The month of Ellul, the month before Rosh Hashana is a special time in the Yeshiva. The word Ellul is an acronym for Ani Ledodi Vdodi Li.From Shir Ha SHirim "I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me" relating to the special relationship of the Jewish People to Hashem.The last letter of the four words is yud numerically 10x4=40 denoting the 40 days between rosh chodesh Ellul and Yom Kippur, the same 40 days that Moshe entreated Gd on Mt. Sinai to forgive The sin of the golden calf and give the second tablets of the commandments. Ellul also is connected to the Aramaic root A-L-L which means to come and specifically to come in order too seek out. Onkelos translates spies-allalin.,those who come to seek out the land
Who is coming and what is he seeking?. The Sages tell us that during the year Hashem is like a king in his palace and the commoners must be granted special permission to enter. But in the month of Ellul, before his coronation the king leaves the palace and goes into the fields to meet his subjects This is the time that the King is closest to his people..
Yeshivat Machon Meir is known as the "ba'al teshuva Yeshiva" of the Dati Leumi community . That was true 20 years ago when I first attended the Yeshiva. Most of the 100 or so students were men who came from secular backgrounds and were taking their first steps toward the world of Torah and commandments.Today with over 400 students there avreichim and talmidei chachamim along with Ba'alei Teshuvah.
The personality of Rosh Yeshiva , Rav Dov Bigon, himself a ba'al teshuva, is the leading light of the yeshiva. He has"hadrat panim' a glowing countenance that radiates tremendous charisma and at the same time total humility.Before tefillat Arvit he gives a short "shmuss", a discussion based on the teachings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook. HaRav taught that teshuva, usually translated as repentance, really means "return" that every Jew has the ability to return to his real self, his pure inner self whose source is divine. This is so no matter how far he has strayed from the path of Torah and mitzvot.
In Ellul when "the King is in the Field" there is an aura of kedusha, of holiness in the Yeshiva. When we can search our souls and ask forgiveness in order to participate in the crowning of the King on Rosh Hashana.
The dovening is very different than what I had gotten used to in my shul in Rechovot. The Rav there was Rav Avraham Rubin a Slonim Chassid. Slonim Chassidut takes dovening very seriously. The Rav used to say to us "Prayer is not a sing-along, it is not entertainment, but communion with the divine that requires total concentration.At Yeshivat Machon Meir the dovening is full of song, much of it influenced by niggunim from the Chassidic courts of Mozhitz, Vizhnitz and also modern tunes of Shlomo Carlebach,, Avraham Fried and Ben-tzion Shenker. To me there is no contradiction here. Kriat shema and shmoneh esrei are said silently and with great concentration, but songs of praise are sung with joy and exuberance. There is even dancing on Kabbalat Shabbat. This is in line with the synthesis of the seriousness of the Litvish Yeshiva world together with the unbridled joy of Chassidut that you find in the Yeshivas such as Machon Meir which are identified with Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook and Har HaMor.
It is a great privilege to learn Torah from Rabbanim such as R' Bigon, Doron Katz,Chanoch Ben-Pazi, and Elisha Vishlitzki. May Hashem give me the strength to take advantage of this opportunity to meet the King in the field with his ministers. who show us the way to approach Him and crown him with the crown of Torah.