E.L.U.L. by Rabbi Benny Berlin

The name of the month Elul has inspired many acronyms. Most famous is אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי , I am for my Beloved (Hashem) and my Beloved is for me.
That particular acronym highlights the opportunity and responsibility during this time to advance our relationship with the Almighty. But I was reminded by from Rav Jake Vidomlanski that there is another acronym slightly less famous and sadly often forgotten: אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיוֹנִים , a man for his fellow man and alms for the poor. This particular acronym is focused on our relationships with each other and humanity as a whole. In this month it behooves us, while advancing our relationship with Hashem, to also insure we are doing right by our fellow man. Am I performing acts of kindness? Am I attempting to alleviate other people’s angst? Do I offer cheer or comfort when people are sad?

In this week’s parasha it says, “You shall not plow with an ox and donkey together.” The Ba’alei Tosafot explain that an ox, owing to the fact that it chews its cud, eats slower than a donkey. As such, the donkey may experience a sense of misery thinking the owner gave the ox more food than it received. To prevent the donkey from this misery, the Torah forbade us from partnering an ox and donkey to plow jointly. The sensitivity for a donkey’s potential misplaced jealousy is absolutely remarkable. How much more so for our fellow man. Even if there is no justification for another’s pain or suffering, even if it is just “imagined,” we need to be sensitive to the pain. I bless us that this Elul we will be able to experience significant progress in our relationship with our Beloved and our fellow man.