Encyclopedia Chabad
By Rabbi Chaim Miller

Final Month of the Jewish Year


a) General

b) Chassidus

i) Thirteen attributes of mercy

ii) Analogy of “King in the field”

iii) Significance of the analogy

iv) Superior revelations of Elul

v) Practical implications

vi) Allusion in Song of Songs

vii) City dwellers and people of the field

c) Acronyms in Scripture

i) Torah

ii) Divine service & Prayer

iii) Acts of kindness

iv) T’shuva

v) Redemption & Resurrection

d) Chabad customs

e) Important dates

f) Connection to Moshiach




a) General


The month of Elul is the final month of the Jewish Year, known as the month of reckoning. It is the month during which a person should make an honest evaluation of his Divine service in the year that has passed, and prepare with trepidation for the Days of Judgment that are approaching. It is a month where a person seeks to evoke G-d’s mercy through Slichos (supplicatory prayers; see section ‘d’) during which time the person ponders his spiritual standing and arouses himself to sincerely repent everything he did wrong in the past year.


In this vein, there is a custom to blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul to generate an atmosphere of remorsefulness and trepidation. (see section ‘d’)


b) Chassidus


i) Thirteen Attributes of Mercy


Chabad Chassidus introduces a fresh perspective from which to perceive the significance of the month, a perspective that casts a new light on the role of the month of Elul in a Jew’s relationship with G-d.


In the writings of the Arizal, the month of Elul is termed “the month of Divine mercy,” for it is a time when G-d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are aroused.


ii) Analogy of “King in the field”


In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe poses the question that if G-d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are aroused during Elul, then each day of Elul should be a festival. The hallmark of a Jewish festival (according to Chassidus) is that a great spiritual revelation occurs on that day. Since the Thirteen Attributes of G-d’s Mercy represent a considerable spiritual revelation (paralleled only on Yom Kippur ), each day of Elul should be a festival (Yom Tov) in its own right.


The Alter Rebbe answers this point with a parable depicting G-d as a “King in the field” during the month of Elul. In fact, within the details of this parable, the Alter Rebbe conveys a wealth of information about the nature of Elul in Chabad Chassidic thought, to the extent that Chabad Chassidim have made it their business to publicize the parable to the greatest possible degree. Within the talks and discourses of the Rebbe shlita there are literally hundreds of explanations of the parable, focusing on even the most precise details and offering fresh insights into the meaning of the month.


The following is the parable of the Alter Rebbe as recorded in Likkutei Torah (free translation):


“The matter can be understood through a parable of a king, who, before reaching the city, is greeted in the field by citizens of the city who leave the city in order to greet him. At that point, any person who wishes to do so may come and greet him, and he welcomes them in an encouraging way, showing each of them a smiling face. When he leaves for the city, they follow him. But later when he is in the royal chamber, no person may enter without permission, and even then only extremely privileged and fortunate people are granted permission.”


“So too,” concludes the Alter Rebbe, “in the month of Elul we go to greet the light of G-d’s blessed countenance in the field...which is the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes of G-d’s Mercy, face to face.”


iii) Significance of the analogy


The main point of the Alter Rebbe is that in the normal scheme of things, a king presents himself as an extremely exalted sovereign whose very presence is sufficient to instill fear in the people. However, there is an exceptional circumstance: when the king goes out to the field and strips himself of outward signs of sovereignty, lowering himself to pay specific attention to each one of his people.


In fact there are number of novelties here. First, the fact that the king is found in the field among the general public is unusual. But, coupled with that, he is also willing to receive each individual without the need to seek prior permission. Most remarkable of all is that he receives each citizen – no matter how low that citizen may be – with warmth and love, showing each person an encouraging and smiling face.


From amidst all of these details we can appreciate the unique spiritual make-up of the month of Elul. In the analogy, the king’s royal chamber refers to the High Holydays of Rosh HaShana , Yom Kippur and the Ten Days of T’shuva. At this time, G-d is (so to speak) in His Royal Chamber, and in order to enter, a person must make the most rigorous of preparations. Only the most exceptional individuals could possibly reach these heights, and even then, entry is only granted with expressed permission. And when the person finally enters the Royal Chamber he is instantly overwhelmed with the utmost trepidation, for he is in the King’s presence, and he is overcome with a feeling of total subjugation to the King.


