ABC’s of Elul

0

If you had an important court date scheduled — one that would determine your financial future, or even your very life — you’d be sure to prepare for weeks beforehand.

On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds. Whether he will live out the year or not. Whether he will have financial success or ruin. Whether he will be healthy or ill. All of these are determined on Rosh Hashanah.


Elul — the month preceding Rosh Hashanah — begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life’s goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life — rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving.

The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l’dodi v’dodi lee — “I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me” (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people.

In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva (repentance).

Rabbeinu Yitchak Abohav writes in the book “Menoras HaMeor”:
Any intelligent person who is scheduled for trial before a mortal king will surely spend sleepless nights and days preparing his case. He will seek the advice of every knowledgeable person he knows who can help him prepare his case. He will go to great lengths to attain a favorable verdict, even if all that is at stake is but a small part of his fortune, and he faces no personal risk.

Should he not do so as well when brought to judgment before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy Blessed One, when not only he, but his children and his fortune all hang in the balance?

With this in mind, here is some suggested reading for the High Holidays.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kit (Shimon Apisdorf, Leviathan Press) – The award-winning guide to getting more meaning out of the High Holidays. With humor and sophistication, this book offers invaluable insight to the significance of the holidays and prayers. User-friendly format.

ArtScroll Machzor – The most complete and well organized prayer book on the market today. Includes full English/Hebrew text of all prayers, plus explanations, laws and customs. Features a masterful essay on the essence of the High Holidays. Separate volumes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Book of Our Heritage (Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Feldheim) – A thorough review of the Jewish calendar. Includes month-by-month explanations of all the holidays, laws and customs throughout the Jewish year. A classic. JT

This dvar Torah was originally published on aish.com. An abridged version appears here with permission.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here