As we begin to experience a subtle shift from the active summer to slowing down in fall, we gently enter a new phase. From the end of the summer to the start of the fall, Elul bridges these two seasons. Elul falls around September/October and is the 5th-month counting from Nissan. In this article, you will learn in-depth about the energy of the month, the astrological sign, trib, sense, and Hebrew letters that are connected to it.
The summer can be chaotic because of the intense energy of doing things. There is less time to review on your goals, do self-check-ins, and slow down unless you have dedicated this time to yourself. In Elul, we get a breath of fresh air as the energy begins to slow down for us to do unique practices of renewal, reconnecting to your truth, and making changes in your life.
If you prefer, you can listen to Elisheva’s podcast episode on the energy of the month for Elul, click here to listen on Spotify.
Although Elul does not have any specific holidays, the whole month is dedicated to Teshuva (repentance) and Cheshbon HaNefesh. What is Teshuva - תשובה? Not repentance of sins but SHUV - שוב (which is found in the middle of the word תשובה) which means to return. Where do you return to? To yourself. To your divine truth. To your connection with Hashem. During the summer months, it is easy to lose your connection with yourself, the Earth, and Hashem because of all the busy energy.
Elul brings you back to yourself, your truth, your essence. The work that needs to be done in Elul such as Teshuva and Cheshbon HaNefesh can be hard for some. The truth is, not every person likes where there are in life and avoids the truth. The more you try to move away or ignore the truth, the deeper you are into a reality that does not serve you and your growth. The truth is, not every person is happy where they are and they can even be in a totally different direction than they want to be going in. Nonetheless, at some point, you have an opportunity to bring align yourself back with your truth. You have a choice to come back to yourself and Hashem. According to tradition, the name of Elul אלול is an acronym for the phrase “אני לדודי ודודי לי” (“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). As mentioned above, even in the name of Elul, we see there is a divine opportunity this month to connect with Hashem. Our sages teach that is a love story between the soul and the Creator. More on the acronym of Elul at the end of the article. There are many meaningful traditions and practices that serve as opportunities throughout the month of Elul that aid us in closing the previous year, reconnecting to our truth, and having a sweet year. For the ultimate guide for Elul and Tishrei with bonus inner work questions, click here to check out Elisheva’s and her father's ebook on Elul and Tishrei, including all the holidays.
Cheshbon HaNefesh: Have you ever paused long enough to review your year? Have you put the time in recently to ask yourself some tough questions? Doing this type of inner work of seeing yourself as you really are can be hard when there is no guidance. Fortunately, Elul gives us all the guidance we need to ask those tough questions, how to look within, what to look for, and even manifest it outward.
Elul is a sacred time that encourages us to explore how we responded to the blessings and challenges we experienced over the past year. It is an invitation for us to notice the connections we created with ourselves and others, in ways in which we have caused pain or hurt. Elul reminds us that we are all connected to one another, and our relationships with each other, and the Earth are important. It reminds us to be honest, forgiving, kind, and really work on ourselves to be the best we can be amongst the challenges of life.
Elul emphasizes the importance of reflection with Cheshbon HaNefesh and gives us guidance on where we need to heal for the coming year if we choose to.
In the acronym ELUL - Ani Le Dodi Ve’Dodi Li - אני לדודי ודודי לי from Shir HaShirim, Songs of Songs, our sages teach us the process of Cheshbon HaNefesh is meant to be done with kindness. By building this connection with Hashem during Elul, and reminding yourself that Hashem has boundless love for you, doing the inner work this month is meant to bring you healing and come from a place of love.
With Elul, we are guided to be honest with ourselves in a way that is shame and guilt-free. We are not meant to do this practice with criticism. Cheshbon HaNefesh simply shows us where we have been, what we created, and what we experienced over the year in an honest and compassionate way.
By doing the practice with love and compassion, the practices teach us how to make things right, repair relationships, and grow compassion for ourselves and that ultimately grows our compassion for others, and return back to our truth.
The practices of Elul prepare us for the New Year in Tishrei We become ready to start a new year with a clean conscious. We know what to pray for the year, we know what we want to work on, and we show up even though we are broken, flawed, and imperfect. We show up knowing that we can work on ourselves, be beautiful, and be ready to take a step forward and live fully in our truth and welcome the gift of a new beginning.
