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ב"ה
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Sunday, August 8, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Rosh Chodesh Elul
Jewish History

On the last day of Av of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), Moses carved, by G-d's command, two stone tablets -- each a cube measuring 6x6x3 tefachim (a tefach, "handbreadth", is approximately 3.2 inches) -- to replace the two divinely-made tablets, on which G-d had inscribed the Ten Commandments, which Moses had smashed 42 days earlier upon witnessing Israel's worship of the Golden Calf.

Links: The 120-Day Version of the Human Story

Laws and Customs

Today is the first of the two days of Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) for the month of Elul (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month’s Rosh Chodesh).

Special portions are added to the daily prayers: Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited—in its “partial” form—following the Shacharit morning prayer, and the Yaaleh Veyavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals; the additional Musaf prayer is said (when Rosh Chodesh is Shabbat, special additions are made to the Shabbat Musaf). Tachanun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.

Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh—the month being the feminine aspect of the Jewish calendar.

Links: The 29th Day; The Lunar Files; What Is Rosh Chodesh?

Some of the special Elul practices (see entries and links for tomorrow, Elul 1) begin today. The psalm L'David Hashem Ori (Psalm 27) is recited at the end of the morning and afternoon prayers; this special addition is recited throughout the month of Elul and the High Holiday season, until Hoshanah Rabbah (Tishrei 21) -- a total of 50 days. And although the daily shofar sounding of Elul officially begins on the 2nd Rosh Chodesh, it is customary to practice sounding the shofar (ram's horn) on the 1st Rosh Chodesh, introducing the Elul atmosphere of soul-searching and repentance.

Links: About the shofar; Psalm 27, The High Holiday Anthem

Daily Thought

“And now, if You will forgive their sin, and if not, obliterate me from Your book that you have written.” (Exodus 32:32)

Moses’ plea can be read two ways. The simple reading is to add a single word: “If you will forgive their sin, good, and if not..”

But you can also read it as it is written:

Whether you forgive them or not, obliterate me.

Why? Why would Moses demand not only his physical death, but utter, eternal, spiritual obliteration? Moses, of all people, who certainly was fully cognizant of what this meant!

Certainly it was out of his love for his people. Because G‑d had told him, “Let me destroy them and I will make you into a great nation.”

At this, Moses shuddered with his entire being.

If not for him, G‑d could not destroy the Jewish people. After all, G‑d had promised their forefathers that their descendants would become a great nation.

If so, it was his existence that made possible the destruction of his own people.

Repulsed and horrified, Moses exclaimed, “Such a creature I cannot be! Please! Obliterate me as though I never was!” This is a Jewish leader. There cannot be anything of him that is not love for his people.

Hitvaduyot 5749, vol. 2, pg. 383. Sefer Hasichot 5749, vol. 1, pg 299. The Rebbe cited this reading from his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Yekitranislav.