8.15.2007

Chodesh Elul tov! !חדש אֱלוּל טוב

Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul (אֱלוּל), and the second day of Rosh Chodesh. This is part 2 of an occasional series.

Etymology

  • From Akkadian ululu or elulu, meaning "the time when [the produce of the land] is brought in," i.e. "harvest time," from a verb meaning "to bring in" or "thrust in"
Biblical names
  • "the sixth month"
  • Called "Elul" in Nehemiah 6:15:
    טו וַתִּשְׁלַם, הַחוֹמָה, בְּעֶשְׂרִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה, לֶאֱלוּל--לַחֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם, יוֹם.
    15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
  • A rabbinic tradition derives the source of the name Elul from part of a verse in Song of Songs (6:3):
    ג אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים. 3 I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine, that feedeth among the lilies.'
    "Ani L'Dodi v'Dodi Li," "I am my beloved and my beloved is mine." The first letter of each of these words in Hebrew spells "Elul." This is interpreted as describing the relationship between God and His people during this auspicious time preceding Rosh Hashanah.
  • Another rabbinic tradition derives the source of the name Elul from part of a verse in Esther (9:22):
    כב כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים 22 the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.
    "Ish L'Rei'eihu UMatanot L'Evyonim," "Sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." The first letter of each of these words in Hebrew spells "Elul." The connection between this verse and the month of Elul is that we are supposed to increase our good deeds during this month. (I'm not a huge fan of this one, but since I just heard it for the first time this past Shabbat, I thought I would include it.)
Customs and Associations for Elul
  • Because it precedes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the month of Elul became connected to repentance.
  • There is a custom of sounding the shofar daily during the month of Elul, as well as reciting Psalm 27.
  • There is a Sephardic tradition of reciting selichot, or special penitential prayers, early every morning during entire the month of Elul. (Ashkenazi Jews recite selichot as well, but start only about a week before Rosh Hashanah.)
  • Is it customary to begin or end all letters written during the month of Elul with wishes that the recipient have a good year. The standard blessing is "K'tiva V'Hatima Tova" ("A good writing and sealing [of judgement]"), meaning that the person should be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year.
What Happened in Elul?
  • On the 25th of Elul, the Israelites rebuilt the destroyed walls of Jerusalem under the prophet Nehemiah's direction after they returned from the diaspora of Babylon (Nehemiah 6:15).
Other cultures
  • Eylul is also the name for September in Turkish.
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the following correspond to the month of Elul:
  • Letter: yud (י)
  • Zodiac sign: virgin
    One explanation is that the virgin symbolizes G-d's beloved bride, Israel, the bride of the
    Song of Songs who says to her groom, "I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me." Another explanation that it is an allusion to the verse in Jeremiah 31:20: "Return, Maiden Israel! Return to these towns of yours!" (שׁוּבִי בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֻׁבִי אֶל-עָרַיִךְ אֵלֶּה) and Elul is traditionally a time for teshuva, which is understood as repentance but literally means "return."
  • Tribe: Gad (גּד)
  • Sense: action
  • Controlling organ/limb: left hand (Lefties, rejoice!)

2 comments:

babyrabbi said...

See Deuteronomy 30:6 and Exodus 21:13 for other verses containing the Hebrew Acronym אלול.

ALG said...

Thanks for your comment!

For any curious readers, those acronyms are:

ו וּמָל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְאֶת-לְבַב זַרְעֶךָ: לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ--לְמַעַן חַיֶּיךָ.
6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

So the acronym there is "אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְאֶת-לְבַב" or "thy heart, and the heart of thy seed"? Kinda' random. What's the proported connection between that verse and the month of Elul?

And Exodus 21:13:

יג וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא צָדָה, וְהָאֱלֹהִים אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ--וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ מָקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יָנוּס שָׁמָּה.
13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God cause it to come to hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he may flee.

So the acronym there is "אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ--וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ" or "cause it to come to hand; then I will appoint thee"? This one seems even more random, and I wonder about the connection to Elul.