Friday, August 9, 2013


Month of Elul

The last month of the year (where it still is on Israel’s civil calendar) prior to the Passover in Egypt, it is now referred to in scripture as “the sixth month.” The name Elul was probably imported from Babylon when the captives were allowed to return and is mentioned by name in Nehemiah. The very name of the month, Elul, (which is spelled Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed) is said to be an acronym for Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li, which translated means I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine, where Beloved is God and the “I” is the Jewish People. (Song of Songs 6:3)

While there are some events recorded in Scripture for us, the month of Elul has no special importance either in Scripture or Rabbinic writings.

My Jewish Learning: Elul

Things that happened in Scripture during this month include:

The L.ORD appeared to Ezekiel for a second time on the fifth day, lifting him by the hair and bringing him by vision to Jerusalem to be shown the abominable things going on in the Temple (592 bce).

The word of the L.ORD came to Haggai on the 1st day (520 bce).

In Nehemiah’s day, the wall of Jerusalem was completed and its doors set in place on the 25th day (444 bce).

Fast Forward

Sometime during the first millennium, the month of Elul was established as the month of soul-searching and introspection*, a time of repentance to prepare for the High Holy Days. It is called “yemei ratzon” or “days of favor” because Israel had its sin of the gold calf forgiven and Moshe went back up the mountain a third time on this day according to tradition, for another 40 days with new tablets for HaShem to rewrite the Ten Words on them thus reinstating His covenant with Israel, their sin atoned for, coming down on the 10th day of the seventh month what would in the near future for Israel, become the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Customs Include:

Blowing the Shofar: Every day, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until the day before Rosh Hashanah it is customary to blow the shofar (except on Shabbat) to wake up the community for the coming High Holy Days.

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalms 27 twice daily. This custom is based on the Midrashic comment, "the L-rd is my light…" on Rosh Hashanah, "…my salvation…" on Yom Kippur, "…He will hide me in His tent" on Sukkot.

Selichot- Prayers of Repentance and Appeals for HaShems Compassion: Appeals to HaShems 13 attributes revealed to Moshe on the mountain. Moshe asked “show me Your glory”. “I will cause all My goodness to pass before you and proclaim My Name”…and here is what He revealed:

“(1)The L.ORD, (2)the L.ORD, (3)G.od, (4)compassionate and (5)gracious, (6)slow to anger, (7)abounding in love (8)and faithfulness, (9)maintaining love to thousands, and (10)forgiving wickedness, (11)rebellion and (12)sin. (13)Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…
For more detail on the 13 attributes, see

Hebrew For Christians: Ki Tisa (when you take)

Increase in Giving Charity

Return in Penitence: The thematic appeal of the season comes from Isaiah 55:6-7. Seek the L.ORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.


While anytime is the right time to turn from sin, especially “today if you hear His voice”, this month was selected to focus a laser on repentance and forgiveness leading to the High Holy Days when sin was atoned for.


How Can There Be Rules for Teshuvah?

In this video, the first of the course, Rabbi Fohrman presents the essential question regarding repentance that will guide the rest of the course: How can something as subjective as teshuvah (repentance) have objective governing rules? Additionally, Rabbi Fohrman begins to explore the question of whether teshuvah is an actual command (mitzvah).


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