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Rosh Hashanah


Home > Holidays > Rosh Hashanah


zipple.com's Guide to Rosh Hashanah
Overview
Observance
The Month of Elul
Ten Days of Repentance
Glossary
FAQ

Rosh Hashanah: The Month of Elul
Jewish people think of Rosh Hashanah as the start of the new year. For many Jews, however, the period that starts the new year begins one month earlier, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of Elul.

You wouldn't perform in a play or at a piano recital without putting in plenty of rehearsal time. In the same way, Jews take time to prepare for the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Elul is a month of teshuva, typically known as repentance, but literally meaning "turning." Many people do their best throughout the year not to offend or hurt others, but it still happens. People fail to meet their own expectations in their religious practice. To that end, Elul is the time to return to God and to ask for forgiveness and mercy for any transgressions.

This period is used for introspection, a time to evaluate deeds from the past year. Jews are required to seek forgiveness from friends and family for wrongdoings against them; tradition teaches that only those you've wronged-not even God-can give forgiveness for those sins. Fortunately, tradition also teaches that people are required to open their hearts and accept a plea for forgiveness.

The call to repent begins on Rosh Chodesh Elul at the end of morning services with the sound of the shofar. The shofar, made from a ram's horn, delivers a loud blast, reminding people to repent.

The shofar is blown every morning of Elul, aside from Shabbat and the last day, Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the new year). Not blowing the shofar that day separates the preparation time of Elul from the real thing, Rosh Hashanah. Maimonides writes that the shofar is similar to a clock, reminding us to wake up.

Similarly, in How To Run A Jewish Household (Simon & Schuster, 1983), Blu Greenberg writes, "Marriages can fall into a slumber, relationships with children and parents and friends can stagnate, our personal ethics can become lax. The shofar reminds us to shake ourselves awake, to fight routinization, to look into our own deeds, to regret our mistakes, to repent, to resolve anew, to reverse errant directions our lives may have taken. Nothing, says the shofar, is irrevocable."

As Elul nears its end and the stakes of repentance rise, selichot, special prayers asking God for forgiveness, are recited, beginning just after midnight the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. These prayers are then recited each morning until the new year. When Rosh Hashanah begins on Sunday night, selichot begin a week earlier.

During Elul, many people have the custom to visit cemeteries toward the end of the month, before Rosh Hashanah. And people greet each other with "Leshana tova tikatev vetechatem"-"May you be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year."




Aish Hatorh: The Laws and Customers of Elul
OU: Elul Central
Project Genesis: Elul

Rosh Chodesh
Teshuva- Reaching the Heavens One Step at a Time
Thought on Elul

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