- Elul, Selichot, the Forty Days, and the Ten Days of Awe
- Forty is the Number of Testing
- Why forty days to repent and make confession for sin?
- The first set of Ten Commandments symbolizes the Broken Covenant
- The second set of Ten Commandments symbolizes an Unbreakable Covenant
- The annual Call to Repentance and Assembly before the King
- The fall Awakening of the people of Israel
- A Call to Relational Intimacy…
- A Call to Enlightenment, Salvation, and the Shelter from Trouble
- Selichot Services
- Prayers for Forgiveness
- Be a Master of Returning
Elul, Selichot, the Forty Days, and the Ten Days of Awe:
כאשר יתחילו לקרות הדברים האלה התעודדו והרימו ראשיכם, כי קרבה גאולתכם.פ
When these things begin to happen, be encouraged and lift up your heads for your redemption (salvation) is near.
Leil Selichot (ליל סליחות-“a night of forgiveness”) and slichot (סליחות) are humble prayers and poems of repentance that are said to make amends with God, leading up to the time of the High Holidays that begin on Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה-Head of the Year; the civil New Year). In the Ashkenazic tradition Selichot begins the Saturday night before *Rosh Hashanah (cf. Messiah in Rosh Hashanah & Yom Teruah, chapters 1-42).
*Rosh Hashanah 2018 will begin in the evening of Sunday, September 9 and end in the evening of Tuesday, September 11.
Elul (אלול) is the 6th (religious; 12th civil) month of the Jewish calendar (late summer/early fall). It is the month set apart for repentance or Teshuvah (תְּשׁוּבָה). In the 6th month of Elul we are in a one month time of spiritual preparation for what follows in the 7th month of Tishri (תִּשְׁרִי or Tishrei תִּשְׁרֵי): the High Holy Days, the Ten Days of Awe (ימים נוראים-Yamim Noraim). The 10 days of awe are ten days of testing (ותהיה לכם צרה עשרת ימים) which begin on Rosh Hashanah and end on Yom Kippur.
והיא התקופה שבין ראש השנה ל יום כיפור מיועדת במיוחד לתשובה, ונקראת עשרת ימי תשובה. פ
The ten day period of time between Rosh Hashanah (ראש השנה) and Yom Kippur (יום כיפור) is specifically designated for repentance (תשובה) and is called the Ten Days of Repentance (עשרת ימי תשובה-Aseret Yemei Teshuvah).
Elul is the month in our Jewish Calendar when the season of Teshuvah (תשובה) begins. What is Teshuvah? The word Teshuvah indicates “return,” therefore, we are turning back to Adonai (our Father and our God). The root of this verb is first used in the Torah when God told Adam he would “return to the earth” (Genesis 3:19). The term shuv (שׁוּב) informs us that we are both turning away from evil and returning to the Spirit of our Father who is good, righteous, and true (completely reliable). This act of returning to Adonai Avinu (our Father) restores the whole life of our souls. It redirects our personal (individual) and corporate (national) destiny.
The word Teshuvah is most often translated as “repentance.” Repentance includes a change in one’s thinking as well as behavior. Teshuvah and shuv involve our emotions as well as our intellects and behavior. These terms are closely related to the Hebrew word nacham (נָחַם) that conveys the emotion of “regret;” as well as “comfort” and “consolation.” Teshuvah involves our turning all of our “heart, soul, and strength” back to Adonai (our Father and our God) who created us. This is an act of our will. The will is made subject to our Righteous Father through the multiple disciplines of prayer, confession, turning away from sinful practices, and offering tzedakah (practicing acts of righteousness, compassion, good deeds, charity).
Forty is the Number of Testing:
Every year the Season of Teshuvah runs *forty days from the beginning of the first day of the sixth month of the Jewish (religious) calendar (Elul 1), to the end of the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri 10). During this time we make every effort to repent, or turn toward the Almighty. In Jewish tradition these forty days are called Yemei Ratzon (ימי רצון), meaning “Days of Favor” (ימי רצון לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא – literally, “Days of will before God”). This is a time of favor because it was during this time that Avi HaRachamim (the Father of Mercies) forgave our people (Israel) after the sin of the Golden Calf had been committed (פרקי דרבי אליעזר-Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer).
