What is the source of the expression that during the month of Elul the King is in the field?

I have seen this on many occasions but could not find any source.

  • 2
    This question could be stronger if you would edit in some examples of contexts in which you've seen this phrase, especially if you can point to specific published usages.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 8 '15 at 18:29
  • @IsaacMoses mostly in divrei torah from contemporary talks. not from anything in chazal
    – ray
    Sep 8 '15 at 18:30
  • @IsaacMoses, I think that this metaphor (or simile, depending on the source) has become an element of tacit culture, so it's something we're assumed to know without sourcing. Sep 8 '15 at 19:16
  • 1
    @NoachmiFrankfurt That's fine, if it's the best that ray can do, but the question becomes stronger and more answerable if it includes examples, which could provide clues in the form of who quotes it, in what context, using what specific language. I'm not saying that this question is invalid, just that it could be better, more valuable, and more effective at generating good answers.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 8 '15 at 19:19
  • 1
    I think sefer hatoda'ah mentions this concept & he may explain this also. I'll c if I can locate it.
    – DanF
    Sep 8 '15 at 20:13

Rabbi Paltiel explains here (audio link) that this parable was developed by the Ba'al HaTanya in order to resolve a specific difficulty with the Arizal's statement that Elul is a time of the revelation the 13 attributes of mercy.

The original source is in Likkutei Torah here:

והנה נודע שבאלול הוא זמן התגלות י"ג מדות הרחמים, ולהבין זה כי למה הם ימות החול ואינם יו"ט כמו שבתות ויום טוב שבהם התגלות אלהות בחי' הארת אלהותו ית' ובפרט בעת וזמן י"ג מדות שהם הארת העליונות מאד והם מתגלים ביוהכ"פ ובודאי יש הפרש גדול בין יוה"כ ובין אלול. אך הנה יובן ע"פ משל למלך שקודם בואו לעיר יוצאין אנשי העיר לקראתו ומקבלין פניו בשדה ואז רשאין כל מי שרוצה לצאת להקביל פניו הוא מקבל את כולם בסבר פנים יפות ומראה פנים שוחקות לכולם. ובלכתו העירה הרי הם הולכים אחריו. ואח"כ בבואו להיכל מלכותו אין נכנסים כ"א ברשות ואף גם זאת המובחרים שבעם ויחידי סגולה. וכך הענין עד"מ בחודש אלול יוצאין להקביל אור פניו ית' בשדה, כי הנה כתיב יאר ה' פניו אליך שהוא ענין הארת י"ג מדות שיהי' פנים בפנים דהיינו שיאיר גילוי פנימיות רצונו ית' למקור נש"י ע"י שיהיה עיקר פנימיות רצונו אליו ית' לדבקה בו בלב ונפש מעומקא דליבא במסירת נפש כמ"ש במ"א, והארה זו היא נמשכת מבחי' אל שהוא ראשית כל הי"ג מדות ומקורן וכללותן, וכמ"ש אל ה' ויאר לנו שהוא בחי' אור א"ס ב"ה עצמו ממש

  • 1
    This wasn't originated from the Alter Rebbe. In the general sense it was developed, in that he explained the meaning more fully. But the concept came from Shlomo HaMelech. The 13 attributes were initially revealed to Moshe during Elul when G-d accepted Moshe's prayer for the Jewish people and agreed to replace the luchot that had been lost from the golden calf. See Shemot 34:1-8 for details. Sep 8 '15 at 21:05
  • @YaacovDeane, I don't have the time to explain it at length, but the question is about the King is in the field in Elul, not the general idea.
    – Yishai
    Sep 8 '15 at 21:12
  • It's known that Elul is a time of revelation of the 13 attributes. Why? They are regular days, not Yomim Tovim or Shabbat.The attributes are the most sublime level and are revealed on Yom Kippur. There is a difference between Yom Kippur and Elul. Before the King goes to His palace he meets with His subjects in the field. It requires no special preparation. Afterward He goes to His palace and to enter requires special permission. This is Shemot 34:1-8 and Kohelet 5:8 as explained by Rashi. HaShem's primary, inner will is "HaTov v'HaMeitiv". Sep 8 '15 at 21:54
  • The concept of the King entering His palace is Rosh HaShanah, when the coronation takes place at the blowing of the shofar. Before that is Elul. The Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu explicitly says the 13 attributes were revealed then, in Elul. It says G-d then told Moshe to ascend the mountain a second time, alone, with no one else. That is exactly the allegory that the Alter Rebbe describes. G-d reveals His innermost will to us because we do the same toward Him, to cleave to Him heart and soul from the depths of the heart. Sep 8 '15 at 22:05

This is probably an interpretation of Psalms (96: 12-3):

יב} יַעֲלֹז שָׂדַי וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ אָז יְרַנְּנוּ כָּל עֲצֵי יָעַר: {יג} לִפְנֵי יְהוָה כִּי בָא כִּי בָא לִשְׁפֹּט הָאָרֶץ יִשְׁפֹּט תֵּבֵל בְּצֶדֶק וְעַמִּים בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ

12 Let the field exult; and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy;

13 Before the LORD, for He is come; for He is come to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness. (Mekhon Mamre trans.). (Cf. Psalms (98: 7-9) for very similar wording)

The fields rejoicing upon God's arrival for judgement is seen as reference to Rosh HaShanah; the day of judgement.

