Breaking Down Elul
We’ve Arrived in Elul. What Now?
The High Holy Days haven’t started yet, but here are some ways we can get ready during this month of spiritual preparation:
Hearing the Shofar: We traditionally warm-up for the High Holy Days by hearing the shofar blown each weekday morning from the start of Elul until Rosh Hashanah. Discover the thoughts, emotions, and memories that might rise up in you as you hear the heart-awakening sound.
Reading Psalm 27: It is customary to recite Psalm 27 each day from the beginning of Elul through Hoshanah Rabbah, aptly dubbed the Psalm for Elul. Stay tuned for more about this next week!
Heshbon Hanefesh: Take this time for a spiritual accounting of the ways we have lived in the world in the past year. How have we brought more love and compassion into the world? How have we hurt those whom we love? How have we hurt those in our midst who are anonymous to us? What type of repairs are necessary to fix the broken relationships in our lives?
Selihot: Elul is also when we introduce specific prayers and piyutim (liturgical poetry) for forgiveness called Selihot. While Ashkenazi communities say selihot in a special late-night service on the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah and in the days following, Sephardi communities say selihot early in the morning starting at the beginning of Elul. Why are these prayers often offered late at night or very early in the morning? Jewish mysticism teaches that this is a particularly auspicious time of day when the presence of the Divine is closest to us.