The Month of Elul

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26 Jun 2006

“Elul” is the Sixth Month of the year, counting from “Nisan,” called in the Chumash, “the first month.” Counting from “Tishrei”, the month of Rosh HaShanah, “Elul” is the twelfth, and last month in the year. Like the names of the other months of the Hebrew Calendar, “Elul came up”, or “returned with,” those Jews who returned to Israel from the 70-year Exile in Babylonia. The expression “returned with” is particularly significant in this case in that this is the month of “Return to Hashem,” or “Repentance.”

Elul is the name of the month which we are given each year to prepare for the “Days of Awe:”

Although we believe that G-d always watches over the world, and is always waiting for our “return,” we also believe that, in a sense, He is more accessible during the 40-day period beginning with the start of Elul and culminating in the first ten days of the Month of Tishrei. Those days, known as the “Ten Days of Repentance,” begin with “Rosh HaShanah,” and end with “Yom Kippur.”

“Elul” has been interpreted as an acronym, with its Hebrew letters “Aleph,” “Lamed,” “Vav,” “Lamed” representing the words “Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li” (Song of Songs: 6,3).

The words mean “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” where my “Beloved” is G-d, and “I” am the Jewish People.

Zodiac Sign of the Month

The Zodiac Sign of the Month is the “Maiden,” because of the verse, (Yirmiyahu 31:20), “…Return, O Maiden of Israel, return to these cities of yours!” Because this month is set aside for return to G-d and Repentance.

Significance of Astrology in Judaism

Historical Background of “Elul”

1. According to Jewish tradition, the World was created by G-d on the twenty-fifth of Elul, according to the opinion in the Talmud of Rabbi Eliezer, whose opinion is followed generally in connection with questions of astronomical and cosmological (having to do with the “cosmos,” or the entire universe) matters. And according to the Biblical narrative in the beginning of the Bible (Bereshit 1:1-31), Original Man and Original Woman were created six Days after the Creation of the Universe. The “Day of Creation” of the first human beings is called “Rosh HaShanah.” Hence, it follows that the “Day of Creation” of the Universe was the twenty-fifth of Elul.

2. According to Jewish tradition, it was on the 17th of Elul, that the spies who gave the tragic and catastrophic report about Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), died, as the Bible says in BaMidbar (14:37), “The Men who gave a bad report concerning “The Land” died in a plague before G-d.”

Rabbi Elazar son of Parta said, “Come and see how great is the negative power of evil speech and consequently the greatness of the punishment that it brings! We learn this lesson from the spies. For they slandered only trees and stones (the Land of Israel) – how much worse is the punishment if someone slanders a human being!”

3. In the Book of Nechemiah (6:15), we find, “And the wall was finished on the 25th of Elul, after fifty two days.”

When Nechemiah came up from the Diaspora of Babylon to Yerushalayim, and saw the city in its ruined state, its walls filled with gaps and its gates burnt with fire, he urged the Jewish People to rebuild the walls, in order that they no longer be a shame among the nations.

The enemies of the Jewish People, Sanbalat the Choronite, Toviah the Amonite and Geshem the Arab attempted to forge a conspiracy to prevent the rebuilding of the walls. When they tried to disrupt the work by physical force, they were repelled by the workers who worked with their tools in one hand and their weapons in the other as the verses there attest, “Those who built the walls and those who lifted and carried the burdens would do their work with one hand, while one hand held a weapon.” (Nechemiah 4:11)

And the following additional dramatic descriptions of the situation, which bring to mind the battles of the early Kibbutzniks against the Arabs at the birth of the modern State of Israel, when tremendous levels of bravery and self-sacrifice were exhibited by the Israeli worker-fighters. “So we did the work, with half of them grasping the spears, from the rising of the dawn until the emergence of the stars. Also, at that time I said to the People, ‘Let each man and his attendant spend the night in Jerusalem. Thus, the night was a watch for us and the day was for work. Thus neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the watch who were under me, none of us removed our garments; no one disrobed even to wash their clothes.” (Nechemiah 4:15-17)

When the enemies realized that their military attacks were to no avail, they attempted to trap Nechemiah by encouraging him to meet with them, where they would do away with him, he saw through their attempts, as it says, “Then Sanballat sent me the same message with his servant, with an open letter in his hand. In it were written these words: ‘It has been heard among the nations, and Geshem confirms it, that you and the Jews plan to rebel, and that is why you are building the wall; and that you are becoming their king, and similar things; and that you have also set up prophets to proclaim about you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now these things will be heard by the king! So now, let us come and take counsel together!” (Nechemiah 6:5-7)

But Nechemiah responded, “I sent word to him, saying, ‘These things that you say have never happened; you have fabricated them from your heart! For you all try to frighten us, saying, ‘Let the resolve of their hands for doing the work be weakened, so that it will not be done.’ But now you strengthen my hand!” (Nechemiah 6:8-9)

When the wall was successfully rebuilt, a great “Kiddush Hashem” “Sanctification of G-d’s Name” occurred. As we read, “The wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, after fifty-two days. It happened that when all our enemies heard this, and all the nations around us saw, they fell greatly in their own eyes, for they realized that this work was accomplished by our G-d.” (Nechemiah 6:15-16)