The Hebrew month of Elul (אלול), which began on August 23, is the ordained time when Jews all over the world strive to repent and improve on their actions of the past year as the the New Year approaches.
Elul is the last month in the Hebrew calendar. The next month, Tishrei, contains the holiest days in the Hebrew calendar: Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentence. Jews begin to spiritually prepare for the holidays a month in advance.
“The acronym for Elul is ‘anee l’dodee v’dodee lee – אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’ from Song of Songs. This refers not only to the love between a couple but also the love between God and His children,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, a company which offers Biblical language courses online, to Breaking Israel News.
Though connecting to God is attainable all year round, the sages teach that during Elul, “the King is in the field”. This means that one may more easily reach and feel closeness to God at this time. Anee l’dodee v’dodee lee is the idea that there is a reciprocal relationship between man and God. When man awakens his heart and actions towards God, greater Godliness in revealed in this world and a relationship with Him is more accessible.
The Song of Songs compares man’s relationship to God to a couple’s relationship. Just as there are times when couples are struggling and they appear to be “gav el gav – גב אל גב – back to back” to each other, during Elul, there is a special opportunity to become “panim el panim – פנים אל פנים – face to face” with the Creator.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains that when a person is hurt, angry or feels abandoned, they often turn their back on the one causing them pain. This act allows people to believe that the other’s back is also turned against them.
Elul, he teaches, is the opportune time to turn around towards the One most loved, God. God is always waiting to greet man with His open, loving arms. In fact, it is human misperception that God turns His back on people. This month is the easiest time to humble oneself and return back to the Creator with a full heart and soul, said the rabbi.
“The insights reaped by studying in depth the Hebrew language, and even each Hebrew letter are fascinating,” said Segal. “We learn just from the name of the month, Elul, that this is the most apropos month to turn around towards God and man to improve our relationships with others and ourselves. It is the time to realize that God is always facing us, waiting for us to turn towards Him with our full heart.”
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