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Shabbat, August 30, 2014

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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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 Chapter One.

Link: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 1

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

If we were truly humble, we would not be forever searching higher paths on the mountaintops. We would look in the simple places, in the practical things that need to be done.

True, all these places lie in a world of falsehood, in a transient world where people have needs because they believe these are needs, where people suffer pain by causing themselves pain. In a world where your own motives are always in question, because so often you have more to gain by giving than those to whom you give will receive.

But the soul that knows its place knows that, nevertheless, this is where the great and lofty G‑d can most be found—in a simple act of lending a hand or whispering a comforting word in a world of falsehood and delusions.

Reshimat Nefesh Hashefalah, cited and elucidated in Likkutei Sichot, vol. 16, pp. 41ff.