This will be my first year to really observe the tradition of introspection and prayer during Elul. 

Elul is the last month before the civil new year and the fall feasts of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  It’s traditional to take the 40 days before Yom Kippur, which begin on Elul 1, as a time of reflection and introspection, to prepare for the coming Days of Awe.  We take this time to right any wrongs and to ask and give forgiveness, as well as renewing our focus on charity.  In short, we do what we can to come closer to G-d, to right our relationship with Him and to do good to others so that we may be prepared for the High Holy Days.  This may be done any time of year, obviously, but there is a focus on these things during this time as a tradition.

shofar

The shofar is blown in the mornings after the morning prayers (except for Shabbat), which include Psalm 27 every day through Hoshanah Rabbah.   The shofar blasts are said  to be a wake-up call to rouse sleepers from their complacency.  There are also a special set of prayers called Selichot prayers, which have a focus on repentance.  These are said the last week of Elul, as the time of the Days of Awe approaches.

This is also a time to bless each other with the greeting “ketivah vachatimah tovah”, meaning “may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Interesting fact: Elul means “search” in Aramaic.  It’s an entirely appropriate name since that is what one does during Elul: search our hearts.

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