Thus, we find that the High Holydays are exceptional dates on the Jewish calendar, where the entire Jewish people are occupied with prayer and repentance. This reaches a peak on Yom Kippur, when the person detaches himself completely from all things physical and spends the entire day devoted to G-d within the walls of the synagogue.


However, during the month of Elul, G-d goes out (so to speak) into the field. In other words, He makes Himself “close” to the Jewish people, who find themselves in a spiritual “field” devoid of any remarkable spiritual achievements. Superficially there appears to be no unique spiritual quality to these days, for we all wear weekday clothes. But it is precisely within the days of Elul that G-d shines the intense revelation of His thirteen attributes of mercy to every Jew and He greets each one with an encouraging and smiling face. The only thing that is incumbent on the person to do is to go out and greet the King!


iv) Superior revelations of Elul


Elsewhere, the Alter Rebbe explains a further detail within the parable. The expression of love by the king for the people of in field is actually greater than the love he displays to the elite, who are privileged to visit the royal chamber. For in order to lower himself to the common, undeserving person, the king must draw on hidden reserves of unbounded love.


Thus, the closeness of G-d to a Jew in the month of Elul is not merely a change in the “quantity” of love that G-d manifests to His nation, but it is also a love unique in its “quality.” The boundless love that G-d shows in Elul reaches every Jew unreservedly, regardless of his personal worth or merits.


As for those few privileged citizens who will merit to enter the “Royal Chamber” during the High Holy Days, they also receive this superior, special love during Elul, the likes of which they will not even receive when they finally enter the King’s Chamber.


v) Practical implications


All of the above sheds a completely new light on a Jew’s approach to the month of Elul. Of course, it remains essential to spend much time during the month reviewing one’s deeds from the past year and making good resolutions for the next year. However, when a person meditates upon the spiritual quality of the month – as conveyed by the analogy of the king in the field – he will come to the realization that G-d is exceptionally close to every Jew at this time without exception. Consequently, although Elul is generally a time of trepidation, the person will positively rejoice in trepidation at the thought how G-d is close, and at how easy it is to approach the King, while He is currently making Himself available “in the field.”


Elul is a time when the Jewish people can relate to G-d not as slaves to a master, or as citizens to a king, but rather as beloved to lover.


vi) Allusion in Song of Songs


The relationship of the Jewish people with G-d as beloved to lover was depicted by King Solomon in his Song of Songs. Hinting at this motif of Elul, he arranged the verse (6:3) “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” so that the first letters spell the word Elul in Hebrew.


vii) City dwellers and people of the field


A further point in the analogy, which has been explained by the Rebbe MH”M, is the statement that the king “is greeted in the field by citizens of the city who leave the city in order to greet him.”


Presumably, the king would be first greeted by the rural inhabitants of the fields, and only later by city dwellers journeying from the city. Why did the Alter Rebbe make no mention of the inhabitants of the field?


It seems therefore that the Alter Rebbe wished to stress that during Elul, everybody is considered to be a city dweller, even those who normally inhabit the fields.


The city dweller lives in close proximity to the king and is more familiar with him. This is analogous to the soul before it descends into the body, which is close to G-d. The inhabitant of the field who knows little of the king is analogous to state where the soul has descended into the body.


Thus, the Alter Rebbe is declaring that during Elul, even the inhabitants of the field are elevated to the level of a city dweller, such that the entire Jewish people are lifted to a loftier state of being closer to G-d.


(See Bibliography for sources for the above)


c) Acronyms in Scripture


Various allusions are found in scripture for the key themes of Elul. Each is alluded to by the first letters of four consecutive words spelling the word “Elul.”


