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Shabbat, September 1, 2018

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 Chapters Three and Four.

Links: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4

The series of Selichot ("supplication") prayers recited in preparation for the "Days of Awe" of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin this Saturday night, after midnight (after the Ashkenazic custom; the Sephardic community begins on the 1st of Elul). On subsequent days, the custom is to recite the Selichot in the early morning hours, before the morning prayers, each morning up to and including Elul 29, the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

Links: More on Selichot

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 61 Chapter 62 Chapter 63

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

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning—not only of this new year, but of all years previous.

How could that be?

Because on that day you are empowered to reach back into time and adjust the meaning of all that has passed.

True, He is the Author. But He has assigned us as editors. We adapt the storyline, transform the plot.

By transforming who we are today, we rewrite our own past and author a whole new world.