“The King is in the field.” This is the phrase that describes the month of Elul, the month leading up to the High Holy Days. The King is in the field. Okay, we know that the King refers to God. What about the rest? What is the field? What does it mean that God is in the field? And what am I supposed to do about it, if anything? To start to understand, we need to go back a few months. Remember Shavuot? Remember staying up all night learning Torah? The anticipation leading up to it while we counted the 49 days of the Omer. The fabulous cheesecake we ate way too much of (well, maybe that was just me). On Shavuot we celebrated the receiving of the Torah. Before God even told us what was in the Torah, we said “na’aseh v’nishma,” we will do and we will hear. This was our wedding. We formed an everlasting covenant with God, binding ourselves to Him and His Torah for all time. So, Shavuot we stay up all night learning Torah, just like our wedding night. We’re too excited to sleep, and besides, just as we feel about the one we are about to marry, we say, we want to know everything about You, God. So we study His Torah, which is the best way to learn about God. We live in this honeymoon state for a little while. But a month and a half later, things start to change. We have our first row. On the 17th of Tammuz we fast. It is a day of mourning. On this day the walls of Jerusalem were breached in 69 CE. On this day we realized that God would not allow our infidelity to go unnoticed, and was not unconditionally protecting us as we expected. On this day we saw things were not perfect. The honeymoon is definitely over. For three weeks, we continue to be in mourning. But instead of doing teshuvah and repenting and fixing our holy marriage, we turn against each other. On the 9th of Av, our Holy Temple, the house we built for so that He would dwell among us, was destroyed. The reason our sages give us is baseless hatred against each other. It was a very low point for all of us, and still is. And it feels like this is it. Our House has been destroyed, there’s nothing left, this marriage is over. But then comes the month of Elul. And we hear the words “the King is in the field.” In the old world, where kings ruled and peasants worked the land, there was very little interaction between the two. The king ruled from his walled palace, and the peasants kept to the fields. But now it is Elul. And we are truly peasants. We work hard in our fields, barely lifting our heads from the dirt of this material world. But if we do, if we chance to take a moment from our everyday routine and just look “up,” we will see there, in the field, the King. The King of the world above, here in our world; the King ready to listen, to forgive, to love. This is our chance to repair our broken marriage. And indeed, the first thing a spouse needs to say is “I’m sorry.” But for those of you who are married, you know that “sorry” by itself is never enough. Because the next question is always, “Sorry for what?” And this is what the month of Elul is for: 29 days of talking to the King, going over all the hurt, pain and misunderstanding. And we can put ourselves in our loved one’s fields. Go to our spouses, our siblings, our parents, our friends, our children, ourselves. We do all this so that when we come to face God on the High Holy Days, when we leave behind the materialism of the field and enter the spiritual world of the Palace, when we say we’re sorry, not only will we know what we are sorry for, but God can smile and answer, “I know.” On a personal note, forgiveness can be so much more encompassing than we know. One Yom Kippur I was praying alone, feeling nothing. No tears, no heartfelt apologies and no true forgiveness in my heart. I sat down exhausted, hungry, disappointed and, if I’m really honest, angry. Then I started to feel guilty for feeling all that, which made me feel it even more, and the cycle continued. I began speaking to God as though He were in the room listening to me. And I said it all. I told God that I was hungry. I told Him I was tired. I said that if He wanted me to be a more spiritual person, then He should have made me that way. I told God that if He wanted me to be someone other than who I was, then He was at fault. He created me as I am. Then I said the thing I was most afraid to say. “God, I’m angry at You. You’ve made me with so many faults. You have given me so much pain. You’ve taken away people I love. You’ve broken my heart.” But then, once I said it, I wasn’t angry anymore. In fact, a feeling swept over me that I hadn’t intended at all. And before I could think about it, the words came out of my mouth. “God, I forgive You.” I know that logically, God does not need my forgiveness. In fact, I truly believe that everything God does for me is all a blessing, even if I can’t see it. It wasn’t God who needed me to feel forgiveness in my heart; it was me. With those words I was able to reach into all areas of my life and find forgiveness for those in my life I didn’t even know I needed to forgive. I forgave my two-and-a-half-year-old for all the pain he caused me, through pregnancy and birth to sleeplessness and endless crying. I forgave my parents for not being perfect like I felt they should have been. I forgave my husband for not being the exact man I wanted him to be. And I forgave myself for being deeply flawed, making mistakes and not living up to my own expectations. Have a beautiful and blessed Elul.