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Shabbat, August 22, 2020

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

The first section of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) authored by Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575) was completed in the Holy Land on this date in 1555.

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 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6

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

In preparation for the festival of Shavuot, we study one of the six chapters of the Talmud's Ethics of the Fathers ("Avot") on the afternoon of each of the six Shabbatot between Passover and Shavuot; this Shabbat being the Shabbat before Shhavuot, we study Chapter Six. (In many communities -- and such is the Chabad custom -- the study cycle is repeated through the summer, until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.)

Link: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 6

Daily Thought

In the month of Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, a signal goes out to every Jewish soul that it is time to return to the palace that is home.

It is a signal both subtle and loud.

Subtle, because it does not awaken even those who are closest—every soul must awaken itself. Loud, because it reaches those who have been thrown to the edge of the universe.

Loud, because it is a signal of love and joy. Subtle, because it is an intimately personal call.

Loud, because it provides immeasurable powers to break out of whatever holds you back, lift you above all obstacles, and carry you all the way home. Subtle, because the power is there, but latent, quiet, awaiting your determination.

How can a signal be both subtle and loud, joyful and intimate, empowering and latent?

Because this signal originates from the very origin of your own soul, that place from which your soul was torn but has never truly abandoned. And as distant as a soul may stray, as lost as she may be, she will always remain one with her Beloved.

And now she hears her Beloved call, from a place deep within herself.

Maamar Ani L’dodi 5726.