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Shabbat, August 11, 2018

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Rosh Chodesh Elul
Jewish History

On the last day of Av of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), Moses carved, by G-d's command, two stone tablets -- each a cube measuring 6x6x3 tefachim (a tefach, "handbreadth", is approximately 3.2 inches) -- to replace the two divinely-made tablets, on which G-d had inscribed the Ten Commandments, which Moses had smashed 42 days earlier upon witnessing Israel's worship of the Golden Calf.

Links: The 120-Day Version of the Human Story

Laws and Customs

Today is the first of the two days of Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) for the month of Elul (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month’s Rosh Chodesh).

Special portions are added to the daily prayers: Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited—in its “partial” form—following the Shacharit morning prayer, and the Yaaleh Veyavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals; the additional Musaf prayer is said (when Rosh Chodesh is Shabbat, special additions are made to the Shabbat Musaf). Tachanun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.

Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh—the month being the feminine aspect of the Jewish calendar.

Links: The 29th Day; The Lunar Files

Beginning today, the psalm L'David Hashem Ori (Psalm 27) is recited at the end of the morning and afternoon prayers. This special addition is recited throughout the month of Elul and the High Holiday season, until Hoshanah Rabbah (Tishrei 21) -- a total of 50 days.

Links: Psalm 27, The High Holiday Anthem

During the summer months, from the Shabbat after Passover until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashahah, we study a weekly chapter of the Talmud's Ethics of the Fathers ("Avot") each Shabbat afternoon; this week we study Chapter Five.

Link: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 5

Daily Thought

There are three ways to bring unity between two opposites:

The first is by introducing a power that transcends them both, and to which they both utterly surrender their entire being.
They are then at peace with each other because they are both under the influence of the same force.

But they themselves are not at peace—their own being is simply ignored.

The second way is by finding a middle ground where the two meet. The two are at peace where they meet on that middle ground
—but the rest of their territory remains apart and distant.

The third way is to reach deeper, into the very essence of the two beings, and discover that at this point, in every aspect, they are no more than two expressions of the same one G-d.