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Shabbat, August 21, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Marriage of the 6th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), to Rebbetzin Nechamah Dinah (1882-1971).

Elul 13 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1835-1909), the renowned Sephardic Halachic authority and Kabbalist, known as "Ben Ish Chai" after his work by that name.

Links:

The Ben Ish Chai, A Biography
The Ultimate Employee (from the teachings of the Ben Ish Chai)

Laws and Customs

During the summer months, from the Shabbat after Passover until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashahah, we study a weekly chapter of the Talmud's Ethics of the Fathers ("Avot") each Shabbat afternoon; this week we study Chapters One and Two.

Links: Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

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 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39

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

On Shavuot, we celebrate the giving of the Torah. We read from it, study it, and celebrate with a festive meal.

On Simchat Torah, we celebrate the second set of tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain on Yom Kippur. We take out every Torah scroll from its place, hug and kiss each one, sing its praises, and dance with it late into the night—and the next day as well—even taking the celebration out onto the street.

Why are the second tablets so precious to us that we celebrate so much more on this day than on the day we heard G-d Himself at Mount Sinai?

Because they represent an unbreakable bond. That even if we make a golden calf and worship it, nevertheless, we will not be able to tear ourselves away from the G-d of Israel and His Torah. And neither will He tear Himself away from us.

Eventually, no matter how far they may have traveled, every Jewish soul will return home.