Relating to God in Elul, on Rosh Hashanah, and on Yom Kipur: Introduction

(The following is a translated excerpt from Harav Ginsburgh’s Hebrew book, Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li)

Every year, come the month of Elul, we begin to feel the refreshing breath of teshuvah (return to God) in the air. The New Year is fast approaching, and this is the time to make an accounting of our actions over the past year and to mend our ways. In order to repent, though, we must be able to identify where we went wrong. If we succeed in delving deeply enough into our hearts, we often discover that although, in many cases, our actions were in accordance with the letter of the law, our intentions were far removed from God. To truly rectify our sins, we must understand exactly at what point we strayed from our relationship with God. In the following chapters we will analyze three basic types of relationships, and how an in depth understanding of the motivations behind these relationships will bring us to perfect the most essential relationship that we have — our relationship with God.

Our Father, Our King, Our Husband

In the Yom Kipur (Day of Atonement) prayers, we ask God to “pardon us, forgive us, absolve us” (slach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu). Each of these types of forgiveness expresses a different type of sin and a different type of forgiveness that we request of God. We generally liken our relationship with God to one of three main paradigms:

  1. A father/son relationship
  2. A king/servant relationship, and
  3. A husband/wife relationship

The psychological cause and essence of a sin within the context of each of these relationships is different:

Within the father/son relationship, the relationship is damaged because the child ignores his and treats him with disdain and disrespect.

Within the king/servant relationship, the relationship is damaged because the servant rebels against the king’s directives.

Within the husband/wife relationship, the relationship is damaged by insensitivity to the inner essence of the other.

Other chapters in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Father-Son Relationship
  3. The King-Servant Relationship
  4. The Husband-Wife Relationship
  5. Relating to God in Elul
  6. Relating to God on Rosh Hashanah
  7. Relating to God on Yom Kipur

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