|Jewish Holiday: The Month of Elul and Selichot
Significance of the Month
Elul, the sixth month of the Jewish calendar, marks the beginning of our preparation for the High Holidays. We begin the process of repentance, or Teshuva. The Shofar is blown every morning (except Shabbat) as a wake-up call to start doing Teshuva. The rabbis teach that the letters of the name Elul stand for the verse in the Song of Songs Ani L'Dodi ve-Dodi Li "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (Song of Songs 6:3). According to the majority opinion in the Mishnah, Rosh Chodesh Elul is one of the four New Year days during the Jewish year. It marks the new year for counting of animal tithes.
There are no holidays in Elul. It is marked by our preparations for the High Holidays. Beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul through Sukkot, we recite Psalm 27 after daily morning and evening prayers. Starting the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, selichot, or special penitential prayers are said every night until Yom Kippur. These prayers should ideally be said very late at night, which is considered a time of mercy.
Women to Celebrate
Beruriah - She is a fascinating figure in the Talmud and Rabbinic literature. Beruriah was married to the great sage Rabbi Meir, but she achieved prominence in her own right for her vast knowledge and strong personality. In one famous Talmudic passage, Beruriah chastises her husband who prayed for the demise of hooligans who were bothering him. Rather, she told him to pray that they change their ways. This passage is often cited when discussing Teshuva and repentance. For more on Beruriah, see Babylonian Talmud, Brachot 10a.
Famous Women's Yahrzeits
Rebecca Gratz - 20 Elul 5629 (August 27, 1869). Philanthropist who founded the first American Jewish institutions run by women.
Lane Bryant Malsin (Lena Himmelstein) - 26 Elul 5711 (September 29, 1951). Pioneer in women's fashion. She invented maternity clothing and founded Lane Bryant stores that now specialize in plus sizes.
Set goals for the Rosh Chodesh group - Elul is the month that most Rosh Chodesh groups will meet for the first time. During the first meeting it is important to establish goals for the group. You may want to use Hillel's text study "Blessed be Your Coming, Blessed be Your Going."
Wake Up Your Soul - According to Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time, the shofar that we blow every day during Elul serves as a spiritual alarm clock. He writes that the blowing of the Shofar sends the following message: "Wake up slumberers from your sleep and sleepers from your sleep: Examine your deeds, repent, and remember your Creator." In the spirit of Maimonides, have everyone in the group make their own clocks. Clock-making kits can be purchased on the Internet or at local craft stores.
Start the Year Right: Design a Calendar - During Elul we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the upcoming Jewish New Year. Elul also falls near the beginning of the school year. A perfect activity to mark the beginning of a new year is to design calendars. Most word processing software has templates to design calendars. Have Jewish calendars available so you can mark Jewish holidays and Rosh Chodesh.
Teshuva/Repentance - Central to the month of Elul is teshuva, the process of repentance. Discuss how you engage in this process and how you prepare for the upcoming new year.
Welcome Back to School - Elul is the month that most Rosh Chodesh groups will meet for the first time. Discuss members' hopes and aspirations for the new school year. Share and reflect on what everyone did over summer break.