Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 9 September 2017 / 18 Elul 5777

A Time of Divine Favor

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

The days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur are days of Divine favor. Even though G-d accepts the repentance (teshuva) of those that return to Him wholeheartedly the entire year, being that these are days of mercy and favor they are unparalleled and most suitable for teshuva.

Here is what the holy Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) wrote in connection to the following verse dealing with the laws connected with accidental death: “If one did not lie in ambush but G-d caused it to come to his hand (to happen), I shall provide for you a place for him to flee (Shemot 21:13). The initials of the words “Ina leyado vesamti lecha — caused it to happen, I shall provide” form the acronym “Elul”. This teaches us that just as the city of refuge served as a physical place where a person found protection and atonement, so too the month of Elul serves as a favorable place in time for a person's teshuva to be accepted. It also alludes to the fact that even sins committed inadvertently require teshuva.

The Dorshei Reshumot (“the interpreters of allusions”, a title given to Tana’im who wrote allegoric teachings) reveal other well-known acronyms for the month of Elul. It is written, “And the Lord your Gd will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children.” The initials of the words “et levavecha ve'et levav” form the acronym “Elul”. They also explain that the initials of the verse in Shir HaShirim 6:3, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me” form the acronym “Elul”. The initials of the verse “Ish lere'eihu umatanot la'evyonim” — One to another and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:22) — also form the acronym “Elul”.

These acronyms allude to three things: Teshuva, prayer and charity, all which should be practiced zealously during the month of Elul. The verse “G-d will circumcise...” alludes to repentance, for one’s heart when uncontrolled leads a person to sin. “I am to my beloved...” alludes to prayer, which is the song of love between a person and his Creator. “One to another and gifts to the poor,” alludes to charity.

  • Based on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Elul 1

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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