Welcome, Elul. Welcome to the month of turning inward, the month of forgiveness, the month of spiritual accounting, the month of deepening.

1. Timing of Elul: A Season of Change

The month of Elul always begins somewhere towards the middle to end of August and continues to the middle or end of September. Even though the heat may still be strong, there is a subtle change in the quality of light upon the arrival of this month. We sense that fall will soon be upon us. In many places in the world, the days will become shorter, the air cooler, and the leaves will once again turn into beautiful colors before they fall to the ground.

We will see before our very eyes the cyclical dance of nature. Some of us will greet these changes with joy and some with regret; nevertheless, the natural changes will occur. Nature will turn inward once again.

As we both witness and experience the inevitable cycles of life, we are drawn inward to the consciousness within us that does not change. Through the spiritual grace of this month, it is easy to get in touch with what is pure and constant within us.

2. The Month’s Letter: ‘Yud’ (The Essential Point of Humility)

Kabbalistically, every month has its own Hebrew letter. The Hebrew letter for this month is yud, the smallest letter in the alphabet, simply a point. The yud is the essential point and represents the self-nullification necessary for coming close to G‑d.

The first letter of the Divine Name is a yud. The first letter in the name, Israel, is a yud, as is the first letter in the word “Jew” (Yehudi).

Meditating on the yud this month supports the inner turning to the most inner point within us. Go beyond the stories in your life to contact the innermost place within, the pure soul within. Place the yud on your inner screen, meditate upon it, merge with it, and let it teach you the secrets of the power of becoming small and humble.

3. Intimate Closeness With G‑d: ‘Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li’

The first letters of the Hebrew verse, Ani ledodi vidodi li, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Song 6:3) spell out Elul, signifying that there is an intimate and loving closeness between G‑d (my Beloved) and His people during this last month of the Jewish calendar. (By the way, this is a wonderful mantra to repeat and sing during this month during meditation.)

Elul is the month of spiritual preparation for the High Holidays. The inner work of spiritual accountability and returning to one’s true essence (known as teshuvah, “repentance”) done during this month affects our capacity to stand before G‑d and draw down blessings for the coming year.

4. Historically: A Month of Forgiveness

Historically, Elul is the time period during which Moses returned to Mount Sinai to plead for forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf. Consequently, Elul is the month for us to work on forgiveness, of ourselves and others. As we forgive, we become open to a greater Divine revelation. Much has been written about the benefits and importance of forgiveness. As difficult as it might be, it’s often the best thing that we can do for ourselves. Though forgiveness is a spiritual practice for the entire year, it is a major theme this month of Elul.

5. Reach Out to Others: Substitute Compassion for Blame

During this month, you may find that you are brought into contact with people you haven’t seen for a while and are now given an opportunity to heal and complete the relationship in a way that was not possible before. You may have unexpected telephone calls, or you may even find that you are revisiting places and situations that on a conscious level you wouldn’t have chosen to do. These are opportunities to release residual negativity so you can truly go forward in your life. It is generally a good time to reach out to people and wish them a happy and healthy new year.

Forgiveness does not mean that we condone negative behavior, nor do we just forget or ignore the hurt, but we can and need to let go of the anger. Forgiveness asks us to see beyond the limits of our personality or that of the person who injured us. In the act of forgiveness, we substitute compassion for blame, and we trust ourselves and G‑d that we have grown and will continue to grow from the pain and challenges we have experienced.

We can then gain insight into how the challenges and difficulties we have faced in the last year have supported our growth. As liberating as it is to forgive others, it is also important to love and forgive yourself.

6. A Month of Review and Evaluation

G-d Loves You - By Joy Krauthammer
G-d Loves You - By Joy Krauthammer

As the last month of the year, we naturally find ourselves reviewing, assessing and evaluating the accomplishments, challenges and shortcomings of the entire year. It’s the time to get in touch with the essence of what’s important in life. Many of us will be brought to new levels of appreciation for the personal relationships that have nourished us in this last year and the goals we were able to meet. Others of us will be more aware of unfinished business and the relationships that needed to heal so we can truly be open to the newness of the coming year.

7. Shofar: Waking Up to Change

Answer Me - By Devorah Weinberg
Answer Me - By Devorah Weinberg

Elul is a time of spiritual accounting. For those who have had a relatively easy year, it may be easier to come to terms with the past year. Those of us who have had a difficult year, we may become discouraged, feel burdened by setbacks and question our capacity for real change. Know that disappointment is natural at this time because it is a launching pad for the teshuvah experience. We are not really stuck; we just think that we are. We can change. We can become happier and better people.

The shofar is blown every day in Elul, except during Shabbat, in synagogues to wake us up—to remind us that we can change. This upcoming year can be truly amazing. When we call out sincerely to G‑d—when we pray, when we meditate, when we listen to the shofar in the deepest way—we can receive a unique heavenly grace this month that opens gates to the inner world of the beauty and G‑dliness of our own souls.

Chodesh Tov, and may we each be blessed with many such moments during this month of Elul.