The month of September is a crucial and significant month for various reasons, for many people in many cultures. The word “September” is derived from the Latin word ‘Septem’ meaning seven (7). The current Jubilee began on September 23, 2015 and will end on October 2, 2016. We are in the last month of this Jubilee year. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on October 2 and ends at nightfall on October 4, 2016. September 3, 2016 is the 30th of Av, 5776 and September 4, 2016 is the 1st of Elul. This is the ninth (9th) month of the Gregorian calendar. This is the sixth (6th) month on the Biblical calendar and the twelfth (12th) month of the Jewish civil year.
THE MONTH OF ELUL
The month of Elul is the final Jewish month before the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah); typically it falls during late summer or early fall. It is a time devoted to soul-searching in preparation for the High Holidays.
As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking—a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year, and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As the month of divine mercy and forgiveness, Elul is a most opportune time for teshuvah (“return” to God), repentance, the return to the correct path of observance of God’s commandments, prayer, charity, and increased ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew), in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to God.
ElulL is likened to a time when “the king is in the field” and, in contrast to when he is in the royal palace, “everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance, showing a smiling face to them all.”
The following are some of the basic customs and practices for the month of Elul:
- Each day of the month of Elul (except for Shabbat and the last day of Elul), the shofar (ram’s horn) is sounded as a call to repentance.
- When writing a letter or meeting one another, they bless one another by including the greeting Ketivah vachatimah tovah—which roughly translates as “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”
- Chapter 27 of the Book of Psalms is added to the daily prayers, in the morning and afternoon.
- During the last week of Elul, in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Selichot prayers are recited. On the first night they are recited at midnight; on the following days, in the early morning. The recitation of Selichot — a series of penitential prayers and liturgy recited daily in preparation for the Days of Awe — reaches its climax with the recitation of the “Zechor Brit” (“Remember Your Covenant”) Selichot on the day before Rosh Hashanah.
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