This interpretation is found in Vayikra Rabba to Parshas Emor (30: 4):

כי בא בראש השנה ויום הכפורים מה לעשות (תהלים צח) ישפוט תבל בצדק ועמים במישרים

"For he has come" on Rosh HaShanah and Yom (Ha)Kippur(im); to do what? "He shall judge the world with fairness and the nations with equality".

Note: this is talking about Rosh HaShanah; not Elul which immediately precedes it, but this is still probably the source-text (perhaps the verse in Psalms was interpreted more broadly to include the entire preceding month).

  • Note that your reference in Vayikra Rabba uses a different Ps. than the one quoted above. Sep 8 '15 at 19:15
  • thank you for the answer. is the field the same as the yaar?
    – ray
    Sep 8 '15 at 20:07
  • Field is sadeh. Forest is Ya'ar. Generally speaking, a field is considered to be a place still occupied by people. A forest is not. That is one of the reasons why the King is in the field and not the forest. Sep 8 '15 at 20:11
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt not really I referenced Psalm 98 in addition to 96 as they have similar wording. Furthermore, although the Vayikra Rabba, happens to be commenting on Psalm 98, the interpretation of כי בא לשפוט הארץ is equally applicable to both.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 8 '15 at 21:03
  • @ray Not sure if שדי; the field, is identical to עֲצֵי יָעַר; the trees of the forest. Both are listed as rejoicing when God comes.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 8 '15 at 21:05

Perhaps what you are referring to is the Gemara Rosh Hashanah (18a) which brings from Yishaya 55:6 (which we read as the haftorah every fast day): "Dirshu hashem behimatzo..", "Seek Hashem when He can be found, call upon Hashem when He is near," which the geamra explains refers to the aseres y'mei teshuva starting with Rosh Hashanah and going through Yom Kippur.

Mussar seforim comment regarding Ellul of course that the yomim na'oraim are approaching and it is therefore an opportune time to get one's act together. Sfardim begin saying slichos at begining of Ellul and Ashkenazim start minimum 4 days maximum 8 days (7 selichos) before Rosh Hashanah to check ourselves before being ready to offer ourselves as a virtual karbon on Rosh Hashanah.

  • so the field is a generic expression for being nearby
    – ray
    Sep 9 '15 at 4:45

The source is from Kohelet 5:8. "A land's benefit in regard to all things is a king that is servile to the field." It means that all the good that comes to the inhabitants of any country comes to them because the King serves them. The concept of a Jewish King is first and foremost that he serves for the good of all his subjects. That he is HaTov v'HaMeitiv. As Rashi explains on this Kohelet, The Holy One, blessed be He, takes redress from those who are destroyers and pays reward to those who are builders.

This is the concept of reward and punishment, judgement and also teshuva. It is learned out from Moshe after the first set of tablets were destroyed following the golden calf. He led the nation in teshuva, prayed on our behalf and the teshuvah was finally accepted during Elul. The judgement was made on Rosh HaShanah. G-d revealed the 13 attributes during Elul and the 2nd set of tablets were given. (Shemot 34:1-8) That is the story of Elul and Tishrei concluding with Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.

  • are you saying God serves us? shouldnt it be the opposite?
    – ray
    Sep 8 '15 at 20:59
  • 1
    What does this have to do with fields or Elul?
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 8 '15 at 21:04
  • @ray it goes both ways. Our goal is to know him in all ways. As he is "buttul", so are we. We serve Him for sure. But the purpose of the King is only for the good of His subjects. That He is HaTov v'HaMeitiv... Sep 8 '15 at 21:12
  • @mevaqesh As Rashi explains, it is the concept of reward and punishment, judgement and teshuva. And that idea is learned out from Moshe after the first set of tablets were destroyed following the golden calf. He led the nation in teshuva, prayed on our behalf and was finally accepted during Elul. G-d revealed the 13 attributes and the 2nd set of tablets were given. (Shemot 34:1-8) That is the story of Elul and Tishrei concluding with Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. Sep 8 '15 at 21:18
  • @YaacovDeane perhaps consider editing that in.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 8 '15 at 21:24

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