Take a stroll through the field with the King Himself during the month of Elul. Use this special month to reconnect with the King and take stock of the past year.
The month of Elul is the sixth month of the Jewish calendar. In this month the severe judgements of the month of Av are sweetened and rectified. The Zodiac sign of this month is Betulah – the woman who was not touched yet by any man. The month of Elul is designated as an auspicious time for teshuva – the time for reckoning and making the yearly assesment of one’s achievements and personal growth. It is the time to reconnect with one’s mission and personal goals, the time to generate a truthful evaluation regarding one’s position in the service of G-d. It is the time to allow oneself to face the gap between who one really is and how one actually manifests oneself.
The Power of Binah
The numerical value (gematriah) of the word Elul is 67, which is the same value of the word binah – understanding. Since Elul is the last month of the year (begining from Tishrei – see explanation), we are given the possibility to access a deeper understanding of all the events of the passing year and learn the lessons and their consequences for the coming year.
The power of binah is a feminine power – the ability to distinguish and discern the details of our experiences and contemplate on their meaning. Binah is defined in Kabbalah as the world of Teshuva Ila’ah, the higher level of teshuva which includes not only regret and repentance for lack of integrity, but also for not being perfectly aligned with our higher selves – with our Divine essence.
The 40 days between the begining of Elul and Yom Kippur are days of Divine good will. These are the days when Moses had ascended again on Mount Sinai to plead for forgiveness for the Jewish people for the Sin of the Golden Calf. At the end of the 40 days G-d’s forgiveness was complete and on the day of Yom Kippur Moses came down with from the mountain with the second set of Tablets.
Jeremiah (31:12) says: “Az tismach betulah bamachol” – then the virgin woman will rejoice in a dance, alluding to the time of redemption. This verse also hints to the month of Elul which is represented by the sign of the virgin woman. This is the time to rejoice in the Divine forgiveness which is called mechila – similar to the word machol (dance). Our sages teach us that a Baal Teshuva, one who repents and returns to his truth and to G-d, is like a newborn creature. So the inner meaning of the verse in Jeremiah is that the Jewish people who engage themselves in teshuva during the month of Elul become like a new, pure creature like a pure virgin woman who was never touched by any man. She is therefore so precious and beloved by her husband – G-d – who welcomes her with forgiveness and joy.
Getting into Action
According to the book of Yetzirah the month of Elul is crowned with the letter Yud which is connected with the power of action. The letter Yud, the smallest letter of the Aleph Bet, represents the humility that one needs to have in order to be able to do proper teshuva – the kind of teshuva that would also lead to new commitments regarding the performance of mitzvot, the actual fulfillment of Divine commandments.
It is customary to blow or hear the Shofar every day of the month of Elul. This reflects the process of teshuva and also prepares us for the crowning of the king – G-d – on Rosh Hashana.
It is also customary to begin saying the 27th chapter of Psalms daily before the conclusion of the morning and afternoon prayers. This is done until Hoshana Rabah. The psalm begins with the verse: “G-d is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” We ask G-d to enlighten our minds so we can see ourselves clearly, rectify and improve our conduct and be rescued from any un-G-dly or negative conditions.
Coming Closer to G-d
This month is considered a time of refuge, when we are expected to pull back from our total involvement in the physical world and immerse ourselves in the spiritual world of Torah, thus increasing our regular times of learning and prayer. We accompany our process of teshuva with adding in actions of goodness, kindness and charity.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains the relationship between G-d and man during the month of Elul with the analogy of the “King in the Field”. Most of the year the King is in his palace in the capital city. Only the select few can get permission to enter the palace and meet the King. In Elul, however, the King comes out to the field so everyone can greet him. The King Himself greets everone with a nice countenance and a smiling face.
Spiritually, this means that at other times one might find that there is a distance between himself and G-d. Only after working and refining himself he might feel closer to G-d. However, during the month of Elul there is a Divine empowerment generated from above, to each and every person, enabling him to come closer and approach the King of kings wherever the person is at.
The last 12 days of Elul are a special time to examine and rectify each of the 12 months of the passing year. Each day, starting from the 18th of Elul, corresponds to another one of the 12 months.
The holy Baal Shem Tov established the custom of saying 3 chapters of Psalms every day during the month of Elul, concluding the entire Psalms on Yom Kippur.
This month is the proper time to check the condition of Mezuzot on doorposts by giving them to a competent scribe to be examined. Tefillin should also be checked.
The 18th of Elul is the birthday of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (in 1698) – the founder of Chassidism, and also the birthday of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (in 1745) – the founder of Chabad Chassidism. Both permeated Judaism and Jewish life with the enormous light of the teachings of the inner dimensions of Torah.
We bless eachother with the blessing of Ksiva V’chasima Tova: each one of us should be written and inscribed for a good and sweet year.