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Shabbat, September 5, 2020

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Elul 16 is the yahrzeit (day of passing) of the world-famous Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

Links: Two Candles for Sammy, The Other Side of the Prayerbook

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 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48

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

During the summer months, from the Shabbat after Passover until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashahah, we study a portion of the Talmud's Ethics of the Fathers ("Avot") each Shabbat afternoon. This week, we study Chapters Three and Four.

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

Daily Thought

Do not give charity.

Charity means being nice. It means the other guy doesn’t deserve it and you don’t have to give it, because you have what belongs to you and he has what belongs to him. And nevertheless, you give anyways.

But Jews don’t give charity. Jews give tzedakah. And tzedakah means setting things right.

Tzedakah means the money was never really yours, that you’re just the treasurer and the money was put in your trust to be disbursed for good things, both for you and for others when they will have a need.

Tzedakah is something you receive every day, because the One Above has no obligations towards you, yet He provides you constantly with all that you need.

And since the One Above mirrors all that you do below, you feel a need to give more than you are required to give, so that He will give you more than you deserve to get.

Likutei Sichot, vol. 2, pg. 410.