Jewish cemetary

Chodesh Tov! It’s Elul tonight!

At sundown tonight, not only will it be Shabbat, it will be Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first of the month of Elul.

Elul is the 12th month of the Jewish year – so yes, a month from now we will be celebrating Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.

Elul is a month of quiet preparation for the renewal of the High Holy Days. Traditionally, we take this time to “wake up our souls” with the sound of the shofar and with penitential prayers (selichot.)

It’s a time for cheshbon nefesh – taking an accounting of one’s life. In what ways have I fallen short in the last year? What regrets would I have, if I died tomorrow? What do I have to show for my one, precious, singular life?

Many Jews also take some time this month to visit the graves of loved ones. Going to a cemetery reminds us of our own mortality.

I’ll write more about these customs over the coming month. In the meantime, do you have plans for Elul? How do you go about your personal accounting?

Published by


Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

10 thoughts on “Chodesh Tov! It’s Elul tonight!”

  1. I just returned 10 days ago from a family reunion in my hometown and one of our activities was to visit the cemetery where our family plot has been for decades. That was a humbling experience to see graves of my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and other relatives that I either have little or no recollection. My parents are in a cemetery here where my family now resides and we have started a family plot. This week I will be visiting their graves and to tell them all about my visitation back home and to tell them how very much they are missed in my life. I also gave Tzedakah in all my family names in remembrance of their lives to be published in the Book of Remembrance during the High Holidays.

    Now to take account for my life…my life as a Jewess, as a wife, a sister, an Aunt, a friend, etc. How long will my list be that is positive? negative? I have a book I found several years ago that I use every year, “Preparing Your Heart for the High Holidays a guided Journal” by Kerry Olitzky and Rachel Sabath. This has been so very helpful and I start today!

    “For those we have wronged may we be forgiven.”

    1. “Preparing Your Heart” is an excellent book! I am honored to count Rabbi Rachel Sabath among my teachers.

      What a beautiful thought: the family reunion included not only those living in this world, but those living in memory.

      Chodesh tov!

  2. My Torah Study Group is going through Alan Lew’s “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared”

    1. May his memory be for a blessing, Rabbi Alan Lew wrote some wonderful, powerful words in that book. Let us know how it goes for you!

      Chodesh tov.

Leave a Reply