*Selichot (40 days) began after nightfall on Friday, August 10, 2018 (Elul 1) and ends at sunset on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 (Tishri 10).
Selichot (Ashkenazic tradition) begins on Saturday night, September 1, 2018.
As stated before in the Ashkenazic tradition Selichot or slichot (Hebrew: סליחות) begins on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. If, however, the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday or Tuesday, Selichot are said beginning the Saturday night prior to ensure that Selichot are recited at least four times.
Selichot (Sephardic tradition) began on Friday night, August 10, 2018.
In the Sephardic tradition Selichot begins on the 1st day (nightfall) of Elul. The 40 days of Yemei Ratzon (ימי רצון) have been likened to the number of weeks it takes for the human infant to be formed within the womb. Teshuvah is an awakening. Our positive response to the call of the Holy One upon our lives causes us to experience a new birth, a new life, and a new creation. This maturation process of our spiritual rebirth manifests itself as the power of the Holy Spirit working to make us a new creation from the “Inside-out.” The Ruach Ha-Kodesh gives us His spiritual life that enables us to become conformed (formed together) to fulfill the purpose that our Father Adonai has willed (רצון-ratzon) for us in this age and in the ages to come.
Why forty days to repent and make confession for sin?
Forty is the number of testing. Forty days were involved in Israel’s experience at Mount Sinai. Moses ascended Mount Sinai *three times over forty days and nights. This series of ascents began on the 6th of Sivan. This 6th of Sivan event occurred fifty days after the Exodus. It was at this time that Moses first received the (first set of) Ten Commandments (that were soon thereafter broken) and began learning the details of the Torah. The 6th of Sivan, the day when Moses received the Gift of Torah, is when Shavuot is celebrated (cf. Messiah in Shavuot).
The first set of Ten Commandments symbolizes the Broken Covenant:
When Moses descended from the Mount with the first set of Ten Commandments he discovered that our people (Israel) had been worshiping the Golden Calf. So in anger Moses threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them upon the Rock that was located at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:19). This event occurred on the *17th of Tammuz. On the 18th of Tammuz the Golden Calf was burned and God administered judgment upon our people through His servant Moses. Thereafter, the Prophet Moses ascended back-up Mount Sinai a second time on the 19th of Tammuz. There Moses interceded on behalf of Israel until the 29th/30th of Av.
שבעה עשר בתמוז – יום תענית המציין את היום שבו הובקעה חומת ירושלים לפני חורבן בית המקדש השני.פ
י”ז בתמוז עד תשעה באב – שלושת השבועות (תקופה המכונה גם “ימי בין המצרים”), ימי אבל שיוסדו לזכר חורבן בית המקדש, שנמשכת עד תשעה באב וחלה כמעט בחציו של חודש זה. פ
*17 Tammuz (תמוז) – a fast day (שבעה עשר בתמוז-Shivah Asar B’Tammuz) that marks the day when the wall of Jerusalem was breached [by the Romans] before the destruction of the Second Temple.
17 Tammuz (תמוז) until Tisha B’Av (תשעה באב) – the three weeks (a period also known as the “Three Weeks”), mourning days established in memory of the destruction of the Temple, which lasts until Tisha B’Av and falls almost in the middle of this month.
The second set of Ten Commandments symbolizes an ‘Unbreakable’ Covenant:
However, it is believed that when Moses descended from the mountain (this second time) he did so without assurance. So on Elul 1 (the very next day, after the last day of the month of Av) Moses ascended up Mount Sinai a third time to receive a new set of tablets. So an additional forty days and nights were spent receiving this final revelation of Torah at Sinai (Elul 1 to Tishri 10). Thereafter, Moses descended with the New (Second) Set of Ten Commandments that was an irrefutable sign of Adonai’s forgiveness for our people (Israel) on the day of Yom Kippur (Tishri 10).
This reception of the new engraved Torah tablets is prophetic: it has been said by the prophets that the old (first) Torah that was received by Moses was a broken covenant written on stone but that the new (second) Torah that would be received by Ha-Mashiach would be an unbreakable covenant that would be engraved upon our hearts by the actual Hand of the Holy One (cf. “Messiah in Shavuot” for understanding the difference between the engraved Torah and the written Torah).
