It is well known that the Hebrew month of Elul is an acronym for:
Ani Le’Dodi, Ve’Dodi Li - I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.
But what does this mean practically?
We know that every month has a theme. Elul is a bridge between 2 months. It transitions us from Av, the previous month, to Tishrei - the next month.
The Elul mindset is the counteract to the Av mindset.
What is the theme, the phrase that encapsulates the month of Av?
I’ll give you a hint… We say it 3 times at the end of megillat Eicha, on Tisha b'Av night… You guessed it:
Hasheveinu Hashem Eilecha ve’nashuva… -
Hashem, brings us back to you, and then we will return.
Av is a month of passivity. We sit in mourning. We have no control. We experience loss and grief and we feel HELPLESS. We have little to no motivation to come close to G-d because we are in survival mode.
So we therefore say “G-d, you need to bring us back. You make the first move. Show me a sign, give me something to let me know you are there. Because right now, I feel very far away”. In Av we feel distant. Last month’s energy was about not making the first move. Not taking the first step. Maybe even holding a bit of a grudge.
Sometimes I hear stories of loved ones who don't talk to each other anymore. Couples who are having “a bad fight”, or siblings quarreling over money, or a parent who feels disrespected by their children. They often say “When they come to me and apologize, then we will have peace” Sometimes they don't even let the other party know that they are upset, and resort to “ghosting” or stonewalling.
In Elul, we adapt the opposite mentality.
We take the first step in returning to G-d. We say “ANI”! I am to my beloved. We declare our love. We make peace. We tell G-d we are ready to have a relationship with you, and we are willing to take the first step.
And G-d responds “Ve’dodi Li” - I love you too.