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Chapter 128:1
The Month of Elul

1. [The period from] Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Yom Kippur is a time of [Divine] favor ("eis ratzon"). Although, The Holy One, blessed be He, accepts the repentance ("teshuvah") of those who return to Him wholeheartedly, throughout the entire year, these days (between the 1st of Elul and Yom Kippur) have been set aside for repentance, and are most conducive to it, because they are days of mercy and favor.

[These days have acquired this status because] on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second set of stone tablets ("Luchos Sh'niyim") and spent forty days there, descending on the tenth of Tishrei, which represented the final day of atonement [for the sin of the Golden Calf]. From that time onward, these days were set aside as days of favor, and the tenth of Tishrei as Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement") (1).

It is customary in many places to fast on the day preceding Rosh Chodesh Elul and follow the order of prayer of "Yom Kippur Koton" (lit: "Minor Yom Kippur) to prepare one's heart to repent. If Rosh Chodesh Elul falls on Shabbos, [the fast] is held on the preceding Thursday.

The Ari z"l explained that the name Elul is an acronym of the verse [Exodus 21:13]: "Ve'asher Lo Tzada V"HaElokim Inah L'ydo, v'samti lecha..." ("If one did not lie in ambush [to murder], but G-d set up the situation, I will provide [a place for you to take refuge]"). [This verse describes the institution of cities of refuge for accidental murder.] Its association with the month of Elul indicates that this month [is a place of refuge, as it were, and] a time of favor when [G-d] accepts our repentance for the sins we have committed throughout the year. It also alludes to the fact that, during this month, we should also repent for those sins committed inadvertently. The Rabbis have also noted the following three verses for which Elul is an acronym: [Deuteronomy 30:6] "U'mal Hashem Elokecha Es L'vavcha V'es levav zarecha" ("And G-d, your Lord, will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants"; [Song of Songs 6:3] "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" ("I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me"; [Esther 9:22] "Ish L'rayahu u'matanos l'evyonim ("[Sending] gifts from a person to his friend and [giving] presents to the poor."

Thus, the verses allude to the three things, repentance ("teshuvah"), prayer ("tefillah"), and charity ("tzeddakah"), which must be eagerly performed in the month of Elul. "And G-d will circumcise..." alludes to repentance; "I am for my Beloved..." alludes to prayer, which is "a song of lovers" ("rinas dodim"); "Sending gifts..." alludes to charity.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Moses went up to Mt Sinai for 3 consecutive 40 day periods; for the first forty days, Hashem taught him the entire Torah and gave him the first set of stone tablets ("Luchos Rishonim"), which Moses subsequently smashed when he came down the mountain and saw the Jews dancing around the Golden Calf; Moses then spent the next 40 days begging Hashem to forgive the Jewish People; the final forty days was spent receiving the second set of tablets ("Luchos Sh'niyim").

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.

 

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