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Friday, September 6, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

R. Yom Tov was a preeminent Torah scholar who served as rabbi in many distinguished communities in Austria and Poland. He is most famous for his Mishnah commentary, called Tosfot Yom Tov, which appears in most large editions of the Mishnah and is an indispensable tool for obtaining a thorough understanding of the text. He authored numerous other works as well, including a commentary on the halachic work of R. Asher ben Yechiel (the Rosh), and Tzurat Habayit, clarifying the future layout of the third Holy Temple.

In his autobiographical work Megilat Eivah, R. Yom Tov describes how, when serving as rabbi of Prague, his enemies slandered him to the Austrian Emperor, resulting in his imprisonment and a death sentence. Thankfully, the verdict was later mitigated to a monetary fine and a prohibition against serving as rabbi in Prague (see entry for 30 Shevat).

Links: Israel Goy, The Power of Charity

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 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18

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

Every person needs a mentor. And that mentor needs a mentor. And that mentor as well—you can’t pull yourself up by tugging at your own hair.

Find yourself someone you can rely on for advice and counsel. Someone who understands you and whom you can trust and respect. If that person turns you down, insist and persist.

Don’t wait to be made a student. Be proactive and make someone your teacher.