Seasons of the Moon

Seasons of the Moon - Elul 5756

Become a Supporter Library Library

Seasons of the Moon

The Month of Elul
Elul 5756 / August 16 - September 13, 1996




The month of Elul is the time of return. A time where we try to sensitize ourselves to our mistakes and work on rectifying them. Elul is a time of preparation. Preparing for the day on which the whole world is to be judged - Rosh Hashana.

A person cannot return to the path from which he has strayed, unless he is prepared to search. That search has to start with an analysis of his own actions. This 'soul searching' is reflected in the name of the month itself, for Elul means 'searching' in Aramaic.

The sign of the month of Elul is the maiden, which symbolizes modesty and purity, essential traits for a true return. The faculties of understanding and insight which have an astrological connection to Elul are, according to mysticism, feminine attributes.

A person born under the influence of the sign of Virgo (Betula in Hebrew) has a natural inclination to analyze in great detail, and a propensity to be a perfectionist. When used positively, these attributes are essential tools in returning to the spiritual path. For we must analyze in great detail where we have gone wrong if we are to have any chance of perfecting ourselves.

Similarly, without the aspiration to perfect ourselves, we will never be motivated to change even the smallest fault that we possess.

A Story For Elul

There once was a Hollywood star who had fallen on hard times and hadn't played in a leading movie for many years. He was riding in the back seat of a cab down Sunset Boulevard when the cabby started to eye him in the rear-view mirror.

Finally the cabby couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. He looked at the ex-star in the mirror and said to him "Didn't you used to be whatsisname?"

There is a story about the great Sage, Rav Saadia Gaon, who lived some 1100 ago. Once, his students came to see him at night unexpectedly. They found their rebbe rolling in the snow! Dumbfounded and trembling, they asked "Rebbe, can it be that you, Heaven forbid, are in need of such suffering and affliction as this?"

Rav Saadia replied "I have done no sin that requires such stringent measures, but I learned something from someone with whom I lodged and I am following his example."

The students were puzzled and silent as Rav Saadia continued: "Recently I stayed at the house of someone in a town far from here. The owner did not recognize me, but he paid me every customary courtesy and honor. Somewhat later, the word got around that I was in town and everyone came to greet me and give me honor. When my host realized who I was he also started to accord me great honor, to the utmost of his ability.

A few days later, just as I was leaving, my host fell to the ground in front of me. In floods of tears, he begged my forgiveness. I asked him why he needed forgiveness from me, since he had treated me with the greatest honor and respect.

'When you first arrived' he said 'I didn't realize who you were. I failed to treat the master with the honor that is becoming to him. Please forgive me!'

If this man wept at my feet until I forgave him and lifted him up - and I am no more that flesh and blood - how much more so should I humble and afflict myself before the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He! For each day I recognize and worship and fear and love Him more and more. And so with each passing day I realize how totally inadequate has been my behavior toward Him in days gone by!"


Yom Kippur is a day when our sins are forgiven. However, there are other days in the year which also contain a reflection of this power of cleansing and forgiveness.

Question: Which are these days? Answer: The days of Rosh Chodesh - the beginning of each month. As we say in our prayers "You have given Roshei Chodashim to Your people, a time of atonement throughout all their generations."

Although on Rosh Chodesh the sins of the preceding month are forgiven, we don't expect forgiveness unless we forsake our ways and return to Hashem. Thus, some people fast as an act of self-examination and remorse.

However, fasting is prohibited on Rosh Chodesh, and so the fast is observed on the preceding day. And thus its name - Yom Kippur Katan - a Little Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur Katan also resembles Yom Kippur in the recital of special penitential prayers and vidui (confession).

And if there is a minyan of people fasting in the synagogue, the special Torah reading and the Haftorah for public fast days are also recited.

Although it is only rare individuals who fast, the whole of Israel receives the merit of their fasting. For, since the fast is not obligatory, those who do fast, fast on behalf of all the Jewish People.

Perhaps this is the reason we say in our prayers of blessing for the month "All of Israel are friends." When a person accepts upon himself to do something he is not obliged to do, he does it in the merit of all the Jewish People - "All of Israel are friends."

Soul Music

Beneath the articulate
There is a sound
of the heart crying
Like a baby
The primal wailing of the soul
longing for its home.

When all the words have failed us
When there is nothing left to say
Will You listen to the message of our hearts?
Tekiah Teruah Shevarim...

  • THIS MONTH'S SIGN - Rabbi M. Glazerson
  • I'M SORRY I DIDN'T RECOGNIZE YOU, A LITTLE YOM KIPPUR - Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov in The Book of Our Heritage Translated by Rabbi Nachman Bulman

SEASONS OF THE MOON is written by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair and edited by Rabbi Moshe Newman.
Designed and Produced by the Office of Communications - Rabbi Eliezer Shapiro, Director
Production Design: Lev Seltzer
HTML Design: Michael Treblow
© 1996 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.
This publication is available via E-Mail
Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 550 full-time students.

The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.

Ohr Somayach's Web site is hosted by TeamGenesis

Copyright © 1996 Ohr Somayach International. Send comments to: [email protected]
Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.