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Sunday, August 22, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

R. Boruch Mordechai Ettinger was a follower of the first three Chabad Rebbes, R. Schneur Zalman (the Alter Rebbe), R. DovBer (the Mitteler Rebbe), and R. Menachem Mendel (the Tzemach Tzedek). He served as head of the Talmudic academy in Vilna (Vilnius) and then as rabbi in Babruysk, a post he filled for fifty years. Toward the end of his life he immigrated to Jerusalem, where he passed away.

R. Boruch Mordechai was known for his witty sayings and remarks which reflected his sharp perception and deep wisdom.

Links: Skin Deep, A Muddy Opinion, The Heel of a Person Who Prays (a scholarly exposition of a saying of R. Boruch Mordechai)

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 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42

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

When you enter the land which the Lord your G‑d is giving you as an inheritance, take possession of it and settle it.
(Deut. 26:1)

Many of us hold inside a deep, dark place. They call it “the abyss.”

We might blame its existence on past trauma. Or genes.

But neither of these answers is helpful. Or ultimately true.

It exists because the story of your life did not begin at birth.

You began as a breath of G‑d basking in divine light. And from there you descended.

You entered earth-space, metaphysically. And catastrophically.

You were squeezed into a beast of meat and bones. The light was gone.

And so, the dark abyss within. That’s your soul crying.

So when you hear that cry, don’t run from it. Instead, find a quiet time to speak to your soul these words:

Yes, my soul, it is dark. But that is why you came here. This is an investment. A good investment.

This is the land that G‑d, your beloved G‑d, has given you as your inheritance.

You must take ownership of it. You must settle it with all your divine beauty and light, with a mitzvah here, a word of Torah wisdom there, defying all challenges, illuminating all darkness.

Because once every divine soul has entered this earth-space and fulfilled its mission, then we will all return to this world.

And it will be the promised land, a magnificent world, far beyond anything you experienced up there before your descent.

You will say, “Look, my beloved G‑d, look what Your little neshamah accomplished!”

There you had light. Here you will have G‑d Himself.

Speak all this to your soul. From that deep, dark place will emerge great joy.

Likutei Sichot vol. 9, p. 357.