Image: A man sounds a shofar at a synagogue in Minnesota. (Wikimedia Commons)
- Elul is the name of the last of 12 months in the Jewish Calendar.
- Elul is not mentioned in the Bible.
- Most years it begins in August of the secular calendar. In 2013, it begins at sundown on August 6.
- Traditionally, it is a time for looking back over the year past, taking stock, and making apologies and amends for mistakes and wrongs.
- For religiously observant Jews, it is a time for teshuvah (click the link for more about teshuvah.)
- Both of these forms of retrospection are a preparation for the High Holy Days.
- During Elul many synagogues sound a blast on the shofar [ram’s horn] at morning services. The sound of the shofar is said to awake the sleeping soul.
- Many observant Jews also recite Psalm 27 every day from 1 Elul through Hoshana Rabbah, the end of Sukkot.
- Selichot, special services of penitential prayers, are offered during Elul.
- Many Jews visit the graves of relatives or friends during Elul. It is a form of respect for the dead, and also a reminder that our lives are finite (a theme of the High Holy Days.)
- A greeting for Elul is “K’tiva chatimah tovah” – “May you be written and sealed for good.” This is a reference to one of the major metaphors of the High Holy Days, the Book of Life.
- For more about Elul, check out this article by Rabbi Reuven Hammer.