Energy of the month: Elul’s energy can shift your perspective and open the gates for deep and meaningful teshuva (returning). Elul contains remarkable energy for self-introspection, self-reflection, and review of the whole year (Cheshbon HaNefesh).
Elul is also known as the "Month of Mercy" and "Month of Forgiveness" (חודש הרחמים והסליחות). With this name, we can grasp the deep essence of Elul and the power it holds in repairing relationships, healing, giving, and receiving. In Jewish belief, it is our work to reconcile relationships and forgive people that wronged us (of course with a few exceptions). Hashem does not intervene. For Hashem to forgive the people that wronged you, you first need to forgive them. During Elul, we become mindful of the heaviness we hold on to by not forgiving those that wronged us over the years. By this, we enter deep spiritual practices to cleanse our hearts from hatred in preparation for Rosh HaShana.
Elul marks the start of a period of 40 days of forgiving and personal review. This ends at the closing Prayer (Neila) on Yom Kippur. According to Biblical tradition, this connects to the events at the Mt. Sinai revelation. In brief, Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai and broke the first tablets because of the Sin of the Golden Calf. Afterward, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe returned back to Mt. Sinai and came down 40 days later on Yom Kippur. He was holding the new tablets in his hands. Within this, we find a message of forgiveness and redemption. Kabbalists say during these days between Elul and Tishrei there is an extraordinary sense of forgiveness, repentance, and atonement. According to Kabbalah, the first day of creation is Rosh Hashana and that is why Mt. Sinai events occurred exactly at that time of the year.
Although there are no holidays in Elul, the month is potent with the energy of Teshuva. Teshuva - תשובה, from the word Shuv -שוב, means to return. What we return to is ourselves, our truth, and our real inner connection.
Elul is also known as the “Month of Tikun” - תיקון means to fix and return. Tikun has the same letters as Tinok - baby. Rabbi Nachman teaches a baby is something that is pure, and never lied or sinned. It takes months before he is impacted by the world. A concept of Tikun is not only to fix but bring yourself back to the level of a Tinok. The Hebrew word Tikun (תיקון correction) has the same letters as Tinok (תינוק a baby). This means that if a person, who corrects himself by closing the gap and disconnection between himself and his soul, returns to his natural state. This natural state of being connected with your soul is like when you are a baby, before all of life’s corruptions.
With these corrections, you restart yourself, your mind, body, and soul; and this is the purpose of these forty days – healing our suffering, pain, and ego. By this, we return back to our real selves before the traumas, fear, and doubts. According to Kabbalah, we are meant to transform and this is the secret of the journey during Elul.
The days in Elul prepare us for the luck and abundance offered to us on Rosh Hashanah.
During Elul, Hashem’s presence is brought down, and where one can experience unconditional love and acceptance. In rabbinic teachings about Elul’s energy, it is compared to a king in the field, visiting his people before returning to His palace. For those that desire to know him, this is the time to open your heart and soul to Him. You are blessed with the divine energy that supports you to search within your being, connect deeper to who you are, and draw closer to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement (Rosh HaShana).
The astrological sign that corresponds to Elul is Virgo - בתולה. Elul and Virgo relate to purifying and cleansing oneself. The name for Virgo in Hebrew is Betulah (בתולה) translates to, virgin. Virgo (betulah), is a young, independent woman. Virgo shows up as practicality, hard-working, and serving others; people born in this month feel the need to achieve financial security and a desire to serve society. It is important to note that the energy of Virgo is not exclusive only to those born under the sign of Virgo, everyone is impacted by the energy; some more or less, depending if you have a lot of Virgo in your chart and how sensitive you are to the energy.
Virgo is an earth sign that is considered to be the air of earth signs, and is the third summer sign (Cancer, Leo, Virgo), thus their ability to be quick thinkers and speech.
As always, each sign has its own process of healing to do, this is also known as Tikun (correction). Part of Virgo’s journey is to learn to love and accept others as they are without criticism, judgment, or trying to change them. An element to explore during Elul is to shift the inner criticism into an inner, constructive, empowering voice and to take care of others. This is not limited to only Virgos. The aspect of self-introspection during Elul is to refrain from judging and criticizing other people but rather turn that harsh judgment into love that empowers change, see where your own shortcomings, where you can do better, and heal yourself all from a place of love. Again, this is not limited to only Virgos.
