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Elul Observances in a Nutshell

Elul Observances in a Nutshell

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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 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, 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), we sound the shofar (ram’s horn) as a call to repentance.

  • When writing a letter or meeting one another, we 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.

  • The Baal Shem Tov instituted the custom of reciting three additional chapters of Psalms each day, from the first of Elul until Yom Kippur. (On Yom Kippur the remaining 36 chapters are recited, thereby completing the entire book of Psalms.)

  • Elul is a good time to have one’s tefillin and mezuzot checked by an accredited scribe, to ensure that they are in good condition and fit for use.

  • 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.

Painting by Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman.
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Deborah Illinois August 20, 2015

The Shofar blasts I was told each blast of the Shofar has a meaning, can you tell me what those are? What good will sounding the trumpet do, if one does not know what the sound means? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org August 19, 2015

Re: The Shofar During Elul we blow the shofar as follows:

Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, Tekiah
Tekiah, Shevarim, Tekiah
Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah Reply

Deborah Illinois August 18, 2015

The Shofar I would like to know what notes are blown during the Elul month? I know the notes that are sounded on Rosh Hashanah, are they the same notes in the same sequence? Reply

Sam Leon Dumfries September 16, 2014

And what do we do if we're unable to hear the shofar? What then? Reply

Mark J Duke Edmonton Alberta Canada August 31, 2014

Thank you very much my upbringing was not chassidic and for many years I failed to practice Judaism ,your site has changed me (much for the better) .I am forever grateful for this site as it has reminded me of my early years learning the Torah . Reply

Joyce Oxfeld Philadelphia August 26, 2014

I am cramming to learn so much about this stuff, later in life. I came from a completely unobservant family and got motivated to discover my own religion and ever since , the interactions with a observant orthodox community I've had in the past and learning from this site have been extremely helpful. Reply

Anonymous Buffalo Grove, Illinois via old.chabad.org December 7, 2012

no subject do you have any letters for kids Reply

Nancy Cordell Oklahoma City, OK September 9, 2006

Thankful for help understanding Leviticus In Oklahoma City, OK, I have had no contact with Jewish people. I want to understand the high holy days and to keep the sabbaths. It is difficult when I have no childhood teaching or upbringing. I am seeking G~d, I will find him as promised in my Bible. Thank you for your site that is helping me to learn what G~d is willing for me to do and learn what are the High Holy Days. I turned 40 this year and have experienced the refreshing desire to obey. Reply

wulfgar Guayaquil, GUA June 22, 2006

flower shop looking for information and found it at this great site. Reply

chaim S. Monica, CA via chabadonmontana.com August 20, 2007

RE: Thankfull for help understanding leviticus. One of the greatest Sages in Jewish history, Rabbi Akiva began his Spiritual Journey as an ignorant Sheperd at age 40 and stll (with much effort) managed to become the greatest torah teacher of his day. so good luck with your trip you have recently begun and remember, if you come accross another jew in OK. teach them what you know. and show them where to go.
good luck Reply

Leeba Kinseth August 19, 2009

e-mail signatures. I have the hebrew characters for B'H set up to go automatically on top of every e-mail I send out. This article reminded me of the importance of signing each e-mail with Ketivah vachatimah tovah during this important time of year. I added that to my signature at the bottom before I had finished reading so I would not forget,. Even when writing e-mail, it is nice to remember all those we speak to are important to G-d.

Thank you so much! Reply

Lesley Levy Hubbard Laurel, Maryland, USA August 16, 2007

Reconnection with my Jewish Heritage Chabad has been very instrumental in helpiing me reconnect with my Jewish heritage. Everything I have read on the website has helped to reinstall the beauty and joy of being Jewish within me. Reply

Carol Santa Barbara, CA October 1, 2006

Your website I am really not not a practicing Jew. I'm one of those who always keeps Yom Kippur, however. I don't know if I'm breaking a rule being on this website tonight or not. I think this is such a wonderful site. I've learned so much it's unbelieveable and I've used your cards for all my family and friends. Thank you for the knowledge you give and the way you explain it in terms that I'm able to understand. The entire site moves me, teaches me, and makes me feel much more a part of Judaism. Reply

lawrence judah boaz sydney, nsw September 24, 2006

have we forgotten our joint past history! in these modern times, with so much for some, & so little for others, we should do more, for less, not for gain, but for god. if every person tried 2 be a little less selfish, we all might make it, in the times ahead! Reply

Michael Spinner Oceanside, CA September 21, 2006

L'Shonah Tovah Chabad celebrates the joy of Judaism and shares G-d's love and light with Jews in each welcoming congregation or via the innovative web-site. I am inspired each morning by the daily dose of wisdom from the Rebbe. May G-d Bless all His children with health, happiness, success, and peace. Happy New Year! Reply

Fran via chabadulstercounty.org September 21, 2006

Rosh Hashonah To our friend in London, England. I am from London originally. My husband is from Brooklyn. Yes, he is Jewish too.
The Lubavitch are, in my opinion, very warm and inviting. From my experience they do not want you to be anything but yourself.
To each and everyone who reads this wonderful 'Post A Comment' L'Shona
Tovah.
G-d Bless all of you, Israel, and our troops. Reply

Anonymous London, England September 21, 2006

E-Cards Hi - I was looking for some great RH e-cards to send & I found them on your site, but then I started reading all the Yomim Norayim info and found it a really excellent reminder of all the things I should be thinking about. I work alongside a fabulous Lubavitch man and he will be VERY happy that I am logged on to our wesite! Shanah Tovah to everyone! Reply

Anonymous Montreal, Canada September 15, 2006

Blessed Month May you be inscribed and sealed for a Good Year.
Your articles helped me feel the presence of Hashem. Would like to recite Slichot Prayers in English as I do not know Hebrew and not a Jew by birth. I look forward for fasting days from Rosh Hashannah for 10 days culminating in Yom Kippur. Reply

Anonymous September 13, 2006

Thank You. Reply

Fran Shapiro Kingston, NY USA via chabadulstercounty.org September 12, 2006

RoshHahonah-YomKippur etc. I very much enjoyed finding pages, which I could print out, ith the exact times of Services for all of the upcoming holidays. Thank you. Reply

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