Therefore, the special forty days period of time from Elul 1- Tishri 10 represents a time of soul searching (חשבון הנפש-Cheshbon HaNefesh), the offering of *prayers for forgiveness (סליחות-Selichot), and the securing of a righteous status with the Holy One.
*Selichot are special prayers (תפילות) that are recited in the synagogue in the month of Elul and during the first ten days of the month of Tishri. The month of Elul occurs at the end of the Jewish (civil year) calendar. According to tradition Elul is considered a month of soul-searching over the past year. It is a time of preparation for the (civil) New Year and the High Holy Days that begin on the first day of Tishri (also spelled Tishrei). Hence the custom to begin the month of Elul by reciting Selichot.
Selichot are said in the synagogue in most communities on weekdays only (and not on Shabbat ). The Selichot are not part of the regular prayers and do not appear in the prayer book. These special prayers are grouped together in separate booklets called Seder Selichot (סדר סליחות).
מתי אומרים את הסליחות? למנהג אשכנז את הסליחות אומרים בשבוע לפני ראש השנה, במשך ארבעה ימים רצופים לפחות. פ
When do we say the Selichot? [On the one hand:] According to Ashkenazic (אשכנזי) custom, the Selichot are recited a week before Rosh Hashanah, for at least four consecutive days.
למנהג ספרד אומרים את הסליחות במשך חודש אלול כולו. פ
[On the other hand:] According to Sephardic (ספרדי) custom, the Selichot are recited during the entire month of Elul.
The annual Call to Repentance and Assembly before the King:
Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Elul (ראש חודש אלול)—the New Moon at the beginning of the (6th) lunar month of Elul—and continuing until the day before Rosh Hashanah, the military sounds of the shofar (ram’s horn) are sounded out every day of repentance (except for Shabbat):
A. The first sound of the Shofar is the tekiah (תקיעה), a long single blast (the sound of the King’s coronation).
B. The second sound is a shevarim (שברים), three short wail-like blasts (this signifies our return to Adonai, repentance);.
C. The third sound is the teruah (התרועה) several short blasts of alarm (the awakening of our souls).
D. The fourth and final sound of the Shofar is the tekiah gedolah (תקיעה גדולה), a long (great) blast.
This fourth and final sound of the Shofar is to give full attention to the will of the Holy One. Since our people are a corporate body when the tekiah gedolah is sounded all Israel is required to immediately assemble together as one person before Adonai Tseva’ot. This is loves ascendancy: when with His Presence enthroned in all of our hearts, in the Unity of the Spirit, we shall all assemble before the Presence of Elohei Selichot (אלוהי סליחות-the God of Forgiveness), the Elohei Avraham elohei Yitschak velohei Ya’akov (The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).
The fall Awakening of the people of Israel:
The trumpeting forth of the sounds of the shofar is to awaken our people for the fast approaching redemptive time of Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. We are being called by the Spirit of our Father in Heaven (Avinu Shebashamayim) to turn our attention toward heaven because the time of our redemption is “drawing near.”
This forty day process of our searching for our individual and national redemption concludes on the most holy day of the year, the Day of Atonement. This is the time when all our people, the people of Israel, are required to assemble ourselves together before Avinu Shebashamayim (אבינו שבשמים-our Father in Heaven) so that we might receive forgiveness for our sins and assurance that our names remain written in the “Book of Life.”
For the name of a Yehudi to remain written in the Book of Life he or she must pass the test of the *Ten days.
