The third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch (1789-1866), was born on the 29th of Elul. Orphaned from his mother at age 3, he was raised by his maternal grandfather,
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Rabbi Menachem Mendel assumed the leadership of Chabad in 1827, upon the passing of his father-in-law and uncle, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch. Extremely active in communal affairs, he established and funded
Jewish farming colonies which provided a livelihood for thousands of families.
He also stood at the forefront of the battle against the "Enlightenment
Movement" which, with the support of the Czarist regime, sought to destroy
traditional Jewish life -- a battle which earned him no less than 22 (!)
imprisonments and arrests. In the course of his lifetime, Rabbi Menachem Mendel
penned more than 48,000 pages of Chassidic teachings and Halachic exegesis. He is known as the "Tzemach Tzeddek" ("a sprouting of righteousness") after his work of Halachic responsa by that name.
The Shofar is not sounded on the day before Rosh Hashanah, to separate between the shofar soundings of the month of Elul (which are a minhag, or "custom") and the Rosh Hashanah soundings, which are a biblically ordained mitzvah, divine commandment).
The festival of Rosh Hashanah, marking the start of a new Jewish year, begins this evening at sunset.
Upon the conclusion of the evening prayers in the synagogue, we extend to one another greetings of Leshana Tovah Tekatev Vitechatem, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." In the evening meal, we eat apple dipped in honey, the head of a fish, pomogranates , tzimmes (sweet carrots) and other foods signifying a sweet and successful year.
As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is
traditionaly 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
Awe" of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
As the month of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness (see "Today in Jewish History" for Elul 1)
it is a most opportune time for teshuvah
("return" to G-d), prayer,
charity, and increased
Ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew)
in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G-d. Chassidic master Rabbi
Schneur Zalman of Liadi
likens the month of Elul 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 and shows a smiling face to them all."
Specific Elul customs include the daily sounding of the shofar (ram's horn) as a
call to repentance. The Baal Shem Tov
instituted the custom of reciting three additional chapters of
Psalms each day, from the 1st of Elul until Yom Kippur (on
Yom Kippur the remaining 36 chapters are recited, thereby completing the entire
book of Psalms). Click below to view today's Psalms.