In the month of Elul, the yeshiva of Kelm was a very serious place. The trepidation from the upcoming Yom Hadin was in the air. The talmidim walked around with a sense of purpose, lost deep in thoughts of self improvement. So much so that one of the special things they would do was to come to a joint agreement that each person will go out of their way to make sure that they greet others with a smile and happiness. Yes, a smile – that long lost facial expression that would otherwise have no place in Kelm this time of year.
This was typical of Kelm. They took the whole world and flipped it on its head only to turn it back over again. A system of checks and balances of forever improving and then making sure that the improvement was airtight, causing no collateral damage along the way.
Similarly, Rav Yisroel Salanter once related that he met one of the great yirei Shomayim in the bais medrash on Erev Yom Kippur. Rav Yisroel asked him a question, but the man’s thoughts were so lost in the upcoming day that he simply did not hear Rav Yisroel and ignored the question. Rav Yisroel thought to himself, “Why am I guilty because he was scared of the Yom Hadin? Gemillus Chasodim demands that he answer me with joy!” (Chaim SheYesh Bahem – Ki Seitzei).