The inner circles of our Chai Elul Meditation
Wheel are based upon the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that on the last 12
days of Elul (the last 12 days of the Jewish year), beginning with "Chai"
 Elul, we should strive to do teshuva for each of the preceding
twelve months of the year. Accordingly, on the 18th of Elul:
- we review our behavior of the previous Tishrei (the month
the High Holidays which began the current year),
- pinpoint and reflect upon those areas that need improvement,
- resolve to do better.
On 19 Elul we work on the month of Cheshvan, on
20 Elul the month of Kislev, etc., until 29 Elul, Erev Rosh HaShanah, the
last day of the year, when we dig into Elul itself, the month that is drawing to
a close. Thus, we make ourselves worthy of being inscribed for a good and sweet
In the outer rings we listed the tribe, astrological
sign, sense, and sefira-channel associated with each month [from Sefer
Yetzira 5:2 (one of the earliest works of Kabbalah). This can be useful in
determining which aspects of our lives to focus on each month.
We also added the tzirufim [permutation of
letters] of G‑d's four letter name associated with each Jewish month (based on
Pardes Rimonim Gate 21, ch. 14-16, a basic Kabbalah work written by Rabbi
Moshe Cordovero in Tzefat in the middle 1500’s). Note that the letter ק was substituted for
each instance where there should be a ה
in order to avoid problems of destroying, defacing or discarding a print-out of
It may seem to be a coincidence that this final 12 day
period begins on Chai Elul, the Baal shem Tov’s birthday, but it is not. The
Chassidic teaching referred to above also mentions that the day is Chai
["life"] Elul not just because it is the 18th of the month, but also because its
significance and the spiritual activity it inaugurates [as above] injects
life vitality into Elul!
* * * * *
Similarly, there is another Chassidic teaching [Likutei
Sichot, vol. I] that 3 - 9 Tishrei, the seven days between Rosh
HaShanah and Yom Kippur, should be utilized to employ the same process of
review, pinpoint, reflect and resolve, but this time according to the days of
the week. In the new year, 3 Tishrei falls on Monday: think about what you did
on the Mondays of the previous year, etc. Iy doing this we not only redeem the
old year, but also get the new year off to a good start as well. For this reason
it is customary [see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 130:1-2] to be extra careful
concerning mitzvah-observance during these days.
Graphic and similar article first published in Ascent
Quarterly #16, Elul 5749 (Fall 1989).
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