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Chapter 128:15
The Month of Elul

15. We should wash our clothes and cut our hair (and shave) on Erev Rosh Hashana in honor of the festival. Hair should be cut before "Chatzos" ("midday") (1). One should also immerse in a mikveh (2).

We wear our Shabbos clothing (3) on Rosh HaShanah to show that we are confident of G-d's grace, and that he will judge us favorably (4).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) Halachic midday, "chatzos," is calculated by totaling the number of minutes from dawn ("alos ha'shachar") until the appearance of 3 stars ("tzeis ha'kochavim"), and then dividing it in half (some say from sunrise to sunset).

(2) One should not immerse until at least one hour before "Chatzos" (Mishna Berura 581:26).

(3) The Mishna Berura writes that one should tone down a little on what one would wear on another Yom Tov, so as to remain in awe of the gravity of the judgement that is taking place (Ibid. 581:25).

(4) Here is a quote from the Tur (O"H 581) based on the Midrash: "What other nation is like this one, that understands the personality of its God!...The accepted custom of one who faces judgement is to wear black, to wrap himself in mourning, neglect his hair and fingernails - for he dreads the unknown results of the judgement. But not Yisrael! They wear white, wrap themselves in white, groom their hair and fingernails, eat and drink and rejoice on Rosh Hashana, knowing that the Holy One will perform a miracle for them...

The Maharshal comments on the above Midrash: "Then why not wear embroidered and colorful clothing? ...That might imply that he does not fear the Day of Judgement at all and is insensitive, but wearing white demonstrates awareness of the day of death...

 

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