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Shabbat, August 21, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Marriage of the 6th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), to Rebbetzin Nechamah Dinah (1882-1971).

Elul 13 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1835-1909), the renowned Sephardic Halachic authority and Kabbalist, known as "Ben Ish Chai" after his work by that name.

Links:

The Ben Ish Chai, A Biography
The Ultimate Employee (from the teachings of the Ben Ish Chai)

Laws and Customs

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 Chapters One and Two.

Links: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

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 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39

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

If a man should commit a sin worthy of death, hang him (blame it) on the tree. (Deut. 21:22)

At the funeral of the holy Kabbalist Rabbi Moses Cordovero, the holy Ari spoke:

“When a tzadik passes on, and there is no reason he should have died, no sin, no fault—blame it on the Tree of Knowledge.”

Not the bite of the snake. Not its venom. Not the sense of ego and self-concern that was born from that sin.

No, simply the tree. A good tree, but a tree through which the Creator wished to bring mortality to the world.

And why must the creatures of this world be mortal? And why did it have to be through our own choice?

For the ultimate good. So that human beings, through the toil of their own hands, would have a part in building a truly good, eternal world.

In truth, the words of the Ari apply to every one of us.

Beneath all the layers and strata of faults and failures, at the very core of each and every one of us lies a pure soul.

And all the journeys of that soul, all its ups and downs, beauty and ugliness, all lead in one direction: Upward, the direction plotted by the Creator of this universe when He placed that tree in the garden.

It is only that to reveal the pure inner reality of the human being, we need the pure teachings of the Inner Torah, as revealed to us by such sages as the Ari and those who unfold for us his light.

Likutei Sichot vol. 24, p. 132.