Elul is the twelfth month of the Jewish civil year and the sixth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a summer month of 29 days. Elul usually occurs in August–September on the Gregorian calendar.
Numbers 28:11-13 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
Rosh Chodesh: New Moon
11 “On the first of the month you are to present to Adonai a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram, and seven flawless male lambs a year old, 12 with three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering with each bull, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering with the ram, 13 and with each lamb a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, a burnt offering as a pleasing aroma, an offering by fire to Adonai.
When our back is turned, we have no idea of the state of the other!
The month of Elul teaches us the necessity of being willing to turn around!
ELUL: MONTH OF SONG OF SONGS / SONGS OF LOVE
ELUL is the 6th month of the BIBLICAL CALENDAR (late summer/early fall) when counting from NISAN/NISSAN, the month set apart for REPENTANCE, or TESHUVAH, in spiritual preparation for the HIGH HOLIDAYS (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). if you were to count from TISHRI as the FIRST MONTH of the calendar , ELUL would be the last month of the year – a time to make “NEW YEAR’S REOLUTIONS” and to turn away from SIN before the START OF THE NEW YEAR. The month of ELUL is therefore a time each year to PREPARE for the YAMIM NORA’IM, the DAYS OF AWE, by getting out SPIRITUAL HOUSE IN ORDER!!!
THE BACKGROUND AT SINAI
Every year the “SEASON OF TESHUVAH” runs forty days from the first days of the Hebrew month of ELUL to YOM KIPPUR. During this time, we make every effort to REPENT, or “TURN (SHUV) TOWARD YAH (a.k.a GOD). In Jewish Tradition, these 40 days are called YEMEI RATZON – “DAYS OF FAVOUR,” since it was this time that YAHUVEH (a.k.a YAHWEH) GOD (THE FATHER) forgave the Jewish nation after the SIN of the GOLDEN CALF (Pirke d’Reb Eliezar). Some have likened these 40 days to the number of days it takes the human fetus to be formed within the womb. TESHUVAH is a sort of death and rebirth; a DEATH OF THE PAST LIFE and the BIRTH OF A NEW LIFE of and a NEW CREATION (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is an awakening from the sleep induced by SIN, which manifests itself as the POWER OF RUACH HA KODESH (HOLY SPIRIT) working in the heart of the Believer who trusts in YAH’S SALVATION (YAHUSHUA) through YAHUVEH’S ONLY BEGOTTEN SON whose name is YAHUSHUA! Therefore RUACH HA KODESH gives us SPIRITUAL LIFE that enables us to be “CONFORMED (i.e. “formed together”) with YAHUSHUA’S Purpose (RATZON) in this world (Romans 8:28-30). YAH’S Favour is most fully revealed in the character of HIS SON (Hebrews 1:3).
But why forty days? DO WE REALLY NEED THAT MUCH TIME TO PREPARE OURSELVES TO REPENT AND MAKE CONFESSION OF OUR SINS?
Jewish tradition determined that forty (40) days came from Israel’s experience at Sinai (YAHUSHUA also spent “40 days” in the wilderness). Moses ascended Mount Sinai no less than three times for forty days and nights.
- The FIRST ASCENT began on the 6th of Sivan, 50 days after the Exodus, when Moses first received the TEN COMMANDMENTS and began learning the details of the TORAH (this corresponds to the holiday of SHAVUOT). When he descended and saw the people worshipping the Golden Calf, however, he smashed the tablets of TABLETS (Exodus 32:19). This is said to have occurred on 17th of Tammuz, a date later associated with calamity for ISRAEL. On the following day, Moses burned the Golden Calf and JUDGED THE TRANSGRESSORS.
- Moses then re-ascended Mount Sinai on 19th of Tammuz and interceded on behalf of ISRAEL for 40 more days (until the 29th of Av), though he descended the MOUNTAIN without assurance.
- YAH then called Moses the following day, on ELUL 1, to ASCEND A THIRD TIME to RECEIVE A NEW SET OF TABLETS. Forty more days and nights were spent receiving revelation of TORAH at Sinai. Moses finally descended on TISHRI 10 – YOM KIPPUR – with the SECOND SET OF TABLETS in hand and the assurance of YAH’S FORGIVENESS.