To understand the astrological sign of Elul, we turn to the Hebrew word for Virgo - בתולה.
The Zohar teaches the root of the word בתולה (Virgo) is בתואל (Betuel). When we break up the word, we find the meaning the daughter (בִתו) or the house (בֵיתו) of God (El אל). These two meanings also hint at Virgo’s strong compulsion for perfection; this is because God’s daughter (and house) must be perfect without compromise. For that reason, Virgos have a natural ability to create an environment of natural perfection, as designers, architects, personal assistants, healers, and therapists.
The ruling planet for Virgo is Mercury (כוכב Kochav), which gives them the ability to fast thinking. As an Earth sign, it is natural to think of Virgos as detail-focused and slow thinking however, Virgo is the third of the summer signs (Cancer, Leo, Virgo), making Virgo the air of the earth signs, hence their quick thinking and speech. As a result of the energy of Elul, we all gain some of Virgo’s virtues this month. We can use Virgo’s ability to review, cleanse our thoughts and feelings, and organize our life. Virgo’s attributes that illuminate this month are the habit to focus on details, possibly missing the big picture, and fixating on perfection. During Elul, we learn to show up even when we are not “perfect”. Healing perfectionism is always knowing that you are a work in progress. You can always improve your situation, your grades, your work, and your business. Upgrades happen all the time but that doesn’t mean you should not get started. Only by starting where you are at now, you will know what you can improve.
Elul, a word in Aramaic means “search” and it divinely harmonizes with Virgo because of the attributes Virgo represents. Virgos have the need to assess and check their actions, and this is exactly what we strive to do in Elul, search within our hearts. However, this is not limited to only Virgos, there is something every person can learn in accepting yourself as you are and accepting others as they are. Once this happens, there is a correction in the way the society views itself and the other.
Planet: The planet that corresponds with Virgo is Mercury (כוכב). The word Kochav means “star” in Hebrew. Mercury has no name like the other planets.
Kochav is a name that consists of two parts; the letters Kaf, Vav (כו) and Kaf Bet (כב). Kaf, Vav (כו) has the numerical value of 26 which is also the value of The Creator’s name (Yud 10, Hei 5, Vav 6, Hei 5), the Tetragrammaton. Kaf, Bet (כב) has the numerical value of 22, this relates to the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet which are the building blocks of The Universe and Creation. The combination of these two powerful elements is the ultimate symbol of unity and true communication. Kochav signifies the connection between heaven and earth, The Light and The Vessel, body and soul, divinity, and you. This is why Elul of all months gives us the opportunity to do Teshuva (returning), to return and reconnect to our true selves.
Hebrew letters of Elul: Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) teaches us that the 22 Hebrew letters are also the building blocks of the universe and represent the 22 frequencies. Through the letters, we can use them as tools to cultivate and manifest spiritual abundance and healing.
According to Kabbalah each month has two Hebrew letters that control it. One Hebrew letter controls the astrological sign and the other controls the planet that influences the month.
Elul’s planet is Kokhav (כוכב Mercury) and is controlled by the letter ר (Reish) while Elul is controlled by the letter י (Yud).
Yood symbolizes richness and the highest level of consciousness.
The letter ר Reish in Aramaic means “poor”. When we look at the letter ר, we see that it is empty, there is nothing inside of it or supporting it. It is known that lack and hunger are what usually leads to change, goal setting, and achievements (as opposed to those who already have it all, prefer not to make any effort, and just sit around).
In the Torah, it appears that every Hebrew letter starts with the letter Yud. This means that Yud is the start, the beginning, the base from which all letters are created.
The letter Yud, which Elul was created from, has a numeric value of 10. This teaches us that all ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life are included in it. That also indicates that people of this sign have a real connection to impeccable perfection. This explains Virgo’s perfectionism and criticism. People born under this month have a tendency to focus on details so much that they miss the big picture. This is the non-spiritual / unbalanced side of Virgos. However, if Virgos are spiritually working on themselves and in a state of balance, The desire to reach perfection becomes their motivation to seek excellency or produce it. A spiritual component of this sign is to turn criticism into inner, constructive work, to take care of others, and serve.
Through these two Hebrew letters of the month, you can channel their properties and have them aid you in the practices of returning to your truth and Cheshbon HaNefesh. As a result of the strong pull this month to go inwards; explore yourself, try new things, look at the details of your life, and see where you can make major shifts that serve you long-term. Examine your life, not only physically but who you are as a person (spiritually, mentally, and emotionally).
