In the margins of those decisions and deeds which we embrace
in the days of Elul, there may sink in some lack of faith or
true recognition of the importance of those deeds. We are not
completely convinced, altogether assured, that this is what
is being asked of us, that this is what is good and what is
most effective for these Elul days.
We must confront this latent feeling that gnaws away like a
worm, leaving an internal emptiness in our deeds.
The question is: What are our expectations when we progress
and strengthen ourselves? What development do we think we
must discern after a day or two, or a week, of arousal and
fortification in prayer and Torah study?
Do we understand that we have made a step forward, that we
have climbed one rung higher on the ladder? Or do we presume
to think that we have already made it; our work is completed,
the conflict is over and henceforth, there will no longer be
any difficulties or tests? That from hereon in, everything
will be smooth sailing?
It is possible that in the recesses of our hearts there hides
some such expectation or thought. "We've already taken some
proper measures and sacrificed much."
Is this not enough?
And when we admit that, sadly, it is not enough, the work is
not finished, we then ask: If so, if I have not succeeded,
why do I need all this? Why did I go to such trouble?
The truth is that every intelligent person understands by
himself that his work is never done. So long as body and soul
are bonded together, one pulls in one direction and the
other, in the opposite one. The struggle will never end, the
wrestling will continue: every day, every hour and even every
The very composite within a living person of body and soul is
a tug-of-war reality. It is a contest, like a rider astride
an untamed horse who is trying to gain control. He must hold
the reins tightly in check in order to direct the horse to
the right or the left. He must never loosen his hold. He can
never slacken and say, "Well, I've held on so long. It's
enough. Now I can give the horse free rein."
For the horse will always remain a horse, even if he is being
controlled by a strong and clever man. The rider will always
have to maintain control, to hold the harness tight and never
let go, lest the horse hurl him into a chasm. Can there ever
be a pause, a laying down of arms, an end to the power
Two ways lie before this contest of the powers of the body
and the soul to each person. He can strengthen and reinforce
the power of the soul until it overcomes the power of the
body and its desires. Or he can diminish the pull of
physicality by stifling its desires and not satisfying its
demands. The soul can be strengthened by increasing the acts
of good, for mitzvos intensify the forces of the soul so that
they can control those of the body.
Every mitzvah-act, every good practice that is bound up with
overcoming the material and physical drives, sheds a precious
light upon the soul, invigorates it and increases its
potency. It also diminishes the power of the body and its
ascendancy over the person. And thus does a person gain the
upper hand over the body and its desires. Thus does he
deflect and diminish the struggle, and consequently he is
able to approach closer and closer to the clarity of who
really is the dominant force — the body or the soul?
"R' Eliezer says: Where there is judgment, there is no
judgment. Where there is no judgment, there is judgment.
"What then is true? Said R' Eliezer: If justice is served
below, it is not done in Heaven. But if justice is not served
below, justice is done in Heaven" (Devorim Rabbah
Justice requires clarification. It also denotes resolution
between two conflicting sides. Justice mediates and clarifies
and adjusts the balance by showing which of the two sides is
right and who is master.
A person's status, level and gradation in his fight between
the powers of physical vs. spiritual is determined through
justice. His deeds prove and clarify who is, in effect, the
boss, what dominates what. Therefore, when a person
determines this beforehand, when he, through his deeds,
empowers the side of the spiritual and weakens the rule of
the physical, he has already passed judgment. And once
justice has been served below, it need not be served in
A person's G-dly service during Elul is to reach the point of
clarification, to determine clearly who has supremacy over
him: His body or his soul. His actions and the regulation of
the balance benefits him on the Day of Judgment.
There is no end to the conflict, the contention, the battle.
Never can life proceed smoothly without trials and hurdles.
But with his deeds, a person can strengthen the good side and
balance his score, thus obviating a judgment in heaven.
And thus will he determine his status on the Day of Judgment