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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘elul’

Q & A: Elul – A Time To Repent (Part II)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Question: Where does the name Elul come from? Also, how can Elul be both the last month of the year and the prequel to the holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) that occur in the following month, Tishrei, the first month of the new year? Finally, can you please discuss the religious practices of Elul?

M. Goldman
Miami Beach, FL


Summary of our response up to this point: Elul is really the sixth month of the year, as the Torah counts the new year from Nissan when the Jewish nation was freed from slavery and able to serve G-d exclusively. The Gemara explains that Rosh Hashanah is when we are judged for the coming year; that’s why Tishrei is also considered the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashanah 7a). Rosh Hashanah is mentioned as the time for being judged and blowing the shofar (Numbers 29:1).


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The Yamim Nora’im, a time of introspection and reflection as we await our annual judgment, are properly introduced by the month of Elul, which acts as a facilitator to the great task ahead. Thus, each year, with the arrival of Elul, we start the process of teshuvah (repentance).

One way we begin the intensified focus on teshuvah is with the sounds of the shofar. The shofar, which we blow throughout Elul, is mentioned by the prophet Amos: “Im yitaka shofar be’ir ve’am lo yecheradu – Is the shofar ever sounded in a city and the people do not tremble?” (Amos 3:6). Amos emphasizes the unique property of the shofar’s blasts – the piercing sound, which causes one to tremble.

Likkutei Maharich (Dinei U’minhagei Chodesh Elul 55b) states: “It happens to be the custom in all Jewish communities to blow the shofar in the month of Elul.” He cites the Tur (Orach Chayim 581), who gives Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (chapter 46) as the source for this practice. There we read: “On Rosh Chodesh Elul Moses went up on the mountain [Sinai] to receive the second set of Tablets. They then sounded the shofar in the encampment. Therefore, our sages instituted that we blow the shofar starting on Rosh Chodesh Elul every year.”

Likkutei Maharich continues: “In Yitav Panim by the Sigheter Rav, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum, he quotes his grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, author of Yismach Moshe, who provides a beautiful hint for the source of our custom.” He points out that there are 12 words containing the syllables ha-lle-lu in Psalm 150. The first mention corresponds to Nissan, the first month, and the sixth mention – “Halleluhu be’teka shofar – Praise Him with the sound of the shofar” – appropriately corresponds to Elul, the sixth month. (The practice of saying Hallel on Rosh Chodesh in general is alluded to in these 12 mentions of ha-lle-lu, writes the Beit Yosef [Tur Orach Chayim 422, in the name of Shibbolei HaLeket].)

Likkutei Maharich continues: “In Sefer Roke’ach (siman 208) we find that the original enactment was to sound the shofar from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, just as they sounded the shofar all 40 days that Moses was on the mountain to receive the Tablets, but Sefer Roke’ach concludes that in ‘this country’ [i.e., the custom in his day] we sound the shofar only until Rosh Hashanah.”

The Maharshal (Shabbos 89a, in the back of our Vilna Shas) cites a dispute between Rashi and Tosafot (89a ad loc.) on whether the day Moses ascended the mountain is considered part of the 40-day count. He cites Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer as proof to Tosafot’s contention that we count Moses’ ascent on Rosh Chodesh as the first day of the count of 40 – which will be arrived at if we include his ascent on the first day of Rosh Chodesh, which is the 30th day of Av (Av is always a “full” month containing 30 days whereas Elul is always “deficient,” containing only 29 days).

However, in Bava Kamma (82a s.v. “Kedei Shelo etc.”) Tosafot states that in the year Moses went up to receive the luchot, Elul was a “full” month, containing 30 days. Thus, he would have gone up on the first day of Elul (see Bach, Orach Chayim 581).

The above dispute is relevant to the discussion concerning when to begin blowing the shofar – on the first or second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul.

Tosafot reasons that in the year Moses went up on the mountain, Elul was a “full” month. Today, therefore, when Av is always a “full” month and Elul is “deficient,” we surely do not start to blow the shofar on the first day of Rosh Chodesh, which is now always the 30th of Av.

Indeed, our minhag is to blow the shofar only starting on the second day of Rosh Chodesh, according to the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 581 ad loc.), up until and including Rosh Hashana, with the exception of Shabbatot, when we are prohibited to blow the shofar, and Erev Rosh Hashanah, when we refrain from blowing so as to differentiate between tekiot reshut, optional shofar blasts, and tekiot chovah, biblically-required blasts.

As for why we only blow the shofar for 30 days, not 40, Matteh Moshe (ad loc.) and Likkutei Maharich (loc. cit. quoting Minhagim) explain that there is a hint to this custom in Psalms 81:4-5: “Tik’u bachodesh shofar bakesseh leyom chagenu – Blow the shofar at the moon’s renewal when [the moon] is covered on our festive day.” The verse seems to suggest that we blow the shofar for a month, which is generally 30 days. And that is what we do. Elul is 28 days (excluding Erev Rosh Hashanah) and Rosh Hashanah is two days, giving us 30 days.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

The Soul of Israel: Beyond The Religious Checklist [audio]

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Rabbis Shlomo Katz, Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz delve into the meaning of the month of Elul. How do we move beyond our religious obligations and invite God into our lives? If Teshuva means return, what are returning to?

