping everything and not changing. Take small steps, and take on something small that you can succeed at doing, because success breeds success. She added that each of us knows what we need to change or work on.

We are teaching ourselves what we are capable of being. Hashem judges us based on our aspirations. Ratzon – the will to do something – is a very powerful force. Hashem sees our will to be better. Hashem is our parent, and He is so proud of us.

This time of year has a special power. It was the time when Moshe went back up to Shamayim, and Hashem forgave the Jewish people on Yom Kippur, and he came down with the new tablets. We can tap into this special time.

You want to show Hashem the real you and who you want to be.

We need to do t’shuvah and think of anyone we may have hurt and ask forgiveness from them. Try to repair relationships. Hashem wants us to get along with fellow Jews and fellow human beings. One of the best things you can do is to forgive others. If you are embarrassed and insulted and you let it go, then you are forgiven for all your sins according to the Gemara on Rosh HaShanah. If we are forgiving, then Hashem forgives us. Our job is to judge others favorably. We also want to do t’shuvah for anything we did against Hashem.

Remorse means that I don’t want to do it again and I make a plan how not to do it again.

She shared that the beauty of t’shuvah is that it’s magical.

We can delete scenes from the movie of our life. This is a kindness that Hashem gives us. He created t’shuvah before He created the world. We need to invest emotion in our t’shuvah. It’s not about guilt. Tell yourself that you are human and you want to be better.

Each of us has to work on certain things, and the people in our lives are there to help us work on our character traits. Every year, we move up the ladder in improving in a particular area. She pointed out that your greatest area of challenge is your greatest area of potential. She gave everyone a brachah of a year filled with revealed goodness – a good and sweet new year. Everything Hashem does is good, but we ask it to be sweet to us.

Devorah Kigel is a speaker, a dating coach, and an author. She can be reached at www.devorahkigel.com. Her upcoming book with Gefen Publishers, titled Marry a Mensch: Timeless Jewish Wisdom for Today’s Single Woman, will be coming out, im yirtzeh Hashem, this year. We look forward to reading it!

By Susie Garber