The Queen is in the Field: Another Look at Elul

In Hasidic thinking, the days of Elul are a time when “The King is in the field.” Gaining an audience with the King during Tishrei is a whole to-do. We must travel to the capital city, arrange an appointment, and then get permission to enter the palace. It may be days or weeks before we are finally allowed to enter. And even then, when we do finally get to see the King, the audience is likely to be short and very formal. Lost among the throngs of people, it is hard to imagine it being a deeply personal interaction. Since very few of us actually live in the capital city, the royal surroundings we experience during the High Holidays make us feel out-of-place. By the time we get there, we might have even forgotten why we came to seek the audience of the King in the first place. It hardly seems like a good plan for a meaningful experience.

According to Rabbi Schneur Zalman (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe), during Elul “Anyone who desires is granted permission and can approach the King and greet the King. The King received them all pleasantly, and shows a smiling countenance to all” (Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b). The King’s arrival is heralded by the shofar blown throughout Elul. Here in the field, the formality is transformed into familiarity. 

While I have always loved this idea, I am not sure I ever truly understood this notion of majestic formality. I got a little more insight into this idea when reading a story about Queen Elizabeth II after her passing. On January 27, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Queen Elizabeth hosted a group of Holocaust survivors in St. James’s Palace in the center of London. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was present and later recounted: “When the time came for her to leave, she stayed. And stayed. One of her attendants said that he had never known her to linger so long after her scheduled departure. She gave each survivor – it was a large group – her focused, unhurried attention. She stood with each until they had finished telling their personal story.”

What does it mean to break royal protocol? It meant that she realized her role was to listen to their stories regardless of where else she was “supposed to be”. It meant that the Queen was in the field. May the memory of Queen Elizabeth II be for a blessing. While none of us should know the pain of those Holocaust Survivors, we should all feel that we have the royal attention during Elul. There should be no protocol when it comes having our stories heard. Shana Tova

0 Responses to “The Queen is in the Field: Another Look at Elul”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 237 other followers

Archive By Topic


%d bloggers like this: