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The ELUL Encounter

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ELUL's acrostic abbreviation stands for Ani l'Dodi v'Dodi Li. ELUL lends a special window period to override palace protocol. A bird's-eye of the City of David helps you putting the puzzle pieces together.

 
Pop Quiz: How did Charles Warren discover the City of David? By mistake. His original plan was to excavate under the Temple Mount, as commissioned by Queen Victoria of England in the early 1900's. But he was denied access by the Ottoman Authorities who governed Jerusalem at the time. So the whole plan went south, literally. Bound by the edict he shifted focus to the hill south of the Temple Mount and astoundingly uncovered a massive fortification, initiating the discovery of Ancient Jerusalem.
 
Quiz #2: How did David finally discover the exact location of the future Temple, the place where the presence of
G-d would come to reside? Also by mistake – and this time quite a big one. What happened? David decided to take a census of the nation, an act he was directly forbidden by G-d to do. A deathly Plague resulted claiming the lives of 70 000 souls. 
 
When the Executing Angel of the plague reached Jerusalem, G-d commanded him to stay his hand. He hovered over the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.  Ornan and his sons, busy threshing wheat that day, saw the angel. So did David. Realizing the weight of the matter he immediately offered to buy the exact place from Ornan for 600 shekels worth of gold and announced: “Here will be the House of the LORD and here the altar of burnt offerings for Israel”
 
The Temple Plan – Life’s Blueprint
David yearned to build a dwelling place for the presence of G-d. Now when he finally realized where the chosen location was to be, he was told that since he had shed blood in battles with Israel's enemies, the Temple would therefore be built by his son Solomon, in a time of peace. Solomon’s Hebrew name, Shlomo, is derived from the word Shalom. But it was David who received the plan and blueprint for the Temple by Divine Inspiration.
 
David gave his son Solomon the plans in in their entirety, which the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the House of God and for the storerooms for the holy treasures. 1 Chron 28:11-12
 
The Temple plan wasn’t some nice architectural inspiration; it was a meticulous blueprint representing a well calibrated Divine palace protocol. Even the priestly service within this space was well specified. What was done and the way it was done was part of the way G-d ran His world. We get a hint of the Temple's profound plans and practices in Ezekiel when the Temple is described in three long chapters only to end with G-d telling the prophet: "Son of man, explain to the people of Israel the Temple plan I have shown you, so they will be ashamed of all their sins. Let them study its plan”.
 
In modern day governmental systems we are also bound to strict protocol. A person can't just walk into parliament insisting to speak to the Prime Minister. It also comes as no surprise then that the archaeological excavations in the palace area of the Davidic Dynasty in the City of David, as well as the adjacent Ophel area excavations to the north which uncovered the extension of the royal district in Solomon’s time, revealed a very distinct structure of protocol. 
 
 
The Elul Encounter: Overriding Palace Protocol
 
We are entering the Hebrew month of Elul, 30 days of “Divine forgiveness and kindness”.  This is embodied in the word ELUL, an acrostic abbreviation of the Hebrew verse in Songs of Solomon (6:3):  Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li (I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is mine)
 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (18th c. Hasidic master) explains the month of Elul as follows: The king's usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate bureaucratic channels and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. The visitor must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.
 
However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a loving and radiant countenance. This is the character of the month of Elul.
 
A Story coming to Life
Something changes when you stand at the look-out on top of the City of David hill, with a 360 degree bird’s eye view of the very terrain where these ancient historical accounts originated. Suddenly the very location fuses you with the rich past of Biblical History. One can gaze upon the archaeological discoveries of the palace area as well as the more northern development of the royal quarters during King Solomon's time, while Temple Mount majestically towers in full view. 
 
Turning a few degrees south east you see the King’s Garden area which must have played a significant role in the lush descriptions of fruit trees and spices, which we find in the Songs of Solomon. Gazing even more south you can see where the valley leads towards the fusion of the Kidron and Tyropoeon Valleys, where agriculture flourished during the times of the early kings. One can almost see in your mind’s eye the king’s procession visiting the workers in the field.
 
It is no wonder that in the very next verse after Ani l’dodi (I am my Beloved's) we find Solomon describing his beloved as “beautiful as Jerusalem”. The word beautiful used here is Na-veh in Hebrew, which means comely or suitable but also shares the meaning of a pleasant dwelling. 
 
We have merited in our own modern times to witness Ancient Jerusalem's discovery and reintroduction to the world.  May we be so bold in wishing to see this majestic city reach and rise even beyond her former beauty – fit to host a King.  
 
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