Thursday, August 20, 2020
Thirtieth Day of Av 5780
Rosh Chodesh Elul
The first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar is a minor holiday called Rosh Chodesh, literally, “the head of the month.” Because the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, and because one lunar cycle is approximately 29-1/2 days, each Hebrew month has either 29 or 30 days. (There are no half days!) When a month has 30 days, we celebrate a new month on the 30th day and also on the next day, the first day of the next month. That is why today, the 30th day of the month of Av, is celebrated as the first day of Rosh Chodesh for the month of Elul.
The month of Elul is regarded in Jewish tradition as the beginning of the process of t’shuvah, the repentance that we strive to achieve as we approach the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Medieval rabbis observed that the letters that spell Elul (אלול) stand for the Hebrew phrase “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” The phrase is a quote from the biblical book Song of Songs (chapter 6, verse 3) and is understood in Jewish tradition as a statement about the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The rabbis also noted that the last letter of the word Elul in Hebrew is lamed, which has the numerical value of forty. From this, they stated that during the forty days that begin with Rosh Chodesh Elul and end with Yom Kippur, people should “bring their hearts near to their beloved God in t’shuvah knowing that God, in return, will accept their t’shuvah with love” (Mishnah Berurah 581).
Practice for this day:
On this minor holiday of Rosh Chodesh Elul, take some time to think of all the ways that love touches your life. Think about the people you love and the people who love you. Feel your heart swell with happiness and love as you think about them. Intentionally feel yourself wish goodness and wellbeing to the people you love; imagine how they, too, wish goodness and wellbeing upon you. Hold that feeling a few minutes and allow it to sink into every part of your mind, feel it physically in every corner of your body. Allow yourself to be comforted by the feeling of loving and being loved.
Let this feeling – and let the past and present loving relationships in your life – be the source of energy that will power you through the next forty days until Yom Kippur. As you work to seek forgiveness, make changes in yourself, and commit to being a better person, let this love sustain you and become your motivation to transform yourself.
Write down below the most important people in your life whom you love and who love you: