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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

Following the failed attempt to dispatch a raven from the ark (see "Today in Jewish History" for Elul 10), Noah sent a dove from the window of the ark to see if the great Flood that covered the earth had abated. "But the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot" and returned to the ark; Noah waited seven days before making another attempt.

Wedding day of Rabbi Baruch and Rebbetzin Rivkah, the parents of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812 -- see entry for tomorrow, Elul 18), in 1743.

On September 1, 1939, corresponding to the Hebrew date of 17 Elul, the Nazi Wehrmacht invaded Poland, launching World War II. The war would prove to be the deadliest conflict in history, resulting in the death of some 60 million people, including the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust as part of the Final Solution.

Link: Essays and Stories on the Holocaust

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.

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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

Each thing that G‑d created has its own realm. There is a world in which it exists, and a world in which it does not.

Ideas exist in a world of intellect. In the world of a creature who knows nothing but emotion, ideas do not exist.

Emotions exist in a world of sentience. In the world of the physical elements—the world of the rock and the water, of wind and of fire, the world of Newtonian mechanics—emotions do not exist.

Words exist in the world of language. In the world of a horse, words and sentences are no more than the neighing of human beings. In the world of the horse, words do not exist.

G‑d is not a word, not a feeling, not an idea, not a symbol of anything else. G‑d is the essential reality of all things and of each thing.

G‑d is everywhere.

R. Yoel Kahn on Shaar Hayichud v’Ha-Emunah, chapter 7