We bentch Rosh Chodesh Elul on Shabbos Parshas Re’eh, Rosh Chodesh falling on Yom Shlishi and Yom Revi’i (Tuesday and Wednesday, August 26 and 27). As the summer winds down, the reality of the serious days ahead begins to sink in. The call of the shofar on the first of Elul will further wrest us from our repose, reminding us that we have serious work ahead.
As we read in our machzorim on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem recalls everything – nothing is hidden from His eyes. He judges not only man, but also nations… every nation in the world. “…v’al hamedinos . . and over the nations you enact your edict – which shall succumb to sword, which to peace… which to hunger and which to sate… the dwellers within the nations – who to life and who to demise… ”
In His infinite kindness, Hashem grants us a grace period of forty days beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul and culminating in Yom Kippur. During this time we do a cheshbon ha’nefesh and express our sincere remorse for all our wrongdoings.
Dear G-d… You have conferred upon woman special status at the start of each new month; every Rosh Chodesh offers us a unique opportunity to seek divine favor as reward for having stood steadfast in spurning the demands of our men to relinquish our gold jewelry for the purpose of constructing the golden calf.
As I am about to bless the new month of Elul, I tremble with fright before You, for You will soon be sitting in judgment of all creation, and what am I but earth and ash like the lowly worm…
I come to plead for compassion and pity, Ribbono Shel Olam, and beg You to open for us the portals of teshuvah and tefilla so that our iniquities be pardoned, so that You will inscribe us in the Book of Life on this coming Rosh Hashanah and bless us in all our undertakings.
Please bestow on us the blessing of sustenance and infuse us with chein in Your eyes and in the eyes of our beholders. We know that You are close to all who call upon You with truthfulness and sincerity, and as we bentch Rosh Chodesh Elul we ask that You bless the month with Your bountiful blessings.
I rely upon Your great compassion and lean on your kindness … for I know that if You will examine my deeds closely, oy li v’oy lenafshi – woe is to me and woe is to my being… (acronym for Elul). Yet if I will repent wholeheartedly, You will take pity on me and will grant forgiveness for my transgressions and the letters of Elul will revert to Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I turn to my beloved and He will turn to me.
Dear Father in Heaven who can see into every heart from His holy dwelling on high… cleanse me of my sins and endow me with benevolence and good-heartedness; renew my soul and imbue my spirit with resilience to withstand the temptations that come my way … so that I will abide by Your Holy Torah and mitzvos all the days of my life and the letters of Elul will transform to denote ashrei lach ve’ashrei le’nishmasach – praiseworthy is to you and praiseworthy is to your soul.
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As a devout chassid of the Koritzer Rebbe, Reb Shaya could always be counted on for his yearly stipend towards the support of the Rebbe’s household. Though Reb Shaya was a man of modest means, earning but a monthly wage as a wheat merchant, he also personally undertook to keep the lights by the amud of his local beis medrash burning round the clock. For years on end, it was known to all that the mitzvah of maintaining the Ner Tamid belonged to Reb Shaya.