Elul: The Month of Teshuvah

Elul, the month on the Jewish calendar that precedes Rosh HaShanah, begins tonight at sundown.

Rosh Chodesh Elul (the new moon of Elul) is a spiritually significant time. It is the beginning of a long period of introspection, increased fervor, and ascending faith that runs through the end of Sukkot (Tabernacles) some fifty-two days later (and with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, really even a few more days).

You could think of the progression of these days as:

…..Preparation
……………………..Intensification
…………………………………………….Alarm
………………………………………………………Awe
…………………………………………………………….Absolution
……………………………………………………………………………..Rejoicing
…………………………………………………………………………………………….Recommitment

Rosh Chodesh Elul begins preparation, a month of hearing the shofar each morning, praying Psalm 27 morning and evening, increasing observance of the prayers (if you don’t normally say any of the prayers, say some, if you say a few of them, increase, and if you pray them regularly work on increased concentration and intention), and if you can make the time it is a tradition to pray ten psalms a day (getting through Psalms twice in Elul).

Throughout the month of Elul you experience intensification. The increase in daily observance, the twice a day meditation on Psalm 27, the hearing of the shofar each morning, these will lead to increased intensity. We increase in the realization of the distance between us and God. We increase in our realization of desire for union with him and to dwell in his renewed world to come.

On Rosh HaShanah we experience alarm, the sound of approaching judgment. The shofar blasts which go on for so long in the synagogue increase our distress. We sense the nearness of the Presence in a new and powerful way each year and the alarming lack of merit we have to stand before the Holy One.

Between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we experience awe, and these are called the days of awe. Our penitence increases. We maintain the note of unworthiness for ten more days before we entertain the thought of forgiveness. We dwell on the note of need and not yet of divine favor.

As we endure the purging fast and communal prayers of Yom Kippur we are approaching the sunset and the clear sense of absolution. When the gates of repentance symbolically close, we are, as it were, sealed for another year as being either nearer to the Holy One or more distant. Though we did not merit it, we receive a sense of acceptance and being beloved.

For the seven days of Sukkot we rejoice in our dwelling with God, in the unmerited favor of his forgiveness and in the mysterious imagining of eternal dwellings in his renewed world. We rejoice with our community and not alone. We rejoice by commandment and not merely by our own desire. We rejoice with unbridled enthusiasm and a holy lack of restraint.

And at Simchat Torah, the festival of renewing the annual cycle of Torah reading, we recommit to the process all over again.
……………………..

Please note, if you don’t have access to good information about how to keep the month of Elul, I gave some pointers above.

Tonight, even if you are not one to pray Maariv, pray it with your family. Add the special prayer for Rosh Chodesh (in an Artscroll Complete Siddur, Maariv begins on pg. 256 and the special prayer for Rosh Chodesh is on pg. 275).

Listen to the shofar each morning this month. If you can join a minyan even occasionally this month, do so. If not, make time for Shacharit (at least some psalms, the Shema, and Amidah) and blow the shofar in your home.

Read Psalm 27 morning and evening. I will have meditations on Psalm 27 here for those who would like some thoughts to guide and motivate them.

If you can make time, read ten Psalms a day this month.

May your season of repentance be a breakthrough.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Holidays, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Elul: The Month of Teshuvah

  1. Maureen LaFaive says:

    Is this post for a Jewish-only audience? In your previous post you stated:

    “Much discussion is needed about how Judeo-Christian enthusiasts can maintain a distinction between Jewish and gentile identities. Certain practices and prayers should be reserved as expressions of Jewish identity. How can philo-Semitic Christians practice some elements of Torah living without stepping on Jewish toes? This will be a future subject of attention at Messianic Jewish Musings.”

    Not sure if your recommendations for these spiritual practices apply to me or if I would be “stepping on Jewish toes.”

    • Gene Shlomovich says:

      “Not sure if your recommendations for these spiritual practices apply to me or if I would be “stepping on Jewish toes.”

      Maureen (Tandi?) – you can read about something and benefit from it (at least on intellectual level), even if it does not apply to your life directly. I can read and be all excited about space travel and admire the effort it takes on the part of the folks involved, even though I realize that I will never myself be an astronaut nor will I ever fly into space.

  2. Maureen LaFaive says:

    Yes, Gene, it is me……..Tandi. : )

    Trying to learn how to use WordPress features and updated my info finally. I may have to set up a WordPress account because it is a hassle to continually have to log in with a difficult password sequence in order to post a comment. I do not see where I can choose my own password. Blogger is much more user friendly it seems. This may explain why some who may want to post a comment don’t. Too many hoops to jump through.

    Concerning your comment, …..comparing Gentile participation in Jewish religiosity to space travel? That is far out!

    • Gene Shlomovich says:

      ‘Concerning your comment, …..comparing Gentile participation in Jewish religiosity to space travel? That is far out!”

      Hey Maureen, the One on High sits above the highest heavens. When we are elevated to be with Him, it is a space travel indeed and really is FAR OUT!:)

  3. JustparaDOX says:

    I found this article because I also wrote an article on the Month of Elul from a Judeo-Christian perspective: The Month Of Elul (A Time To Reflect On Yeshua Our Betrothed Beloved One) I think you may find an interesting read.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s