Elul: The Desire To Return
The special quality of these days, to kindle our aspirations to return to Hashem, has its roots in the first Elul Israel experience as a nation, when people were steeped in intense repentance over the sin of the Golden Calf. The Sages tell us that that sin was not completely expiated at the time; instead Hashem amortized the punishment we deserved and continually extracts it in small portions whenever we need to be punished for other offenses (cf. Rashi, Shemos 32:34). We may assume that the profound desire to return to Hashem we felt that first Elul also continues to reverberate in our national soul during this month – even today and throughout all generations.