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Thursday, 14 Elul, 5780

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

R. Boruch Mordechai Ettinger was a follower of the first three Chabad Rebbes, R. Schneur Zalman (the Alter Rebbe), R. DovBer (the Mitteler Rebbe), and R. Menachem Mendel (the Tzemach Tzedek). He served as head of the Talmudic academy in Vilna (Vilnius) and then as rabbi in Babruysk, a post he filled for fifty years. Toward the end of his life he immigrated to Jerusalem, where he passed away.

R. Boruch Mordechai was known for his witty sayings and remarks which reflected his sharp perception and deep wisdom.

Links: Skin Deep, A Muddy Opinion, The Heel of a Person Who Prays (a scholarly exposition of a saying of R. Boruch Mordechai)

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 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42

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

Do not pray.

Prayer means to ask for something. Sometimes there’s something to ask for, so you pray. Sometimes there’s nothing to ask for. So you don’t pray.

But Jews don’t pray. Jews practice tefillah.

Tefillah means to bond. Bond with the Infinite Light from which all things come.

Because your essential self is in perpetual bond with that light.

It’s only that now you’ve become tied up with a body. The body needs stuff. You get tied up with that stuff. Your bond with the light can become weakened.

So every day there are times for reconnecting. Refreshing that bond. Tightening that bond.

That’s why tefillah is for everybody, at any time.

Even someone who has no needs must still reconnect every day.

And if you do have needs, ask for them by connecting. Bond yourself with the Infinite Light, so that divine energy will come through you and into our world to heal the sick, to cause the rain to fall, to give life.

Likutei Sichot, vol. 2, pg. 410.