Dear Rabbi: What are We Preparing for in the Month of Elul?

Rabbi Jonathan Aaron

Dear Rabbi                

Every year you offer “Elul Preparation Classes” at Temple Emanuel. What are we preparing for, and why during Elul?


– Too Elul for School      

Dear Too Elul for School,              

During the month of Elul, Jewish tradition provides several preparatory words, symbols, and actions leading up to the High Holy Days (the month of Tishrei). This month is considered a time when God is more accessible to the Jewish people. The letters in the name of the month, aleph, lamed, vav, lamed, are the rst letters of the phrase “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” meaning, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This phrase from Song of Songs re ects the closeness of God and the Jewish people during this month.

There are special scripture readings called the “Haftarot of Consolation,” that lead us towards compassion and redemption as we hope for a good year ahead. The shofar is sounded at each morning service (except Shabbat) leading up to Rosh Hashanah, so that webegintowakeupanddotheworkof “Heshbon HaNefesh” (accounting of the soul), in preparation for our repentance during the Days of Awe. On the Saturday evening closest to Rosh Hashanah, the di cult work of reflecting on ourselves and the past year begins in earnest with a late night service where the unique musical melodies from the High Holy Days and some of the most signi cant liturgy are heard for the rst time.

Our preparation classes are intended to deepen the month of Elul experience, and provide new ways of approaching the upcoming High Holy Days.

– Rabbi Jonathan Aaron