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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Today is the fourth day of Creation, when G‑d created the sun, moon, and stars:

G‑d said, “Let there be luminaries in the expanse of the heavens, to separate between the day and night….” and it was so. G‑d made the two large luminaries: the large luminary to rule by day and the small luminary to rule at night, and the stars…. G‑d saw that it was good. It was evening, and it was morning, a fourth day. (Genesis 1:14–19)

Links: Parshat Bereishit In-Depth, Separate but Equal

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 82 Chapter 83 Chapter 84

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

More than Rosh Hashanah is about the One Above, it is about us below.
He created the world. But we drive it to its destiny.

That is why it is called “the beginning of Your works”—even though it is not the anniversary of the creation of the universe, but of the human being. It is the true beginning, as all of time begins on this day.

Because on this day, more than any other, we are empowered to switch tracks, to transform our destiny and thereby the destiny of all of creation. Through us, the bitter darkness that shrouded truth and goodness can become a flaming torch of light.

All is defined by the destiny to which it leads. Even the past is redefined by the arrow of its future. The very existence of that time that held that past is re-created once it achieves its hidden destiny. A destiny that only you can reveal.

That is all that matters: What you do with your life right now.

Because today is the first day of your entire life, future and past.

Maamar Zeh Hayom 5742.