The Ba'al Shem Tov said that from Rosh Chodesh Elul (the first of the month) through Rosh HaShanah, "the King is in the field," prepared to listen, accept, and hear our prayers completely and wholly.
Jews the world over are called upon to recite Tehillim (Psalm) 27 during this month as a segulah (something that changes your path or luck). Although the true source is unknown, the theory behind this custom is that it can reverse even the most set-in-stone heavenly decrees.
Within Tehillim 27 is a refrain that has been a potent part of my life since I started this blog, as it was once in the header of this blog years and years ago.
Hear (listen to) my voice, HaShem, when I call;
be gracious to me, and answer me (7).
It's easy to feel like our prayers are disappearing into an ether of unanswerable silence. Whether for a simple night of rest after so many sleepless sleeps with a baby at my side or for guidance, patience, and peace after experiencing the threat of forces trying to destroy my life, my spirit, my marriage — the month of Elul is a time for all prayers. It is a time for impassioned pleas and tearful attempts at vocalizing the pain that this world brings to the soul. The King is in the field, waiting, just waiting to hear voices of repentance.
When I light Shabbat candles every week, I have a regiment of things I say. I thank HaShem for so many things and then begin my pleas. Requests for guidance, patience, parnassah, work, and a path to be a good Jew.
Teach me your way, HaShem (11).
That's also part of the same Psalm. Every year I suddenly remember that this Psalm is my weekly prayer said by the light of the Shabbat candles. The important thing that I frequently forget, however, is also found here:
HaShem is the stronghold of my life,
from who should I be afraid (1).
And this, perhaps, is the most important lesson in the entirety of Psalm 27. I can ask, ask, ask and pray, pray, pray and repent all I want, but if I don't believe and trust that HaShem will protect me and provide me strength and never give me something I can't handle, then all is lost. And it's the first line in the Psalm! But my greatest fault and downfall in life is to forget that I'm not in control, that there is so much bigger and more powerful than I am. That I cannot control everything. That sometimes, I have to relent, repent, and remember that any fear I have is because I've forgotten who is responsible for everything.
I just need to hear the shofar. Just once, and I hope my soul will remember. Traveling is hard when it comes to this time of year. Perhaps we should have brought our own shofar ...
How do you remember — even in the hardest, most trying moments — that HaShem is your rock and strength? How do you personalize such an ethereal concept?