The days of Elul are days of journeys, inner spiritual journeys as well as journeys of miles and kilometers traversed across the hills and highways of Israel, Europe and America.

In years past, the "journey to the Tzaddik" was often not so easy, and it required great self sacrifice on the part of the chasidim as well as their families. The path from Warsaw to Gur, was often full of barefooted chasidim walking through the fields in order to save their shoes to wear for the honor of Yom Tov. Some chasidim were gone for a month or more, and their families were left to provide for themselves. Yet many wives and families urged and blessed their husbands and fathers to make the yearly pilgrimage for the month of Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Chasidim would travel for days and weeks in the company of their brethren to reach their destination….

The trip to the Tzaddik in times past had a special flavor. Chasidim would travel for days and weeks in the company of their brethren to reach their destination. The trip was usually made in the company of one's friends, often chasidim of the first order and highest caliber, all traveling together in a bond of unique and unwavering friendship. Chasidim used to say, that in the company of such seekers, it was possible to attain a healing of the soul (Tikun HaNefesh) even before they reached the Rebbe.

Those early chasidim would quote a verse from Isaiah when reflecting on their experiences traversing the dirt roads of Eastern Europe on the way to the Tzaddik. "I remembered the kindness of your youth when you went after Me in the desert; through an unsown and desolate environment."

Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk used to comment that this kindness, the willingness of a chasid to take to the road to visit the Rebbe/Tzaddik in his youth, during the years when he was in full strength, will stand for him in his later years. G‑d will remember him when his physical strength has waned, remembering his joy and enthusiasm and how he dropped all his worldly pursuits to travel so to speak, in an unsown land as he traveled to be with the Rebbe, cut off from all worldly pursuits. G‑d will remember him and grant the chasid the strength to make the journey yet another year.

The desire to travel to the Tzaddik is really the intense longing of the soul to shake off its impurities….

The question is by now obvious. Why undertake the expense of time and money to make the journey to the Tzaddik? Is it not possible for one to study in his own home from books of Chassidut and Ethics? Cannot one accomplish spiritual growth on his own without the trouble of the arduous journey?

A chasid, whose neighbor once asked him about the necessity of his travels to the Rebbe, answered, "When I sit in my house with a book and begin to learn, the Evil Inclination eventually gets up and begins to dance on my table and finally kicks my book open to the chapter that speaks about the inherent weakness of man and how he must exert himself to overcome the Evil Inclination. I become instantly forlorn, overcome with uncertainty about my ability to best it. When I travel to the Tzaddik, he knows exactly what I am lacking and what I need to repair my faults. He strengthens me and gives me the rectification that my soul needs.

The desire to travel to the Tzaddik is really the intense longing of the soul to shake off its impurities and empty husks and to return to a state of purity. It is the light of the Tzaddik which cleanses and straightens out the soul of the chasid.

In the month of Elul, any contact with Torah scholars and Jews who serve G‑d with all their hearts will help one to prepare for the awesome days ahead.