We have already discussed in a previous Halacha why we customarily recite many prayers and supplications related to forgiveness during the entire month of Elul which is an auspicious time for forgiveness and atonement.
It is well-known that during these days we are closer to Hashem and He hears our prayers more quickly, as our Sages have expounded the verse, “Ani Le’Dodi Ve’Dodi Li” (“I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me”) which is an acronym for “Elul.” Similarly, the month of Elul is also hinted in the verse, “A redeemer shall come to Zion and to those who return from sin in Yaakov.” Furthermore, Rabbeinu Yonah writes in his Sefer Ha’Yir’ah: “From the beginning of Elul until the end of Yom Kippur, one should be scared and tremble from the fear of the Day of Judgment.” In the merit of the repentance during these days we shall one day be redeemed as is hinted in the verses composed by King David, “A Psalm by David, Hashem is my light and salvation;” “my light” on Rosh Hashanah “and salvation” on Yom Kippur. King David ends this Psalm by saying, “Were it not that I believe that I should see the goodness of Hashem,” and our Sages explain (Berachot, 4b) that King David feared that sins might cause the salvation not to come and thus the word “Luleh” (“Were it not,” also the same Hebrew letters as “Elul”) is dotted in the scripture in order to hint that in the merit of the repentance during the month of Elul, we shall be saved on the Day of Judgment.
Hagaon Harav David Amar zt”l writes in his Sefer Tefillah Le’David (Chapter 212) that during the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance (the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) it is especially worthy to recite the blessing of “Hashivenu Avinu Le’Toratecha” (fifth blessing of the Amidah prayer which deals with repentance) with proper concentration and to mention the names of some individuals who have strayed from the proper path of Hashem and His Torah, especially if they are his relatives. Maran Harav Shlit”a quotes this in his Chazon Ovadia-Yamim Nora’im (page 25).
Indeed, if we stop and think for a moment, do we not all pray lengthily for our relatives who, G-d-forbid, are not in the best of health or have yet to find their marriage partners and the like? Certainly the pain one feels for an individual who does not follow the path of Hashem is so much greater, for he is losing his share in the World to Come and he is missing out on countless merits in the Eternal World; anything a person can experience in this world pales greatly in comparison to life in the World to Come.
We remember that when Maran Harav Shlit”a’s wife passed on, he would learn and pray a substantial amount in order to elevate her soul. He would mention what the Mekubalim say that one should imagine his deceased relative as though he is standing before him and begging him to save him from a raging fire. A person’s need for merits and good deeds in order to merit entry in the World to Come is infinitely greater than any need one may have in this lowly, fleeting world.
The aforementioned Hagaon Harav David Amar quotes in his work the correct text for one who wishes to insert names of relatives in the blessing of “Hashivenu.” After reciting, “Hashivenu Avinu Le’Toratecha Ve’Karevenu Malkeinu La’Avodatecha Ve’Hachazirenu Bitshuva Sheleima Lefanech,” one inserts: “May it be Your will Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our fathers that you dig a tunnel under Your Throne of Glory to return all sinners of Israel through repentance and among them please return through complete repentance (insert name of relative and his/her mother, for example, David son of Esther), for Your right hand is outstretched to accept those who return (see Hebrew version of this Halacha for Hebrew text),” and then conclude the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Ha’Rotzeh Bitshuva.” (It is correct that when one concludes this blessing upon reciting the name of Hashem one should have in mind that this name of Hashem is punctuated with the “Segol” mark, as is printed in very thorough Siddurim, and concentrate on this, but not utter it.)
We have already dedicated a special Halacha to the prayer one recites for another’s repentance.
May Hashem return all sinners of Israel to Him through a complete repentance and may the land be filled with the knowledge of the Hashem like the waters that fill the seas.