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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Elul 24 is the yahrtzeit of the revered Torah scholar, pietist and Jewish leader Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933) of Radin (Poland), author of Chafetz Chaim (a work on the evils of gossip and slander and the guidelines of proper speech) and Mishnah Berurah (a codification of Torah law).

Link: A Tzaddik's Tear

Inspired by Haggai’s prophecy on the first of Elul (see entry for that date), Zerubavel son of She’altiel, ruler of Judah, and Joshua son of Jehozadak, the High Priest, began the preparations for the construction of the Second Temple (Haggai 1:15). The actual construction began exactly three months later, on Kislev 24 (see entry for that date).

Link: The Second Temple Is Built

Laws and Customs

The Selichot ("supplication") prayers are recited in the early morning hours, before the morning prayers, in preparation for the "Days of Awe" of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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 70 Chapter 71 Chapter 72

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

This mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not impossible for you. It’s not even distant. It’s very close to you… (Deut. 30:11)

It is close to you because the Torah was given to you both written and orally. (Rashi)

What is a mitzvah?

An act of uniting heaven and earth.

But heaven is spiritual and earth is material. To make spirit and matter one is impossible!

True, it is impossible. A creature of earth cannot make earth heaven. And a heavenly being cannot bring heaven to earth.

But it is not impossible for you. It is not even distant. It is very close to you.

Because within you breathes the Creator of both heaven and earth.

So that when you speak the words of His written Torah, you bring heaven down to earth.

And when you explain the words of His oral Torah, you bring earth up to heaven.

Indeed, you accomplish the impossible every day.

Maamar Ki Hamitzvah Hazot 5730.