FORTY DAYS OF TESHUVAH
According to HISTORICAL TIMELINES seen in the Book of Jubilees and others, then, the month of ELUL represents the time that Moses spent on Sinai preparing the second set of TABLETS after the IDOLATROUS INCIDENT of the Golden Calf. Moses ascended on Rosh Kodesh Elul (“HEAD OF THE MONTH OF ELUL”) and then descended 40 days later on the 10th of Tishri, the end of YOM KIPPUR, when the REPENTANCE OF THE PEOPLE WAS COMPLETE. The month of ELUL therefore represents the TIME OF NATIONAL SIN AND FORGIVENESS OBTAINED BY MEANS OF TESHUVAH BEFORE YAHUVEH (a.k.a YAHWEH) GOD (THE FATHER).
NOTE: For a variety of reasons, ROSH KODESH ELUL is observed for two days, the 30th of Av and again on Elul 1. It is now customary to observe the 29 days of ELUL as a time of “SOUL SEARCHING,” or CHESHBORN HANEFESH and OFFERING PRAYERS FOR FORGIVENESS (SELICHOT) IN ANTICIPATION OF THE TEN HIGH HOLY DAYS. The appointed season of TESHUVAH (REPENTANCE) therefore 40 days from the last day of the month of Av to Yom Kippur.
LISTENING TO THE SHOFAR
Beginning on Rosh Chodesh ELUL and continuing until the day before ROSH HA SHANNAH, it is CUSTOMARY to BLOW THE SHOFAR (RAM’S HORN) EVERYDAY (except for SHABBAT). This practice was adopted to awaken us for the COMING HIGH HOLIDAYS.
- The custom is to FIRST BLOW TEKIAH, a LONG SINGLE BLAST (the SOUND OF THE KING’S CORONATION),
- SHEVARIM, THREE SHORT, WAIL-LIKE BLASTS (SIGNIFYING REPENTANCE),
followed by TERUAH,
- SEVERAL SHORT BLASTS OF ALARM (to awaken the soul),
and to close with
- TEKIAH HAGADOL, a LONG FINAL BLAST:
LISTENING TO THE SHOFAR SOUND:
The following HOLY SCRIPTURE, AN APPEAL from the Prophet Isaiah/YeshaYAHU Ha Navi is considered thematic for this month:
Isaiah 55:6-7 Names of God Bible (NOG)
6 Seek Yahweh while he may be found.
Call on him while he is near.
7 Let wicked people abandon their ways.
Let evil people abandon their thoughts.
Let them return to Yahweh,
and he will show compassion to them.
Let them return to our Elohim,
because he will freely forgive them.
The name “ELUL” was imported after our 70 year exile in Babylon (it is thought to originally come from an Akkadian word meaning “harvest). Some commentators note that the word may also come from the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic, thus implying that this month should be a TIME OF SOUL-SEARCHING or “”CHESHBON HA-NEFESH”.
It is well known that the name ELUL is though to be an acronym for “ANI L’DODI LI” – “I AM MY BELOVED IS MINE.” in Hebrew:
Song of Solomon 6:3 Names of God Bible (NOG)
3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
He is the one who grazes his flock among the lilies.
NOTE THAT: The END of each letter in this phrase above itself can be combined to the number 40, reminding us of the forty days of TESHUVAH that lead up to YOM KIPPUR.
Psalm 27 – THE HIGH HOLIDAYS PSALM:
Psalm 27 Names of God Bible (NOG)
1 Yahweh is my light and my salvation.
Who is there to fear?
Yahweh is my life’s fortress.
Who is there to be afraid of?
2 Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces.
My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell.
3 Even though an army sets up camp against me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even though a war breaks out against me,
I will still have confidence in the Lord.
4 I have asked one thing from Yahweh.
This I will seek:
to remain in Yahweh’s house all the days of my life
in order to gaze at Yahweh’s beauty
and to search for an answer in his temple.
5 He hides me in his shelter when there is trouble.
He keeps me hidden in his tent.
He sets me high on a rock.
6 Now my head will be raised above my enemies who surround me.
I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy in his tent.
I will sing and make music to praise Yahweh.
7 Hear, O Yahweh, when I cry aloud.
Have pity on me, and answer me.
8 When you said,
“Seek my face,”
my heart said to you,
“O Yahweh, I will seek your face.”[a]
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not angrily turn me away.
You have been my help.
Do not leave me!
Do not abandon me, O Elohim, my savior!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
Yahweh will take care of me.