The Rebbe instructed that these verses should be publicized as much as possible during the month of Elul.


i) Torah


The theme of Torah is hinted to by a verse speaking about the cities of refuge to which an accidental murderer can flee: “[But for one who had not lain in ambush, and G-d] caused it to come to his hand, I shall provide for you [a place to which he will flee].” (Ex. 21:13)


This is connected to Torah on the basis of the Talmud’s comment (Makkos 10a) that “the words of Torah are a refuge.”


ii) Divine service & Prayer


This is indicated by the verse (Shir HaShirim 6:3), “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” which describes the reciprocal relationship of prayer and Divine service. First man makes the effort (“I am my Beloved’s”) and then G-d responds (“my Beloved is mine”).


iii) Acts of Kindness


The theme of acts of kindness in Elul is hinted to by a verse in Megilas Esther (9:22) describing the acts of kindness that must take place on Purim: “[They were to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and] for sending delicacies one person [to another, and gifts to the poor].”


iv) T’shuva


This is hinted to by the verse (Deut. 30:6), “[The L-rd your G-d will circumcise] your heart and the hearts of your descendents.”


v) Redemption & Resurrection


This is hinted to by the verse, “[Then Moses and the Children of Israel will sing this song] to G-d and they spoke saying, “I shall sing…” Our Sages commented in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 91b) that the fact that the future tense is employed (they “will sing,” although the past is obviously intended) alludes to the resurrection of the dead. In this acronym, the word Elul is spelled backwards.


d) Chabad customs


* Prayer & Chassidus: One should pray at length during Elul and increase in the study of Chassidus.


* L’Dovid Hashem Ohri: From the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul (i.e. 30 Menachem Av), the Psalm beginning with the words “L’Dovid Hashem Ohri” (Siddur Tehillas Hashem p. 81) is recited during the morning and afternoon services.


* Shofar: After the morning service the shofar is sounded as follows: ,Wr, ,Wa, ,Wra,/


* Addition of three Psalms Daily: After the daily portion of Psalms that is recited following the morning prayers, three additional Psalms are recited daily, according to the scheme printed in the back of the Book of Psalms. If a person forgets to do so and remembers later in the month, he should start from the day that he remembers, compensating for the earlier days when he finds an opportunity.


* K’Siva va’Chasima Tova: One should endeavor during the month of Elul to wish other Jewish people a k’siva v’chasima tova (to be written and sealed for a good new year). This can be done both verbally and in writing, and one may even begin this custom as early as 15 Av.


* Checking T’fillin & Mezuzos: During Elul a person should have all his t’fillin and mezuzos checked and encourage others to do so.


* Alter Rebbe’s Niggun: While the Alter Rebbe’s niggun is usually only sung on special occasions, it may be sung at any time during the month of Elul.


* Weddings: Weddings may be performed during the entire month of Elul.


* Slichos: Beginning with the last Sunday before Rosh HaShana, Slichos (Penitential Prayers) are recited early in the morning before Shacharis, preferably before it is light, as this is an auspicious time to ask for forgiveness. However, the first recitation of Slichos is said immediately after midnight, on Saturday night, rather than on Sunday morning.


Slichos are said for a minimum of four days; therefore if Rosh HaShana falls out on Tuesday or Wednesday, one begins a week earlier.


Before morning Slichos one recites the morning blessings. The chazzan wears a tallis, though he does not recite a blessing on it if it is before the appointed time (see a halachic calendar for the precise time, which varies radically according to location and time of year. If it is before the time, it is preferable that the chazzan borrow a tallis to avoid the doubt that he may have to make a blessing).


Slichos are printed in a separate booklet arranged according to the custom of Chabad, and are said standing.


