Tamuz Av Elul
Elul is called Elul Rahamim in many circles. We ask Hashem to have mercy upon us in this month. After the months of Tamuz and Av, which have traditionally been months of sadness for the Jewish people, we need a month that we can get use to get back up on our feet and prepare for the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday and the new year.
The Ben Ish Hai says (Wikisource in English!) that Tamuz, Av, and Elul all belonged to Esav, but Yaakov snatched Elul from him. In the future, we will also take Tamuz and Av, but alas, we cannot do so yet.
Tamuz this year brought us the kidnapping and murder of Leiby Kletzky A"H, the murder of Baba Elazar ZT"L. Av this year brought us terror in Eilat, rockets from Gaza, and Hurricane Irene.
Elul is shaping up to be just as scary, if not scarier. A new hurricane in the Atlantic is taking shape (Hurricane Katia), both Iran and Israel are sending warships to the Red Sea, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to declare a state, which will most likely lead to violence no matter what happens.
However, when I say "no matter what happens", I may be limiting the possibilities. If we snatched Elul from Esav, we need to take control of it, and we can. How do we take control of things that are seemingly out of our control?
Teshuva, Tefilla, Utzdaka Ma'avirin et Ro'a Hagezeira. The cure is there for the taking: repentance from our sins because we want to get closer to Hashem, prayer like we mean it, and charity because we care. This will change Elul around and will give us control. Of course, Hashem is in control, but if we turn things around, רצון יראיו יעשה - Hashem will do what we want Him to do, and He will turn things around too.
Even before Elul started, we received the good news of the acquittal of one of the boys in Japan. We hope that this is a sign of only good things to come. May we take advantage of this month in which we are closest to Hashem to do the acts that make us closer. And may Hashem bring us closer to Him with the return of His Shechina to the Beit Hamikdash with the coming of Mashiah, speedily in our days, Amen.