THE NAME: ELUL
The beginning of the month of Elul initiates the first days
of our annual month of preparation before the High Holy days, when the
Jewish people are judged on their behavior of the past year. The Shlah
comments on the verse "When the lion roars, who is not afraid?"
(Amos 3:8), explaining that the Hebrew word for "lion", "aryeh",
(spelled alef, reish, yud, hei), is an acronym for the 4 words, Elul,
Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah (the last day of Sukkot).
When the "lion" of the High Holy Days arrives, people feel the
urge to change their behavior for the better, in preparation of the Day
Because of the spiritual potency of the month of Elul, there
are ancient traditions associating the name of the month with different
Torah verses where the first letters of the words spell out "Elul",
showing us the different aspects of its character and how we can utilize
them to connect with G-d. The most well known include "I am for my
beloved and my beloved is for me" (Songs 6:3), which refers to the
power of prayer; "Each man to his friend and gifts for the poor"
(Esther 9:22) about charity and, in general, kindness to others; "Your
heart and the heart of your children" (Deut. 30:6), referring to
repentance; and "It came to his hand and we placed for him"
(Ex. 21:13), which alludes to the cities of refuge, built for one who
murdered accidentally (referring to the Torah, our refuge).
When we will truly use all of our efforts during the month
of Elul, to learn Torah and do all of the commandments, then the final
verse hinted in the name "Elul" will become fully revealed:
"And they said, we will sing to G-d." (Ex. 15:1) This was the
prophesy of the Jewish people at the splitting of the red sea, that everyone
will sing together at the time of Mashiach celebrating the arrival of
the Final Redemption!
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter is a co-founder and the executive
director of Ascent-of-Safed.
from The Introduction to THE
“Prepare the holy throne” (Zohar). Holiness requires preparation.
Our chief task is not to create it, but rather to become a receptacle
for holiness, which comes about according to the manner of the preparation.
Elul is the last month of the Jewish calendar year. As the preparation
for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, which immediately follows it,
Elul is a month of repentance, marked by a number of Festivals
and Holidays, special customs and traditions.
Elul is also the month of soul-accounting. A businessman occasionally
needs to calculate an overall profit-and-loss statement, as well as a
detailed ledger. We too need to conduct an annual audit of the state
of our spiritual ‘business.’ The entire year we are involved in
accruing profit: serving G-d through Torah-study, mitzvah-observance,
prayer and good deeds. In the month of Elul, we make a general reckoning
of all we have done throughout the year.
Further, the best possible time for this soul-accounting is the month
of Elul, for then the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy shine (i.e. “...slow
to anger and abounding in kindness and truth; forgiving iniquity, ...”).
This revelation may be compared to a king who emerges from his palace
and goes out to the field in full view of his subjects. Only then
is it possible to engage appropriately in spiritual introspection
without the danger of sinking into hopelessness and despair. For,
after all, the king is with him in the field—he has our benefit in mind.
A pre-requisite for a proper soul accounting is total acceptance of and
self-subordination to the heavenly yoke. This self-subordination can produce
a generous ‘growth ,’ just as a seed sown in the ground and covered sprouts
a yield far greater than itself.
Although engaging in such spiritual labor can be difficult, making a
sincere, all-out effort helps to generate the necessary inner strength
to make our actual, practical service conform with Divine expectations.
Refoel Leitner authored and illustrated Ascent “How-to” Charts
#8: ”Three Gates of Yom Kippur” (AQ#16) and #11: ”The Elul Process” (AQ#42).
He currently resides in Monsey, NY.
Thirteen Attributes of Compassion
A remarkable phenomenon exists in regards to the Thirteen
Attributes of Compassion. While throughout Elul only their light shines
forth, nonetheless, that light contains within it the essence of its
source. Since they are the Light of the Infinite One ( Ein Sof), they
consequently illume His Absolute Being.
Elul's radiated Thirteen Attributes of Compassion are a preparation for
their full revelation on Yom Kippur. One might ask, how can a mere radiation
be related to intense Absolute Light? But it certainly can, for although
their state during Elul is external - as a king in a field - nevertheless,
they are the Infinite One's Light, and we can't distinguish between them.
Based on a discourse by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem
Mendel Schneerson, parashat Re'eh 5739-1979
Some Laws and Customs
Saturday night Petitions
At midnight, Saturday, 23 Elul 5783 (Sept. 9, 2023),
Ashkenazic Jewry begins to recite the Selichot prayers (Sephardim
have already been doing it for three weeks, since 2 Elul).
There are many different terms used to express forgiveness
in the Torah and Rabbinic liturgy. "Yislach", "kapara"
(literally, "atonement"), "nosay avone",
(literally "bear iniquity"), "ovair al pesha"
(literally, "forgive transgression"), "nirtzeh avono"
(literally, "repentance for the iniquity is acceptable"),
"avonatee macha" (literally, "erase my sin"),
"kabsainee ma'avonee" (literally, "cleanse me
from iniquity"), "may'chatotee taharaynee" (literally,
"purify me from my sin"), and more.
Each one has of course, its special meaning and represents
a unique form of rectification. For instance, when one says, "I
have removed from you all your transgression", it infers that
the transgressions have a reality of their own, only now they are
removed from any association with the person. "Bears iniquity"
- that the iniquity remains, only G-d bears it and suffers with it.
"He erases iniquity", means that G-d represses its effects.
But when sin or iniquity is forgiven, then the result is as if the
sin never had a existence at all. "Selicha" means
complete forgiveness so that there remains absolutely no trace of
the sin. For only "Selicha" can denote absolute forgiveness.
It is interesting to note therefore, that the word "selicha"
in all of the Tanach is only used by G-d himself and never between
one person and another. A person cannot repair something as if it
was never ruined. Only G-d can give absolute forgiveness so that the
transgression is forgiven as if it never occurred.
Rabbi Binyomin Adilman is the former
head of the Nishmas Chayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Back issues of his
weekly parsha sheet, B'ohelei Tzadikim, from which this article was
taken, may be found on www.nishmas.org.
Chag Samayach - Have
a joyous holiday!
The ASCENT staff