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7 Things You Need to Do in the Month of Elul

7 Things You Need to Do in the Month of Elul

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Elul is the 12th month on the Jewish calendar. After the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf, Moses spent this month (and the following 10 days until Yom Kippur) obtaining a second set of tablets, along with G‑d’s full forgiveness. This time period is therefore an especially potent time for us to come closer to G‑d, who is ready and waiting to accept us.

It is a time to look back at the year that passed and prepare for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are just around the corner.

Here are seven practices unique to this month that put us on the path to a good and sweet new year.

1. Hear the Shofar Every Day

Shofar blowing during the month of Elul (Zalman Kleinman)
Shofar blowing during the month of Elul (Zalman Kleinman)

You may be surprised to learn that it’s not only on Rosh Hashanah that we blow the shofar. Every day (besides for Shabbat and the day before Rosh Hashanah), we blow shofar after morning services. The soul-stirring shofar blasts inspire us to come closer to G‑d, as we read, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?”

Read more: How and Why We Blow the Shofar In Elul

2. Say It Now

Credit: Collection of Yeshiva University Museum
Credit: Collection of Yeshiva University Museum

Words have power. When signing off letters or ending phone calls and conversations, we wish each other a “ketivah vachatimah tovah, to be “written and sealed for good [in the Book of Life].”

The 21st century iteration of this practice would probably be to set this as your email signature, your WhatsApp status and your Facebook profile.

Read more: What Is Shanah Tovah, the Rosh Hashanah Greeting?

3. Read Psalm 27 Twice a Day

After morning and afternoon (or in some communities, evening) prayers, we recite Psalm 27, which begins with the words “To David: The L‑rd is my light and my salvation.” The Kabbalist Rabbi Binyamin Benish Cohen wrote in 1706 that one who recites this psalm in a state of holiness, purity and great concentration will have his prayers answered, and that it has the power to nullify Divine decrees.

We continue this practice until Hoshanah Rabbah, the final day of Sukkot.

Read more: Why Do We Say Psalm 27 During Elul?

4. Three Chapters Per Day

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).

You can see today’s chapters by going to our Daily Study portal.

5. Get Them Checked

A trained scribe inspects a tefillin scroll (Photo: Eliyahu Parypa)
A trained scribe inspects a tefillin scroll (Photo: Eliyahu Parypa)

Elul is a time to increase and improve our mitzvah observance. Many people have the custom to have a scribe inspect their tefillin and mezuzahs during this month to ensure their kosher status. The Rebbe wrote that this practice (which is found in classic halachic sources) is “worthwhile and very appropriate for everyone to publicize.”

Not sure where to find a scribe? Contact your closest Chabad center.

Read more: From Door to Door: A High Holiday Mezuzah Check

6. Say “Sorry”

Selichot (“Forgivenesses”) are special prayers said on fast days and during this season. The highlight of the Selichot is the recitation of the 13 Attributes of Mercy, the formula that G‑d gave Moses for securing Divine forgiveness. Ashkenazim begin saying Selichot several days before Rosh Hashanah (always on a Saturday night). Sepharadim begin at the start of the month of Elul and finish 40 days later on Yom Kippur.

Read More: What Are Selichot? and Why Do Selichot Follow Such an Odd Schedule?

7. Think Long and Hard

"Every chassid who toils in the study of Chassidism and in prayerful service in the heart… senses the aspect of being him that derives from the soul knowing him.”
"Every chassid who toils in the study of Chassidism and in prayerful service in the heart… senses the aspect of being him that derives from the soul knowing him.”

During this special season, it is appropriate to dedicate time to cheshbon hanefesh (“soul accounting”), taking stock of our activities, thoughts and conversations of the past year. Where have we improved and where do we still need to improve? Think honestly and deeply, and you’ll have a running start when Rosh Hashanah comes around.

Read More: How to Do Soul Accounting in 5 Steps

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Farah Sajid Pakistan August 29, 2017

Thank you so much for gives your spiritual guidance . Reply

Ellen Miriam Pedersen Valby, Denmark September 11, 2017

One of the Psalms I included in my secular rewrite, Best of David (in Danish, pub'd. 2016) was 27. One of my reviewers wrote a contrastive analysis of that with the version by a Namibian poet during the apartheid years, and now I learn about this practice. As the Danish Chabad rabbi told me last year, 'You must have done something right!' Boasting is not exactly right for Elul, so just 'thank you for showing this connection'. Reply

Stacy Diaz Tampa September 8, 2017

Preparing in Elul through good works, honoring God: I am working on understanding how Abraham was accounted righteous because he believed God. I had always thought it was his obedience to blood covenant through circumcision. So why do we not focus on the heart and our thoughts as well as motives for religious activity? Reply

Neill Brownstein MENLO PARK September 7, 2017

Thanks for the tool set for Elul ... much appreciated Reply

sherry klein Ponchatoula September 7, 2017

thank you for confirming and answering what God has been speaking to my heart Reply

Helen Dudden September 7, 2017

Can we show the lessons we have learnt? To care. Reply

yohana nawenzi September 5, 2017

How sure can I be that Hasham will give a good year Reply

Dana NY September 7, 2017
in response to yohana:

I don't think He ever can. How could He? If we see so much evil in the world, imagine what it must be like for Him, who see's jt a, all day long. Reply

Mark Upshaw Long Beach September 7, 2017
in response to yohana:

Just as the sun in the sky gives good without end, so does our G-d. The difference is how are we positioned to receive this goodness. And that we recognize it in all its forms. Reply

Dr. Gene Loeb Wheeling, Illinois via chabadnorthbrook.com September 4, 2017

How do the rare current weather conditions, pointing to influences of the Heavens, suggest our responsibility for our behavior and influence on others. What are some things we can do as suggested by the articles? Reply

Malca via chabad.org September 7, 2017
in response to Dr. Gene Loeb:

We can call someone that we haven't spoken with. A phone call does miracles when it is done with a good heart. Reply

Chris Williams Bay September 9, 2017
in response to Malca:

Jonah is the reading of Yom Kippur. The storm did not fall on the idol worshiping sailors for their sins, for Jonah said "this storm has befallen you on my account". We must wake from our sleepy indifference and offer ourselves a living sacrifice as Jonah did. We are the key to calming this world and hastening the redemption. Reply

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