The month of Elul has started and I am so glad that Av is over. Somehow Av never seems to work out for me, as there is always something bad happening. Friends keep on telling me that I shouldn’t look at Av as a “disaster month” but even if I don’t, things just keep on happening.
Elul is the month of Teshuva (Repentance). It is hard to believe that in another month from now, we will be celebrating Rosh Hashana.
Rosh Chodesh ELUL – The beginning of the Jewish month ELUL
The Jewish month of Elul is one of the most important months of the year, as it marks the beginning of the Teshuva (Repentance) process taking place before the Jewish New Year “Rosh HaShana”. Thus, Elul is the month of Repentance and Rachamim (Mercy).
On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe went up to Har Sinai for the third time, as G – d had commanded him. When Moshe went up for the first time, he received the Luchot with the Ten Commandments (Aseret HaDibrot) which he smashed when he climbed down on 17th Tammuz. On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe again went up to Har Sinai in order to receive the nsecond pair of Luchot. 40 days later, on Yom Kippur, he returned into the camp of the Israelites. G – d forgave the Jews the sin of the Golden Calf (Egel HaZahav).
Hardly any Jewish direction is putting so much emphasize on the phrase from Shir HaShirim 6:3: “HaMelech BaSadeh – The King is in the Field”, as Chassidut.
According to the Baal Shem Tov, G – d is extremely easy to approach during the month of Elul. It goes without saying that we are able to do Teshuva throughout the entire year, however, the Baal Shem Tov saw in Elul a stronger opportunity of getting closer and reaching G – d. Especially regarding the next Jewish holiday “Rosh HaShana” where the whole world and humankind (Jews and Gentiles alike) are being judged. The final judgment for Jews, however, is going to take place on Yom Kippur. Whereas Rosh HaShana is a judgment day for the entire world, Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday and other religions / nations have nothing to do with it.
A Minhag (custom) of the Baal Shem Tov is to pray Psalm 27 during Elul. Every day seven times, as far as I remember. According to Chabad (Sha’arei HaMoadim) one should say three chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) every day and intensify Torah study in order to awaken G – d’s mercy.
Elul is the time of “Hitbodedut”, meaning one should set aside one hour in order to talk to G – d. Just speak to G – d in a personal manner wherever you are. If you don’t have an hour, choose 5 minutes, 15 minutes, any time as you have available. It is said that Elul has the power to cancel all sins of the ongoing year under the condition that we regret what we did and do honest Teshuva (the Sefat Emet from Chassidut Gur). A further method for doing Teshuva before Rosh HaShana is the giving of Zedakah (donations).
Sephardic Jewry is starting it’s Selichot prayers on Rosh Chodesh Elul. Especially when you go to the Kotel these days, you will hear the Shofar (ram’s horn) blowing by Sephardic Jews.
It says in Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) that the Hebrew letter of the month of Elul is the YUD י
The Yud י basically has a shape of a small point and represents G – d’s Creation of the world with wisdom. Kabbalistic sources see the Yud י as Chochmah (wisdom). G – d created the world as a point, called the Even HaShtiah, the foundation stone under the altar of the First, Second and hopefully soon rebuild Third Temple. This tiny point began to spread and thus formed the whole world.
The tribe of Elul is Gad, the horoscope is the virgin, the organ is the left hand and the human sense is “to act”. Acting because we have to make Teshuva. Acting, meaning here to regret and ask for forgiveness.
Judaism doesn’t translate the Hebrew word “Chet” as sin but as “missing the goal”. Our understanding of sinning is a very different one from Christians, for instance. Although we can miss the goal, we are always able to do Teshuva and receiving G – d’s mercy and forgiveness.
The Teshuva process consists of three parts:
1. Coming to the conclusion that we missed the goal.
2. Honest regret.
3. Try not to repeat the same mistake in the future.
An extremely important day is 18th Elul, when we celebrate the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov.
I wish you all a great and successful preparation for Rosh HaShana and a great month of Elul. Hopefully we will all succeed in getting closer to our Creator.
Chodesh Tov – חודש טוב !