Why is this month so important for Jewish people?
The month of Elul, the last month in the Jewish calendar, leads up to the High Holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. As a result, it’s a month chock full of holiness and heightened activities that prepare for Jews for judgment.
Elul, like the other names of the months in the Jewish calendar, was adopted from Akkadian and means “harvest.” The terminology of the months was adopted during the Babylonian Exile and stuck. The word “elul” is also similar to the root of the verb “to search” in Aramaic, making it an appropriate term for the spiritual prepartions that take place during the month.
In Hebrew, elul often is featured as an acronym for the popular phrase in Song of Songs 6:3, Ani l’dodi v’dodi li (I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine).
The month falls around August or September, has 29 days, and is the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar and the sixth month of the ecclesiastical year.
Known as a month of accounting, Elul is the time of year that Jews take a look at the past year and review their actions. This allows for preparations to be made for the Day of Judgment, or Rosh HaShanah.
The Shofar: Starting on the first morning of the month of Elul until the morning before Rosh HaShanah, theshofar (ram’s horn) can be heard after morning prayers. However, the shofar is not blown on Shabbat. The shofar is blown to serve as a powerful reminder of the commandments and the importance of observing them.
Recite Psalms: Starting on the first day of Elul until, and including Hoshannah Rabbah (the seventh day of Sukkot), Psalm 27 is recited twice every day. The Lithuanian custom is to recite the Psalm during morning and evening prayers, while the custom of Chasidim and Sephardim is to say it in the morning and afternoon prayers. The Ba’al Shem Tov instituted the reading of the entirety of Psalms from Elul until Yom Kippur by adding the recitation of three chapters of Psalms every day from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur with the final 36 read on Yom Kippur.