"Though summer still lingered and the day was bright and sunny, there was a change in the air. One smelled already the Elul-scent; a teshuvah-wind was blowing. Everyone grew more serious, more thoughtful... All awaited the call of the shofar, the first blast that would announce the opening of the gates of the month of mercy...."

So describes the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the onset of the month of Elul in the town of Lubavitch. A month of trepidation on account of the approaching "Days of Awe" of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; but also a gentle month, softened by the reconciliatory prophecies of the "Seven of Consolation" read during this time and the vibes of divine compassion that linger from the time that Moses spent the whole of Elul on the summit of Mount Sinai procuring G‑d's wholehearted forgiveness for Israel's first sin.

As the last month of the year, Elul is a time for review and stocktaking for the closing year, as well as a time of preparation for the coming year. Throughout the month, at the close of the weekday morning prayers, the shofar (ram's horn) sounds its call to teshuvah (repentance), urging us to ready ourselves for the divine coronation and universal day of judgment on Rosh Hashanah, and to buttress the "three pillars" upon which the world stands — Torah, service of G‑d, and acts of kindness — by increasing in study, prayer and charity.1 In our letters to family and friends we bless them, Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." And in the last week of Elul, we rise at an early hour to recite the solemn Selichot prayers. Teshuvah is in the air.

The following four articles on Elul are based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's writing and talks. A Haven in Time reviews Elul's history and discusses the month's role as a "city of refuge" for the spiritual refugees of life. Month of the Bride looks at Elul's astral sign of betulah ("virgin") and how it relates to the dynamics of the marriage of G‑d and Israel. G‑d on the Campaign Trail and The King in the Field explore the significance of Elul in light of the famous Elul analogy by Chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

A Haven in Time

Month of the Bride

G‑d on the Campaign Trail

The King in the Field

How to Grant a Blessing

Torah (an anthology)

Prayer (an anthology)

Charity (an anthology)