If one says Slichos without a minyan, one should not say the thirteen attributes of mercy (“Hashem, Hashem...”) or the Vidui (confession).


e.) Important dates


Rosh Chodesh: Wedding of the Mitteler Rebbe to Rebbetzin Baila Rayza, daughter of R’ Chaim Avrohom, son of the Alter Rebbe in 5582 (1782)


10 Elul: Wedding of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka (daughter of the Rebbe Maharash) to R’ Moshe Horenstein, in 5652 (1892)


11 Elul: Wedding of the Rebbe Rashab to Rebbetzin Sterna Sara (daughter of Admur Yosef Yitzchok of Movrutch, son of the Tzemach Tzedek) in 5635 (1875)


12 Elul: The Previous Rebbe visits America for the first time in 5689(1929)


13 Elul: Wedding of the Previous Rebbe to Rebbetzin Nechama Dina in 5657 (1897)


14 Elul: The Previous Rebbe settles in Warsaw, Poland in 5593 (1933) until his departure to Otvosk in the summer of 5695 (1935)


15 Elul: The Rebbe Rashab establishes the first Lubavitcher Yeshiva Tomchei T’mimim where Chassidus is studied formally, in 5657 (1897)


17 Elul: R’ Boruch (father of the Alter Rebbe) marries the Rebbetzin Rikva in 5503 (1743). The Rebbe shlita lays the foundation stone for the expansion of Lubavitch Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in 5748 (1988)


18 (Chai) Elul: Birthday of the Baal Shem Tov in 5458 (1698). Achiya HaShiloni reveals himself to the Baal Shem Tov on this day in 5484 (1724). The Baal Shem Tov reveals himself on this day in 5494 (1734). Birthday of the Alter Rebbe in 5605 (1745). Baal Shem Tov attends the Alter Rebbe’s Opshernish (hair cutting ceremony) in 5608 (1748). Mitteler Rebbe settles in Lubavitch in 5673 (1813). Formal studies begin in first Lubavitcher Yeshiva in 5657 (1897) (See entry: Chai Elul)


19 Elul: The Previous Rebbe makes his residence in 770 Eastern Parkway in 5700 (1940)


21 Elul: The Previous Rebbe leaves Otvosk with the intention to travel to Riga. On the way he is forced to stay in Warsaw for over two months during the outbreak of World War II in 5699 (1939) (See Seifer HaSichos 5700 at beginning)

Chanukas HaBayis (formal inauguration) of 770 Eastern Parkway in 5700 (1940) (See Seifer HaMaam Orim and Seifer HaSichos 5700)


23 Elul: Passing of R’ Meir Shlomo Yanovksy, rav of Nikolayev (father of the Rebbetzin Chana), grandfather of the Rebbe, shlita. He is thought to have passed away in 5697 (1937). The Rebbe recites Kaddish on this day


25 Elul: Bris (circumcision) of the Alter Rebbe in 5505 (1745)


29 Elul: Birthday of the Tzemach Tzedek in 5549 (1789)


f.) Connection to Moshiach [See above, section c. part v.]


As we stand in the last moments of exile, the spiritual stocktaking we carry out in the month of Elul should focus on the imminence of the Redemption, and the power that a Jew has to arouse himself and others and even the Al-mighty Himself to bring the Redemption. For according to all the signs mentioned by our Sages, the Redemption is long overdue. (Seifer HaSichos 5751 2:762)




Sections ‘a’ and ‘b’ are adapted an article entitled Chodesh Elul b’Mishnas Chabad, printed in the journal B’Ohr HaChassidus, issue 11. The article is based on the following sources: Likkutei Torah, drushim l’chodesh Elul; s.v. Inyan Elul in Maamarei Admur HaZaken, Parshiosvol. 2; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 4, supplement Chodesh Elul; s.v. Ani l’Dodi 5732 in Seifer HaMaamarim Meluket, Vol. 3; s.v. Ani l’Dodi 5726, ibid. Vol. 4.


Section ‘c’: Sicha of Shabbos Parshas R’ei 5749, 5751. In English, see Timeless Patterns in Time (S.I.E. 5754), pp. 147ff.


Section ‘d’: Seifer HaMinhagim; Otzar Minhagei Chabad (Elul/Tishrei). See also Kuntres HaMaaseh hu HaIkar


Section ‘e’: “Yemei Chabad” (Historic Days in Chabad), Kehos (Kfar Chabad) 5754


See also entries: Chai Elul, Chof Hei Elul, Cheshbon HaNefesh, T’shuva, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur.



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