Gathered from the teachings of Maran Rebbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztzvk”l (from the years 5744-5772)
(written by his grandson HaRav HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
Ellul is the Time to Engage in Battle Against the Yetzer Hara, to Increase, Torah-study, Mitzvot and Good Deeds. Additionally, to Realise that Our Livelihoods are Determined on Rosh Hashanah and Morever, What we Spend on Torah and Mitzvot we get Back from Hashem
It states in the Parshah, “When you go out to wage war against your enemies, Hashem your G-d will give you victory over them” (Devarim 21:10). The straightforward meaning is that if Am Yisrael are fitting, Hashem says to them, you don’t have to do anything, it is just sufficient that you go to war against your enemies, and I will deliver your enemies into your hands. All you have to do is to go out! But there is something indicated to here regarding the inner struggles of a person, the war with the yetzer. The Torah says, if a person will declare a war against his yetzer hara (evil inclination)! He goes to war against it! Then Hashem will deliver the yetzer into the person’s hands.
It states, “When you go out!” The Hebrew word for “when” (-“ki”) has a numerical value of 30, corresponding to the 30 days of the month of Ellul. Parashat Ki Teze always falls in the month of Ellul and so if a person wishes to engage in battle with his yetzer hara, to elevate himself, to repent, then during these days there is a unique assistance from Heaven, “Hashem your G-d will give you victory over them”.
But [to succeed in] this war, literally a battle, a person must prevail against his yetzer and to increase Torah and good deeds. These days are very important days, very serious days. A person prepares himself to meet the days of judgement. Hashem, through His kindness revealed the secret, he informed us how we may merit in judgement.
It is stated regarding Rosh Hashanah, “It will be said about the countries, which by sword, which for shalom, which for starvation, which to be satiated, people will be remembered, to mention them for life and death, who won’t be remembered on this day?” We have heard though the year how many great tragedies befell many countries. Hurricains, floods, all types of tragedies and in each tragedy so many died. All of this was decreed on Rosh Hashanah, for then decrees are made what will happen in each country. But the nations of the world don’t know what Rosh Hashanah is, they don’t know what Yom Kippur is, only to Am Yisrael did Hashem reveal the secret.
When a person sins, destroying angels are created from his actions and they are adversaries against him in his judgement. When he performs mitzvot, good angels are created, which advocate on his behalf, promoting merits for him.
If we reflect, a person makes an effort to perform mitzvot, even though he has sinned. He sinned because the yetzer hara loosened the person’s grip and weakened him and so due to his weakness he was tempted to sin. If so, the angel that was created from the bad things that he did is a weak angel, a small angel, there is no strength here and therefore the angel too is feeble. Alternatively, when he prevails in battle against the yetzer hara, he arises and strengthens himself and performs mitzvot, and detaches himself form sins and withdraws from sinning, then the angel who is created from his actions is strong and powerful, great and mighty.
So when the small angel stands in heaven as an adversary and speaks against the person, then the great angel silences him, contradicts him and shuts his mouth. He stands and says, Ribono shel Olam, I was created from this person’s Torah and mitzvot, “silence Satan’s mouth! And then, “may the good advocate arise to our credit.”
How good it is for a person to increase mitzvot and good deeds so that he may have good advocates above and he won’t G-d-for-bid come empty handed to the Day of Judgement. For if he shall come empty from mitzvot, how will they judge him? They will decree his judgement for ill fate, G-d-for-bid. Even if they won’t decree death, they may decree afflictions, illnesses, and if not illnesses, they may decree upon him poverty that he will be poor and wandering. Therefore a person should strengthen himself to perform more good deeds. He should strengthen in the battle against the yetzer hara and also pray that he should have a good year, a year of good life, a year of health, a year with a good livelihood.
Above all, it is a mitzvah for a person and a great kindness for him, that he increase Torah-study during these days, as our chachamim said, from the 15th of Av one who increases shall add, meaning, one who increases his Torah-study shall have years of life added, because the Torah grants life to those who observe it both in this world and the next [see Ta’anit 31a, Bava Batra 121b and Rashbam ad loc]. Therefore when he toils in it, he creates for himself advocates אישא will protect him, they will stand in his merit on Judgement Day.
When these advocates stand on his behalf on Judgement Day, they assist the person, not just that he be written for life but they also beseech Hashem that he merit to a good livelihood, because livelihood is also decreed on Rosh Hashanah, as the passuk states, “For it is a statute (- chok) for Yisrael, a judgment of Yaakov’s G-d” (Tehillim 81:5). “A statute” refers to livelihood, as the passuk states, “They ate the [food] allotment (- chock)” (Bereishit 47:22), what did they eat? Did they eat the statute? Rather a statute refers to a person’s livelihood, as another passuk reflects this meaning, “provide for me my alloted (- chok) bread” (Mishlei 30:8). Because a person’s entire livelihood is determined during these days of judgement. For Hashem decrees for a person how much he will earn during the year. From Tishrei this year until Tishrei of the next year, as is indicated to in the passuk, “It is therefore a land constantly under Hashem your G-d’s scrutiny; the eyes of Hashem your G-d are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12), the Hebrew word “from the beginning” – “reshit” is written without the letter aleph that it is normally spelt with. “Reshit” therefore indicates the spelling of the Hebrew month “Tishre”, because Hashem decrees the livelihoods from Tishrei until Tishrei, for then it is determined how much he will have available to spend and so his deeds are examined.
A person who is miserly, he is given a little, for the bread of his “statute” is a little and therefore a little will suffice for him. So it is a pity for a person to be tight for he will gain nothing from this behaviour. But if he is generous and if Hashem graced him with some money, he should give to his household that they may eat, drink and dress like respected people, for none of this will detract from his lot. But if his whole life he eats stale bread with chai tea, then also on Rosh Hashanah they will decree upon him that he eat stale bread with chai tea. Each person is dealt with according to his wealth and status.
This is what the passuk means, “For it is a statute for Yisrael”. However, this is just the current budget for the whole year. But that which a person spends on Torah, mitzvot and good deeds, has a specific budget, this is “unique”, money uniquely for mitzvot. If a person purchased for his son mehudar tefillin, he really pushed himself to buy them, then from Heaven they will observe his actions and give him [in return]. Likewise if he purchased a mehudar etrog, they will give him [in return]. If he has a son studying Torah and he assists him with his livelihood, they will give him [in return]. There are specific funds for all these things. Hashem’s hand is open to accept repenters. A person who does [good things] then Hashem gives him.
These are precious days in which each person girds himself in strength to go out in battle against the yetzer hara, during which Hashem declares, “Open for me one opening of teshuva, as small as a needle’s hole, and I will open for you an opening as big as a hall” [Based on Shir HaShirim 5:2 and in Sefer Chareidim, Rav Naftali of Ropshitz z”l, see also Pesikta D’Rav Kehana 5:8 and Midrash Rabba Shir HaShirim 5:3], “When you go out to wage war against your enemies, Hashem your G-d will give you victory over them”.