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The Month of Elul

The Month of Elul

Inventory Season

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Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a time to review the past and look at where you’ve come in life. It’s a preparation for the upcoming “Days of Awe”—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—when we resolve to do better this year than last.

The theme of Elul is return to your essential self—a.k.a. teshuvah—helped along by prayer and charity. “The King is in the field,” they say, meaning that the G‑dly spark within you is much more accessible, as long as you search for it.

Some key customs for the month of Elul:

  • The shofar is a wake-up call to spiritually prepare for Rosh HashanahEach day (excepting Shabbat), a ram’s horn (called a shofar) is blown after the morning services. It's a wake-up call to spiritually prepare for Rosh Hashanah.
  • When writing a letter, we sign off, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”
  • We add Chapter 27 of Psalms to the morning and afternoon daily prayers.
  • The Baal Shem Tov began a custom of saying three additional chapters of Psalms, sequentially, each day from the first of Elul until Yom Kippur—when the remainder of Psalms is completed.
  • This is a good time to have your tefillin and mezuzot inspected by a scribe to ensure that they are still in good condition.

Selichot

Selichot are prayers to G‑d that ask forgiveness. Sephardic Jews recite special selichot early every morning of Elul (except for Shabbat). Ashkenazic Jews begin these selichot shortly after midnight on the Sunday morning before Rosh Hashanah—unless this start date doesn’t allow for a minimum of four days of selichot, in which case, they start selichot on the Sunday morning before that. Selichot are then recited daily before the morning prayers (except on Shabbat) until Rosh Hashanah. Many continue reciting selichot until Yom Kippur.

Try to attend synagogue for selichot, since many of the prayers can be said only in a group.

Click here for more on Elul and selichot.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (3)
September 1, 2011
Create a separation?
The very act of trying to connect to the Almighty is a blessing. Whether through your minds eye or through His creations in the sky or here on the ground. As long as we bless His Name and aknowledgde Him as the Sole Creator, we will achieve drawing closer to His light.
AlexP
New York, NY
August 12, 2010
The Days of Awe
Next to the article on the upcoming Days of Awe and the month of Elul there is an illustration of a middle aged woman holding her prayer book and looking up to heaven.
Question? Where is G-d? Is G-d not within us? Within our minds , within our souls? And are we not joined? Therefore when I see a picture of someone looking up to the Heavens, to the sky to G-d, to Hashem, it does in my mind create a separation.

So in short, where is G-d?
Ingride Lewis
kfar saba, israel
September 7, 2009
Holiday in Elul?
Dear Chabad people,

We know that Cheshvan is called MarCheshvan because it has no holidays (Mar means "bitter"). The other day I realized that Elul has none either. I did a web search to see if I was missing something, and found your page. Chabad.org is a marvelous and trustworhy resource for Jewish knowledge, and if you don't list a holiday for Elul, I guess there is none.

We could not call Elul "Mar", because it leads to the High Holidays, a joyous time. Maybe because the whole month has the focus of the High Holidays it is not a sad month. And with so much love in the name of the month, how could it be sad? Didn't Lennon and McCartney write, "with a love like that, you know you should be glad"?

Have a good sweet year!
Reb Zisha
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