My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him. (Song of Songs 5:4)

I have sought you, I have called for you, my Beloved,
You will come and you will elevate my glory,
Even my brothers will seek you again,
And they will see you on the throne of your glory,

And my feelings were aroused for you.
And now I shall not fail you again.
They will lift up their eyes toward heaven,
And their feelings for you will be aroused.

Behold, the first day of the month of Elul [1] has come. Behold, it has come with noise and a great roar, and it reminds us that “Day of Judgment” draws near.

It is the custom of Israel in the Diaspora to blow the shofar every single day, from the beginning of the month to the end. Those who are pious and very devout fast frequently during this month.

Preparing for Repentance

According to the tradition given to us by our sages of blessed memory, on the first day of Elul Moses ascended the mountain a second time, after he had broken the first set of tablets. HaShem told Moses to take a shofar and sound it throughout the entire camp. The blowing of the shofar announced that Moses was ascending the mountain a second time. It warned them not to go astray again as they did the first time when they made the golden calf. Moses did as HaShem had said. Therefore, we also blow the shofar on every first day of Elul, and once we have begun to sound the shofar, we do not stop blowing it until the end of forty days of repentance, until the end of the tenth of the next month, for Moses descended the mountain on the tenth of the month of Tishrei.

Just as the Israelites fasted and afflicted themselves in those days, so too, even now, many fast and afflict themselves during this month. If the people of our generation were not so weak, we would fast for all forty days. Just as the days of Nineveh—the days of repentance—so it is now. Jonah proclaimed, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” They believed in God and proclaimed a fast, putting on sackcloth and ashes, from the greatest to the least, and God saw and relented from the disaster that he was going to inflict upon them.[2] Even our sages appointed forty days for repentance: thirty days to prepare the soul, search the paths of God, and awaken the heart, and ten days to truly repent, from the Day of Judgment until the Day of Atonement.

Awaken from the Slumber of Sin

The soul that has been given over to trouble and captivity must weep over its father and mother for a month, and this is the month of Elul. [3] Therefore, man must weep and supplicate before HaShem and blow the shofar morning and night for the entire month, instilling fear in the heart of man and arousing him to do something to escape the coming wrath. The Rambam explained the commandment of blowing the shofar. He said that the sound of the shofar inspires fear in the heart. The sound of the shofar blast calls to the man who hurries along the wide path that leads to Sheol and Avaddon, and the voice of the shofar says, “Stand still for a moment and think upon your deeds, for the Day of Judgment is near and none can withstand it.” that the sound of the shofar awakens sinners from the slumber of sin. [4]

Man’s heart cannot find rest until it rests in HaShem, until he knows that he has crossed over from death to life, and that HaShem has forgiven him all his sins. Long ago, in Israel’s past, when we still dwelt in our land and the Temple stood in its proper place, we offered up burnt offerings and sacrifices. Now the Temple has been destroyed and the place of the altar is a desolate hill. The burnt offerings and sacrifices have ceased and it is no longer possible to offer up a pleasing aroma to HaShem. Now fasting and affliction have taken the place of sacrifices, and prayers and supplications have become substitutes for burnt offerings. Therefore we weep and lament during this month, according to the counsel of our great luminaries.

Days of Forgiveness

Anyone who is concerned about the salvation of his soul will not give sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids until he sees the light of the first of the days of forgiveness. He will soak his couch with tears, and when midnight comes he will arise like a lion and run as fast as he can to the house of prayer to request HaShem’s pardon. He will pour out his heart like water and he will cry out, “We have no power to appease you, my Master! Act in accordance with the covenant that you made with our forefathers, for we trust in your abundant mercy.”

My brothers! Shall all our sorrows be in vain? Have we been afflicted for nothing and shall we give birth to panic? HaShem is righteous, a lover of righteous deeds, and there is no end to his mercy. That which he has said he will do, and he will surely have compassion just as he said. HaShem is near to all who call upon him in truth.

Please, my beloved brothers, be mindful of all your days and nights. Indeed our Beloved has extended his hand through the opening. The days of repentance are days of benevolence and favor. Let us also call out, “I am my Beloved’s.” Let us make the word of HaShem a lamp for our feet, and let us walk on the path. Let truth, life, and salvation speedily come.

“Behold, I belong to my Beloved,”
“He is my splendor and my glory,
And our Master will answer from the heights:
If your feelings are aroused for me,
Says the people of Israel.
And in his kindness I am redeemed from trouble.”
“I have chosen you, O Israel.
I will come to you and redeem you.”

  1. [The month of Elul (אלול) is an acronym for “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (אני לדודי ודודי לי).]
  2. Jonah 3:4, 5, and 10.
  3. The Zohar Chadash 46:4 says concerning the verse, “And she shall mourn her father and her mother for a full month” (Deuteronomy 21:13) that the month mentioned is Elul, and the Arizal interprets that “her father” is the Holy One, blessed be he, and “her mother” is the children of Israel.
  4. From the Rambam’s Hilchot Shofar.

Source: First Fruits of Zion