Tribe: The Tribe that is connected to the month of Elul is the Tribe of Gad. Gad is the sixth Tribe for giving offerings at the Mishkan.
To learn about the Tribe of Gad, we look at it’s name. Gad has two meanings. The first meaning is "camp," as in the verse (the blessing of Jacob to his son Gad): "Gad shall organize [camp] camps [army camps], and he shall return with all his camps" (Genesis 49:19). Gad had a special talent of Gad for organizing a "company." The second meaning of Gad is "good fortune."
The "good fortune" of Gad relates, in Kabbalah, to the thirteen principles of mercy that are revealed in the month of Elul, in order to wake the soul from its depth (its "good fortune") to return to God.
Gad = 7. Gad was the 7th son to be born to Jacob. Mazal, the more common word for "good fortune" = 77. The middle letter of mazal מזל is zayin ז = 7.
When the two letters gimmel ג - 3, dalet - 4, that create the name Gad = 7. If you remove the zayin ז from mazal מזל and place גד, you get the word - מגדל “tower”.
The verse states: "A tower [migdal = 77] of might [oz = 77] is the Name of G-d, into it shall run the tzadik and become exalted." In Kabbalah, the "tower of might" represents the bride, the betulah (Virgo) of Elul, the soul-root and mazal of the Jewish People. The tzadik, the groom, runs, with all of his ability, to enter the "tower of might."
Sense: How does an action become a sense? Action acts as a sense when it comes from internal intuition. Your intuition only guides you to what is best for you and to protect you. When one does an action that does not sound logical but feels right, you are truly listening to your deep inner wisdom. This is the strongest tool for living in your truth. Be aware not to fall into the negative side of logic and guilt as you do what feels right for you. To overcome the logic, work on trusting yourself. To overcome the guilt, remember, you are here to transform and live in your truth. Use your intuition as your compass.
The Left Hand. God stretched out His left hand and created the Earth. The left hand relates to judgment which relates to Elul and Virgo. In Elul, we work on not judging people and ourselves but rather healing with forgiveness and Teshuva. Additionally, it is the left hand that touches the heart. This teaches that all rectified action comes from good intentions and good emotions of the heart.
Tools for Elul: From the energy of this month, this is a time to do an annual self-review, cleanse and recreate our thoughts and feelings. Use Virgo to return to yourself and gain freedom from all emotions and thoughts that keep you away from being better each day.
As you reflect, channel Hashem’s compassionate energy and embrace compassion for yourself. You were doing the best you can with the information you had under your circumstances. With this new knowledge, choose one thing to focus on for the year to come. What is one thing that if you improved on, you can say you are a better person?
The 5 Acronyms Of Elul
According to tradition, Elul (אלול) is an acronym for “אני לדודי ודודי לי” (“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3)). In Elul, you can connect to the love story between the soul and the Creator.
There are five acronyms given for the month of Elul each corresponding to a different Divine service of the month of Elul, one of the most auspicious months on the calendar. The acronyms point to our inner transformational service. The 5 acronyms relate to the service of Torah; Prayer (Tefilah), Charity (Tzedaka), Repentance (Teshuvah), and Redemption (Geula). A number of spiritual teachings are derived from the acronyms formed from the Hebrew letters of Elul. Aleph / Lamed / Vav / Lamed | א.ל.ו.ל
אנה לידו ושמתי לך
אני לדודי ודודי לי
איש לרעהו ומתנות לאביונים
את לבבך ואת לבב
אשירה להשם ויאמרו לאמר
To check them out, click here https://shulchanaruchharav.com/acronyms-of-elul/
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Wishing you a meaningful month,
Sources: Live Kabbalah (2022). Elul - Virgo. Retrieved from https://livekabbalah.org/elul-virgo/
Live Kabbalah (2022). The Month Of Elul - The King Is In The Field. Retrieved from https://www.livekabbalah.com/blog/the-month-of-elul-the-king-is-in-the-field
Mishkan Shalom (2022). Elul Practices: Heshbon Hanefesh, An Accounting of the Soul. Retrieved from https://mishkan.org/elul-practices-heshbon-hanefesh-an-accounting-of-the-soul