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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

R. Meir Simchah Hakohen served as rabbi of Dvinsk (now Daugavpils), Latvia, for nearly forty years. He authored Or Same’ach, on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, and Meshech Chachmah, on the Pentateuch.

Read an explanation of R. Meir Simchah: Who Engraved the Second Tablets?

Laws and Customs

As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionaly a time of introspection and stocktaking -- a time to review one's deeds and spiritual progress over the past year and prepare for the upcoming "Days of Awe" of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

As the month of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness (see "Today in Jewish History" for Elul 1) it is a most opportune time for teshuvah ("return" to G-d), prayer, charity, and increased Ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew) in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G-d. Chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi likens the month of Elul to a time when "the king is in the field" and, in contrast to when he is in the royal palace, "everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all."

Specific Elul customs include the daily sounding of the shofar (ram's horn) as a call to repentance. 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). Click below to view today's Psalms.

Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12

Elul is also the time to have one's tefillin and mezuzot checked by an accredited scribe to ensure that they are in good condition and fit for use.

Links: More on Elul

Daily Thought

Like the many waterways that run through a city, so the chatter in your mind streams through your psyche, carrying the outside inward and the inside outward relentlessly, often surreptitiously, even subliminally.

Just as the health of a city relies on the purity of the water that courses through its pipelines, so the health of your soul relies on the substance of that current of daydreams, that ever-flowing internal conversation that dances through its neural pathways.

The gates of these rivers, too, are in your hand.

You have the power to determine which streams must be dammed at their origin, and which must be fed to become mighty rivers, which faucets are to be opened wide and which closed forever.

Decide adroitly, diligently, and with discretion, for the imaginations of your mind are the lifeline of every emotion of your heart.

Maamar Shoftim 5729.