Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. Just like Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the year, Rosh Chodesh is the beginning of the new Jewish month.
These are the months in order from the beginning of the year:
Each month has it’s own special significance. And of course, there are the wonderful holidays all year long! The upcoming month, Tishrei, has the most holidays and is the busiest time of year for many people. Jews all over the planet will celebrate Rosh Hashanah – the New Year, Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement, Sukkot – The Festival of Booths and Simchat Torah – Rejoicing with the Torah.
Next is Cheshvan, which is my birthday month! Since we learn that one’s mazel (their luck/fortune) is on a higher level on their birthday, it’s customary to use our additional power to give blessings to those you care about.
Then comes Chanukah in Kislev, Purim in Adar, Passover in Nissan and Shavuot in Sivan. But, in Elul, something very unique happens. It is a special month with an incredible opportunity for introspection. We look back at all our accomplishments and deeds during the year. It’s a perfect time to acknowledge what worked and what didn’t work so much. Then, we can commit to doing more of the former, and less of the latter.
But perhaps one of the most special aspects of the month of Elul is that The King is in the Field. The King is G-d. And although we can send up our prayers at any time, in any place, in any language, and He is always available to listen to us, He is even more available during the month of Elul.
Here’s something to think about. If we want to go visit a mortal king, can we? First we would need a very particular reason to visit a king, and then try to get special permission, an appointment, security check and more. And even with all of that, most people are not permitted to go to see the king. But during Elul, the King, G-d, comes to the field. He comes closer to us, to where we are and comes to greet us out in the field.
How can we use this unique time in our lives?
The acronym for the the Hebrew letters of the month of Elul hold a clue: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li.” I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This beautiful phrase from King Solomon’s Song of Songs expresses the one of a kind relationship that each and every one of us has with G-d.
We all have an inherent closeness to G-d and we can develop this relationship through Torah study and perhaps more importantly, through good deeds. Action is the main thing.
Recognizing the opportunities during Elul and using them to better our relationship with G-d to the best of our abilities, can bring us the much needed strength, and, oftentimes comfort, to last throughout the year.
It is also customary to blow the shofar each day of Elul, to practice for Rosh Hashanah. But even more than practice, the shofar is like an alarm clock that awakens our soul, and stirs us to tap into our belief and faith. And so, the month of Elul is an exceptional time to focus on our spirituality, which can help us manage the everyday stress of life, strengthen our train of thought keeping it positive and focused, and improve our mental health by providing a sense of belonging and acceptance.
A Closing Thought
Here’s something you may like. Today, a friend texted my family and I wishes of good health and the traditional greeting of Chodesh Tov, a good month. But he also said something very pertinent to share. He said: “Be in the moment.” Since we are talking about the calendar, the passage of time and what lies ahead, this oft-heard expression struck a particular chord with me today. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, let’s endeavor to use our senses to be aware of each moment and be more mindful by allowing ourselves to smile more often.