Elul’s here! Isn’t that exciting?!

Did you raise your eyebrows when you read that line? Not surprising. For many of us, the feeling that makes our stomachs churn when we think about Elul isn’t excitement.

It’s more like dread.

Fear and the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) go hand in hand. This is the time when Hashem decides what our future will look like. Will we live through the year? Will we be healthy or sick? Will our finances rise or fall? Have we been good enough people to merit a decent judgement?

Of course, a certain level of fear is healthy. It motivates us to work on ourselves. It helps us get past the inertia we humans tend to get stuck in. And some of us do approach Elul with the right level of fear.

But many more of us don’t. We let fear propel us toward despair.

I’ve done so many things wrong this year. Teshuvah is too hard.

I’ll never be good enough. Even though I’m really trying.

I can’t handle the pressure – get me out of here!

This type of fear doesn’t motivate. It paralyzes. It demoralizes. We schlep our feet into Elul, wish the time away on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And then we’re unhappy with ourselves for our attitude. And for how little we’ve managed to accomplish.

The simple truth is that many of us aren’t in a place where fear can do its job properly. All it does is give our Elul a bitter taste. Which pushes us further from teshuvah, not closer to it. If we want to have a truly productive month, if we want to approach the Yamim Noraim with real yiras Shamayim and not just plain old dread, we need to build a positive perspective on Elul.

The type of perspective we’re supposed to have.

Because it’s not for nothing that our Sages call Elul the “chodesh harachamim,” month of mercy. It’s not for nothing that they dub the entire period between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur “Yemei Ratzon,” days of favor and goodwill.

It’s not for nothing that, in our tefillos during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, we repeat over and over that Hashem is a “Melech chafetz bachayim,” a King Who desires life. He gives us life for a purpose, and He wants to see us fulfill it.

He isn’t looking to trip us up. He wants us to be successful. Ratzon. Rachamim. He wants us to merit life. So our job during Elul isn’t to worry ourselves into despair. It’s to show Hashem that we have a plan for how to use another year purposefully. That we’re laying the groundwork for a successful year of growth.

How do we do that? Enter this guidebook.

Based on the teachings of Rav Reuven Leuchter shlita, these pages open our eyes to just how much we can accomplish during this time. Practical instructions and personalized exercises point us down a path toward real, doable teshuvah. Teshuvah that will last. Teshuvah that will launch us toward further growth.

With the right guidance, it’s all within reach. So let’s take the opportunity to leave this Elul fulfilled, empowered – and transformed. For real.

Please click here for the Flipdocs version.

Please click here to download the PDF version.

Rabbi Levi Lebovits is the Director of the Vaad Project, Yeshiva Toras Chaim of Denver.

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