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A Brief History of Elul

A Brief History of Elul

The 3rd 40 Days

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The origins of Elul as a month of special Divine grace and mercy go back to the time of Moses, in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE)--the first year after the Jewish people went out of Egypt.

Seven weeks after the exodus, the people of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai and entered into an eternal covenant with G-d as His chosen people. But just 40 days later, while Moses was still up on the mountain, they violated their special relationship with G-d by worshipping a golden calf. Upon descending from the mountain and witnessing their transgression, Moses smashed the two stone tablets on which G-d had inscribed the Ten Commandments; he then retuned to Mount Sinai for a second 40 days to plead with G-d on Israel's behalf.

On the early morning of the 1st of Elul, Moses once again ascended Mount Sinai, taking with him the stone tablets he had hewn, by divine command, for G-d to re-inscribe the Ten Commandments. On the mountain, G-d allowed Moses to "see My back, but not My face" (which Maimonides interprets as a perception of G-d's reality but not His essence) -- the closest any human being ever came to knowing G-d -- and taught him the secret of His "Thirteen Attributes of Mercy" (Exodus 33:18-34:8).

For the third time, Moses remained on the mountain for 40 days, from the 1st of Elul until the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur), during which time He obtained G-d's whole-hearted forgiveness and reconciliation with the people of Israel. Ever since, the month of Elul serves as the "month of Divine mercy and forgiveness."

(Also see: The 120-Day Version of the Human Story)

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Discussion (4)
January 25, 2014
My surname is Ellul. I live in Malta an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. According to historical accounts the surname came from Jews who were forced to leave Spain during the Spanish inquisition some 600-800 years ago. Originally the surname was written with an H, Hellul until 1800 when the H was dropped and the surname became Ellul.

Around the year 1500 the Maltese Universita (government) had a member with this surname Hellul. By this time the Maltese were all Christianised including the Jews that settled here after the Spanish Jewish diaspora.

A cousin of mine who lives in the USA was welcomed inside his Jewish friend's Synagogue by the Rabbi, telling him that he (my cousin) was more Jewish than the Rabbi himself.
Albert Ellul
Malta (Europe)
August 24, 2012
1 Elul
The day on which I was born.

I often wonder about my role in Life.

Then I am reminded that my mom died on Yom Kippur - a most honorable woman and one of amazing valor.

Life is God's gift to me - what I do is my gift back to G-d.

We're all special, aren't we.
Meira Shana
Vista, California
January 16, 2012
Three visits to Horeb
I understand about the development of tradition, my problem is there is nothing in the Torah that indicates that Moses returned to the mount immediately after the first tablets were destroyed. In fact there was the punishing of the Israelites that had sinned with 3,000 slain and even a plague. Moses sets up a small Mishkan and the glory of G-d comes down as a pillar of smoke when he enters. He did not do all this in just a few days. Later G-d calls him to make two more tablets and to come up on the mount where again His glory descends upon him and he stayed for another 40 days. I know it fits...but where does it say Moses went back up for a period of 40 days in between the recieving of the first and the second tablets of the Aseret ha Diberot. Where does it say that Moses went back up to the mount on the 1st day of Elul?..just so that 40 days later would coincide with Yom Kippur? Please help me with this
Douglas Robinson
Keller, Texas
October 15, 2008
Next 4 Paraagraphs
I find the 4 paragraphs on A brief History of Elul very well written and interesting
Elan Kainen
Miami Beach, Florida