11 Teach me your way, O Yahweh.
Lead me on a level path
because I have enemies who spy on me.
12 Do not surrender me to the will of my opponents.
False witnesses have risen against me.
They breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I will see the goodness of Yahweh
in this world of the living.
14 Wait with hope for Yahweh.
Be strong, and let your heart be courageous.
Yes, wait with hope for Yahweh.
MAIN THEME OF THE MONTH
How is the image of the heart, as we most commonly know it, the symbol for this passionate experience of love?
The month that we are now in, Elul, is the key to unlocking the inner and most potent meaning of the heart. As is well known, the Hebrew letters that make the word “Elul,” aleph, lamed, vav and lamed, are an acronym for the phrase (from the biblical Song of Songs) ani l’dodi v’dodi li, which means “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.”
This beautiful and romantic phrase is that which represents our relationship with our CREATOR, which is often paralleled to that of a HUSBAND and WIFE, a BRIDE and GROOM, in our individual lives.
Love. It is the most powerful of human emotions. We all crave it. We cannot live without it. And yet it is so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that there is no way to measure it, prove it, define it, or even describe it.
When we speak of the intellect, it is represented by the mind. And when we speak of the emotions, specifically of love, they are represented by the heart. But why?
When our back is turned, we have no idea of the state of the other. The symbol of the heart is probably one of the most well-known symbols. Spanning continents, cultures, religions, languages, that little red heart means love. It is used to sign letters, to represent the word “love” itself, and has inundated the buyers’ market by being plastered on cards, T-shirts, necklaces, balloons and just about everything else.
There is a SAYING that goes as follows: “that at the beginning of Elul we are achor el achor,” meaning “back to back,” and by the end of Elul we are panim el panim, “face to face.” But how can it be that we are back to back?
Wouldn’t that imply that YAH (a.k.a GOD) has HIS back turned to us as well?
Is it not the month whenYAH is more accessible than ever, when HE is waiting for us to greet HIM, when HE is there for us in the “field” of our everyday lives?
The fact that we are described as “back to back” and then “face to face” is an incredible lesson. Often, when we feel angry, hurt, abandoned, whatever the root of our pain may be, we turn our back. When our back is turned, we have no idea of the state of the other. And it is often easier to believe that we are not the only one with a turned back. It is easier to think the other also turned around, that the other isn’t facing us at all, because if that is the case, then even if we turn around it won’t help, so why bother. Why make that first move only to turn around and see the back of the other?
But this rationalization is the cause of many unsettled arguments, hurt feelings, and broken relationships. How classic is the scene, played out endlessly in movies, of the couple who walk away from one another. At some point the man turns around, wanting to call her name, ask for another chance, beg for forgiveness. He is about to speak, but realizes that her back is turned. She is walking away. He tells himself that it is too late, she just doesn’t care. So he turns back around. Seconds later, she turns to look at him. She doesn’t want this to end. She wants to say something, but can’t garner the courage, doesn’t have the strength. And why, why should she, when his back is turned? The month of Elul teaches us the necessity of being willing to turn around. She looks at him longingly, but it just doesn’t matter—she assumes he couldn’t care less as he continues to walk away from her. And we, the viewers, sit on the edge of our seats, hoping that maybe they will both turn around at the same second, that they will finally realize that the other does care, that even though they appear to be back to back, they really want to be face to face. Sometimes that fairytale ending does happen; other times they simply continue to walk in opposite directions, right out of each other’s lives.
It is the month of Elul that teaches us the necessity of being willing to turn around. The KING IS IN THE FIELD, our CREATOR is there, and no matter how we may feel, HE has never had HIS back turned. All we need to do is turn ourselves around to realize that He is there and waiting for us. The “back to back” that we experience in the beginning of the month is based on our misperceptions, our fears, our assumptions. Only when we turn around do we realize the truth, the inner essence, and then we are “face to face,” which does not only mean that we can finally look at each other, but more so, that we can look in each other—for the root of the word for face, panim, is the same as pnimiyut, which means “innerness.”
So now the question is how this lesson is taught to us, not only in the month of Elul, but through the name “Elul” itself. A Hebrew name is not a mere way of referring to something, but actually represents its soul.
ALEPH /ALEF (the first letter in the word “ELUL”):
As we said above, the word “Elul” is comprised of an aleph, followed by a lamed, followed by a vav, followed by the final letter, another lamed. The first letter in “Elul” is also the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The letter aleph is numerically equivalent to one, which represents the idea of YAH’S (a.k.a GOD) TOTAL UNITY.