Annually, during the Proceedings of the Heavenly Court, the life of every Jew is carefully examined to determine whether or not his or her name will be listed among the assembly of the righteous or not. The following is an appeal from the prophet Isaiah (55:6-7) that is especially paid attention to during these 10 days of testing (ימים נוראים-Yamim Noraim, 10 days of Awe; i.e. our High Holy Days):
דרשו ה’ בהמצאו קראהו בהיותו קרוב׃ יעזב רשע דרכו ואיש און מחשבתיו וישב אל־ה’ וירחמהו ואל־אלהינו כי־ירבה לסלוח׃
דִּרְשׁ֥וּ ה’ בְּהִמָּצְאֹ֑ו קְרָאֻ֖הוּ בִּֽהְיֹותֹ֥ו קָרֹֽוב׃ יַעֲזֹ֤ב רָשָׁע֙ דַּרְכֹּ֔ו וְאִ֥ישׁ אָ֖וֶן מַחְשְׁבֹתָ֑יו וְיָשֹׁ֤ב אֶל־ה’ וִֽירַחֲמֵ֔הוּ וְאֶל־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ כִּֽי־יַרְבֶּ֥ה לִסְלֹֽוחַ׃
Seek Adonai (ה’) while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near (dirshu Adonai behimmatzo, kerauhu biyoto karov). Let the wicked man forsake his way (derekh) and the perverse man his thoughts (machshavah) and let him return (shuv) to Adonai that He may have compassion (rachamim) on him, and to our Mighty One for he will abundantly pardon (selichah).
The word “Elul” (אֱלוּל) is derived from an Arabic root of the verb “to search.” The month of Elul is a time of searching. It is a time of taking into account (חֶשְׁבּוֹן) the redemption (גְאוּלָה-geulah) of our souls. In addition the name of the month of Elul (אֱלוּל) is an acronym for the Song of Songs phrase: Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li (אֲנִי לְדֹודִי וְדֹודִי לִי):
“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”
A Call to Relational Intimacy…
Elul therefore is not just the name of the sixth month in the Jewish calendar. It is actually a relational term that is a call for one to return (Teshuvah) to Adonai who is the Beloved of Israel. The Creator and King of the Universe has chosen His nation and people of Israel to be His special treasure. He has put His love upon us. He has given us His Name. Israel is His special possession. Israel translated means “Rule of the Al-Mighty One.”
At the first we were called by the name of Ya’akov. We were the elect “preserved” and “protected ones.” As such it is has been our calling to one day “supplant” the evil world system that is opposed to the Rule of God. Now when the Messiah returns to earth we shall succeed in replacing the rule of man with the Rule of God. Then will our people truly be able to live up to our name of Israel—-Rule of God. For on that yet future day of Yom Kippurim the will of God will finally be heard, understood, and obeyed throughout the earth as it already is obeyed in heaven.
The purpose of this annual time of testing is to humble us and to prepare us for the coming reign of God who shall rule the earth through our Messiah. Each year it is hoped that we (Israel) as a nation and a people shall sincerely awaken to our spiritual insufficiency before God. We must come to the end of ourselves. For without our sincere return to God the Salvation of Adonai will not return to Israel. Therefore, every year we return to the same question:
“What must we do to be forgiven of our sins and truly be reconciled to Avinu Shebashamayim?”
The answer is always the same: “believe on Him whom He [Adonai] has sent.” Apart from the saving help of the Father (HaAv) who has sent us His Salvation (His Yeshuah) we will keep on searching for our salvation on *Yom Kippurim. Therefore, each year (until Messiah returns and we believe in Him) we (the people and nation of God) are all called to do:
1st Calling: Acts of Repentance (Teshuvah-תְּשׁוּבָה);
2nd Calling: Acts of Prayer (Teffilah-תְּפִלָּה); and
3rd Calling: Acts of Charity-Righteousness (Tzedakah-צְדָקָה).
This last calling to do acts of charity and righteousness requires that we be “sent ones” (shlichim) who are sent out to do the good works of our Father in heaven who is:
1. The Father of Mercies (Avi HaRachamim);
2. God of Forgiveness (Eloah Selichot);
3. God of all Comfort (Elohei khol-Nechamah).
*The prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah have taught us that when the Messiah returns to Israel from heaven then all Israel shall be saved. In that day as a nation and a people (as one man) we will recognize that our Messiah (our Redeemer) has come and that all of our sins are completely forgiven. Then will the evil one and his railing accusations against us (Israel) finally come to a complete and permanent end.
