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Thursday, 19 Elul, 5779

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

R. Chaim Benveniste was a renowned scholar who served as rabbi in Tire, a town near Izmir, Turkey, and then in Izmir itself. His most famous work is Kenesses Hagedolah, a collection of halachic material arranged according to the order of the Code of Jewish Law.

Other notable members of the Benveniste family include Don Joseph Benveniste and Dona Gracia Mendes-Nasi.

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 55</ br> Chapter 56 </ br> Chapter 57

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, the Baal Shem Tov taught, is a game of hide and seek. G‑d hides, we seek.

But where can G‑d hide? Wherever you go, there He is. As the Zohar says, “There is no place void of Him.”

Rather, what the Baal Shem Tov meant is more like peek-a-boo—when parents hides behind their own fingers. So too, G‑d hides Himself within the guise of an awesome, indifferent king, judging His subjects strictly by the book until the most sublime angels shiver in dread.

And we seek. We seek the father behind the stern voice. We are the small child who climbs into the king’s arms, tears off the mask and exclaim, “Daddy!”

Which is just what He was waiting for.