The Land of Israel


Thursday, September 15th, 2016

A man blows the Shofar during the month of Elul for Israeli soldiers standing guard at Gush Etzion junction, an area which has been hit by several terror attacks in the past year.

Photo of the Day

Q & A: Elul – A Time To Repent

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Question: Where does the name Elul come from? How can Elul be both the last month of the year and the prequel of the holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) that occur in the following month, Tishrei? Finally, can you please discuss the religious practices of Elul?

M. Goldman
Miami Beach, FL


Answer: The name Elul, as well as the names of all the other months of the year, are of Babylonian, not biblical, origin. They are the names the exiles brought back with them to the land of Judea after their 70-year expulsion.

The first mention of Elul in Tanach is in the Book of Nehemiah (6:15): “Vatishlam hachoma ba’esrim vachamisha le’elul lachamishim u’shenayim yom – So the wall [around the city of Jerusalem] was completed on the 25th of Elul in 52 days.” This verse appears amidst the story of the return of Ezra and Nehemiah with the exiles from Babylonia in their quest to resettle the land of Judea and restore Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

As to its position in the calendar, Elul is actually not the last month of the year but the sixth; Nissan is considered the first month according to the Torah. Thus, we read in Parshat Bo (Exodus 12:2): “Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chodashim, rishon hu lachem lechodshei hashana – This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this pasuk refers to Nissan. And if Nissan is the first month, Elul is the sixth.

It seems strange that the first day of the first month – i.e., Nissan – is not Rosh Hashanah. We read in the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 8a-b): “R. Nachman b. Yitzchak said: [The first of Tishrei is the New Year] for judgment, as the Torah states [Deuteronomy 11:12], “…einei Hashem Elokecha bah mereishit hashana ve’ad acharit shana – …the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” This means that from the beginning of the year, judgment is issued regarding what will occur until the year’s end.”

The Gemara asks, “How do we know that this verse refers to [the first of] Tishrei? Because Psalms 81:4 states, ‘Tik’u bachodesh shofar bakesseh leyom chagenu – Blow the shofar at the moon’s renewal, when [the moon] is covered on our festive day.’”

The Gemara asks further, “Now on which festival is the moon covered [i.e., not visible]? We must surely say this is Rosh Hashanah,” which falls on the first day of the month, when the moon is not visible, the only festival so placed in our calendar. Furthermore, the following verse (Psalms 81:5) reads: “Ki chok leYisrael hu, mishpat leElokei Yaakov – Because it is a statute for Israel, a judgment [day] unto the G-d of Jacob.” We thus see that Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment.

As to clearly placing this day of judgment on the first (and second) of Tishrei, we read the following in Parshat Pinchas (Numbers 29:1): “Uvachodesh hashevi’i be’echad lachodesh mikra kodesh yihyeh lachem kol melechet avoda lo ta’asu yom teruah yihyeh lachem – In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a holy convocation for you, you shall do no laborious work, it shall be a day of shofar sounding for you.”

Thus we see that the day(s) specifically set aside for blowing the shofar is the first (and the second) of the seventh month (counting from Nissan).

Why, then, is Nissan counted as the first month? Because it celebrates the purpose of Hashem’s creation – the nationhood of the Children of Israel – as we were freed from slavery in Egypt at this time (see Rashi, Genesis 1:1 s.v. “Bereishit”).

We find two allusions to the name “Elul” in the Bach’s commentary to the Tur (Orach Chayim 581), citing the verse (Song of Songs 6:3), “Ani ledodi vedodi li – I am for my Beloved [Hashem] and my Beloved is for me.” The Bach notes that if we take the first letter of each word – aleph, lamed, vav, and lamed – we get the Hebrew word “Elul.” If we take the last letter of each word – yud, yud, yud, and yud – we have the gematria (numerical computation) of 40, which corresponds to the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur. During those 40 days of repentance it is traditionally understood that one’s heart is closer to the Beloved (Hashem) through repentance, and consequently that the Beloved is closer to accept our repentance with love.

The Bach notes that we find another verse alluding to Elul in Parshat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 30:6): “U’mal Hashem Elokecha et levav’cha ve’et levav zar’echa le’ahava et Hashem Elokecha bechol levav’cha u’vechol nafshecha lema’an chayyecha – Hashem your G-d will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your offspring, to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul, that you may live.”

The first four letter of the words “et levav’cha ve’et levav – your heart and the heart of [your offspring]” are aleph, lamed, vav, and lamed – i.e., Elul.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Why Blow the Shofar in Elul?

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Rabbi Jonny Roodyn discusses the background of the shofar blowing throughout Elul from the rooftop of Aish Hendon! Followed by a Shofar blowing!

Video of the Day

Rejuvenation: Pottery, Power and Pro-Creation [audio]

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Eve reflects on the end of her summer and the start of the month of Elul. Florentine art, Hashem’s love for humanity, ceramics and psalms. Her usual blend- like the wine grapes now being harvested. Chodesh tov!

The Land of Israel

The Soul of Israel: Do You Have the Eyes to See? [audio]

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

As we approach the mystical month of Elul, Rabbi Shlomo Katz is joined by Ari Abramowitz & Jeremy Gimpel as they discuss how to remove the constraints, eliminate the impediments, and open the gates to living a life of presence, abundance, and gratitude.

The Land of Israel

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