We are already aware that we are going through the month of Elul. If you haven't started your personal review for the year that is about to end yet, there's still time.
In fact, the parashiot have been preparing us with their reading, so that Rosh haShanah does not catch us by off gard in this sense. Therefore, Shoftim spoke to us about what a society in which justice prevails should be like. In which the legal and government systems are so fairly organized that they are not an obstacle or an inconvenience for the normal growth of the people (society) and its individuals.
Ki-Tetze continues along the same lines. A parashah full of mitzvot and commitments from the individual standpoint. A week ago, the same individual had received from the Lord a whole system that would shelter and take care of him. This week, though, he must take charge of his own existence and commit himself to the other members of the society—this time, from his own standpoint.
Our text speaks to us about commercial relations, about not cheating in measure, in prices. The OBLIGATION of not delaying the payment of those who work for us if it is in our hands to be able to pay them in a timely manner. It is the personal duty, even, with the same institutions that Parashat Shoftim instructed us just seven days ago.
We are sharpening the pencil. We are adjusting the target. We started from a broad angle and are now reaching the recipients of this particular month: ourselves.
And strangely, in the midst of all this legislation, there is the story of how should behave he who, after a war, took a beautiful woman, eshet yefat-toar, as a prisoner and tried to make her his wife.
The Torah tells us that he had to take her into his house, cut her hair and leave her apart and secluded for 30 days. Those would be 30 days of regret and almost mourning for leaving her old life behind. Days to analyse that previous life and prepare for a new one.
Taking into account the historical context, the mere fact that a victor was given a limit so that he could not take advantage of his prisoner, marks a difference and a respect that did not exist at those times.
But if we stop at this concept of the 30 days of repentance for the “pagan life” practiced until then, to prepare for a new Jewish life next to that who would be her husband, it shows us a parallel with our 30 days of reflection during the month of Elul, in a very wise manner.
We are the ones who renew our commitment to our society, to our Community, to our environment, to our families, to ourselves. We are the ones who must scrutinize whether all the attitudes we had were well-intentioned. We are the ones who have 30 days to understand if our responsibility to the Torah, the mitzvot and our tradition were such that we can say that we truly ensure perpetuity in the so-called ancient chain of Judaism, or if it is precisely our link in that chain that endangers continuity for our descendants.
Did you do everything you could to support your loved ones? Your community? Your People of Israel? Did you seriously inspect your undertaking to the tradition that was bequeathed to you? It is your individual responsibility that must act.
There is no collective organization without individual ordering, and it is each individual with awareness of their actions that is going to generate, with their engagement and personal involvement, that what should change, change for the better.
You are passing the 30 days of eshet yefat-toar, the beautiful, captive woman who is going to be chosen as a wife. Look inside, not in criticism of the other, but of yourself and prepare for a new commitment. May it be a new life transformed for the better. A new year more engaged. More significant. More in community.
Take advantage of your Chodesh Elul, your month of Elul.