A Call to Enlightenment, Salvation, and the Shelter from Trouble:
During the fall festivals it is customary for the Book of Psalms to be sung or read. The study of Psalm 27 is considered a central part of the reading of the Psalms. In Psalm 27 the use of the three Hebrew words ori (אוֹרִ֣י), yishi (יִשְׁעִי), and sukkah (derived from סֻכֹּה֮-booth)—-my light,” “my salvation,” and my “shelter.” There three words are believed to be a reference to the three fall festivals that immediately follow the month of Israel’s searching for renewed intimacy with Adonai Eloheinu.
The month of Elul, therefore, is a time of preparation to seek and receive from the Beloved One of Israel the three-fold gifts of:
1. “Enlightenment” in the New Year (Rosh Hashanah/Rosh Hashanah II);
2. “Salvation” on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippurim); and
3. “Shelter” (from all trouble) during the festival of Booths (Sukkot) and Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah).
The Hebrew word s’lichah (סְלִיחָה) refers exclusively to the generous offer of pardon and forgiveness that Avi HaRachamim (the Father of Mercies) gives to all who repent of their sins and return in humility to Him. In Psalm 130:4 we read:
כי־עמך הסליחה למען תורא׃
כִּֽי־עִמְּךָ הַסְּלִיחָה לְמַעַן תִּוָּרֵֽא׃
For with You there is forgiveness (s’lichah-סְלִיחָה), that You may be feared (יָרֵא- awe, reverence, and highest respect).
Prayers for Forgiveness:
As part of the process of selichot, prayers for forgiveness are recited during the forty day period of the month of Elul through Yom Kippur (Elul 1-Tishri 10). Therefore, throughout the month of Elul psalms and prayerful poems (פיוטים-piyyutim) are chanted and recited during services. One such psalm is Psalm 130:
שיר המעלות ממעמקים קראתיך ה’׃ אדני שמעה בקולי תהיינה אזניך קשבות לקול תחנוני׃ אם־עונות תשמר־יה אדני מי יעמד׃ כי־עמך הסליחה למען תורא׃
שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲלֹ֑ות מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ ה’׃ אֲדֹנָי֮ שִׁמְעָ֪ה בְקֹ֫ולִ֥י תִּהְיֶ֣ינָה אָ֭זְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁבֹ֑ות לְ֝קֹ֗ול תַּחֲנוּנָֽי׃ אִם־עֲוֹנֹ֥ות תִּשְׁמָר־יָ֑הּ אֲ֝דֹנָ֗י מִ֣י יַעֲמֹֽד׃ כִּֽי־עִמְּךָ֥ הַסְּלִיחָ֑ה לְ֝מַ֗עַן תִּוָּרֵֽא׃
Out of the depths have I cried unto you O Adonai. Lord, hear my voice: let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you Adonai, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.
Be a Master of Returning:
Forgiveness is obtained by exercising emunah (אמונה-faith) in the sacrifice of the Anointed One as the kapparah (כפרה-atonement, expiation; from kipper, to cover) for our sins, and by evidencing Teshuvah. “Sin” (חטא-chet in Hebrew) means “failure” in our relationship with the Holy One. Teshuvah (repentance) moves us closer to Adonai our Father but chet causes us to move away from Him. Teshuvah involves four basic steps:
Step #1. Forsake sin (Proverbs 28:13);
Step #2. Confess truth. Agree with Adonai our Father that you have sinned. Make amends with those you have harmed (Proverbs 28:13). Ask for mechilah (מחילה-forgiveness) from others before receiving selichah (סליחה-forgiveness) from Avinu Shebashamayim (our Father in heaven).
Step #3. Accept forgiveness. Be restored to right relationship with Abba our Father. Turn back to our Father of Compassion and Mercies (אבי הרחמים-Avi HaRachamim), the God of Forgiveness (אלוה סליחות-Eloah Selichot), the God of Comfort (אלהי כל נחמה-Elohei khol-Nechamah) and receive healing for your brokenness. (Isaiah 40:1).
אתה רוצה להתקדם בחיים שלך, נכון?פ
You want to move forward in your life, right?
Step #4. Become a baal teshuvah (בעל תשובה). Be a Master of Returning. One who loves justice, is compassionate, and who daily walks humbly with Adonai Eloheinu (the LORD our God).