LAMED (the second and fourth/last letter in the word “ELUL”):
So now we must answer how all of this is related to the heart. Here is where our lameds are once again defined. At this point it is important to think again about the symbol of the heart and to question its origin. And so it should come as no surprise that the meaning of this symbol will once again be found in the word for “heart” itself.
In Hebrew, the word for heart is lev, which is spelled lamed-beit.
It has been taught in the past that the word lev, lamed–beit, needs to be understood as two lameds. This is because the letter beit is the second letter in the alphabet, and is numerically equivalent to two. So it is explained that the word needs to be read and understood as “two lameds.”
But it is not enough to have two lameds. In order for their to be a relationship, the two lameds need to be connected. They need to be face to face. When we turn around the second lamed to face the first, we form the image of the Jewish Heart (as seen in the picture at the beginning of this article). While the heart, as we are used to seeing it, is quite clear in this form, an entirely new part of the heart is also revealed.
The heart and the love it represents can thrive, can flourish, only when there is a totality in connection.This is because the letter lamed is the tallest of all the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The reason is because the lamed represents the concept of breaking out of boundaries, of going beyond your potential, of entering the superconscious from the conscious.
The lamed also means two things simultaneously. It means both “to learn” and “to teach,” which shows us that the two are intertwined and both are essential. In a relationship, I must be willing to learn from the other, thereby making myself a receiver. Yet the other person also must be able to learn from me, which then makes me the teacher, the giver.
Furthermore, the image of the lamed can be broken down into three other letters. The top part of the letter is that of a yud, the smallest of the Hebrew letters, and the letter that represents the head. The head contains the mind, the intellect, and also the face.
VAV (next Letter in the word “ELUL”:
The next letter in “Elul” is a vav. In Hebrew, the vav serves as a conjuctive “and.” As a word, vav means “hook,” and in its form it looks like a hook. So in this case the vav is the hook which is connecting the yud, the mind, with the bottom letter, the chaf, which represents the body. Physically speaking, it symbolizes the neck, which transports the flow of blood from the brain to the heart.
This teaches us that the heart, that the love that it represents, can thrive, can flourish, only when there is a totality in connection. The Jewish heart, true love, represents a mind-to-mind, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, body-to-body, soul-to-soul connection. The vav, the connection between the head and the heart, must always stay healthy, with a clear flow. If anything cuts it off, the relationship cannot continue. As we all know, one of the quickest ways to kill a person is a slit right across the neck. The neck is our lifeline. It ensures that our head, our intellect, rules above our emotions, and that there is a healthy interchange between the mind and the heart.
The heart that we are all familiar with, the symbol that represents love throughout the world, lacks the yud and the vav; it is missing the mind and the neck. The popular symbol represents only the physical connection between bodies.
So this is why and how Elul is the month that begins back to back and ends face to face. At the beginning of the month we are unaware of the reality that “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” However, by working on ourselves during this month, by being willing to turn around and make changes, we come to realize that our Creator has never had His back turned. He has always been facing us, and just waiting for us to turn around. And once we do, we are then like two lameds that are face to face, which form the Jewish heart and which are the essence of the month of Elul.
Elul then must be understood as an aleph, representing G‑d, followed by a lamed, vav, lamed—a lamed that is connected (vav) to the other lamed.
And the Jewish heart, this idea of love as a totality of connection, is not merely the work for the month of Elul, but is the entire purpose of our creation. This Jewish heart is a symbol for why we were created and what we are meant to accomplish. For the Torah is the blueprint of creation, and the guidebook of how we connect to the divine. And it is not a book that has a beginning, middle and end, but rather a scroll, since we are taught that the “end is wedged in the beginning, and the beginning in the end.”
So what do we find when the Torah scroll’s end rolls into the beginning? How does the Torah end and begin? The last word of the Torah is Yisrael, Israel, which ends with the letter lamed; and the first word is bereishit, meaning “in the beginning,” which begins with a beit. When we join the first and last letters of the Torah, we have lev, the Hebrew word for heart.
May we be blessed with the ability to tap into the PROPHETIC SEASON of the Hebrew Month of ELUL, to recognize and reveal our ability to both learn and teach, and through that, to come face to face with ourselves, with our loved ones and with our CREATOR, as we are taught through the Jewish heart.