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Monday, September 9, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270) arrived in Jerusalem, after being forced to flee his native Spain (see "On This Date" for Av 12) and renewed its Jewish community there. The synagogue he established is functional today, having been restored following the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Dan, the son of Jacob and Bilhah, fifth of the Twelve Tribes, was born on 9 Elul in Haran. He lived to the age of 125. (Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot, remez 162)

Link: The Collectors

R. Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin was one of the most famous chassidic leaders in the second half of the nineteenth century. An original thinker and prolific author, his many works span the gamut of Jewish literature and beyond, addressing topics as diverse as Jewish law, mysticism, chassidic thought, biblical interpretation, and even a collection of scholarly interpretations revealed to him in dreams.

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 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27

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

The last written work of the Rebbe before his stroke centered on the following thought. The Rebbe personally handed a copy to thousands of people. I believe it is a summary of who we are and what we must do:

Self-sacrifice in a land of freedom penetrates to the bone.

I saw men and women who sacrificed all they had to defy the religious persecution of the Bolshevik regime. They came to a land of freedom and comfort—where is their greatness now?

Then there is the child of that land of freedom and comfort, worshipping it, chasing after it—but inside he is crushed by the spiritual void. His inner being does not let him alone, the spark inside that cries, “This is not what I truly want! I don’t want this world! I don’t want any worlds! All I want is Him alone!”

This is the crushing of an olive for its oil. The oil spreads and penetrates every fiber of his being. His every faculty begins to burn. And there shines the source of light that can never be extinguished nor dimmed.

It is the light from which the messianic era is formed.