Elul is the sixth month of the year according to the Torah
, which counts from the Exodus from Egypt
, or Passover
, which is one of the Four Jewish New Years
. Elul is the twelth month of the year according to the contemporary luner-solar calendar employed by Jews worldwide.
As Elul is the month before Tishrei, which contains four big holidays, there are many traditions and laws followed and practiced during this month.
- The (Hebrew)spelling of Elul is aleph-lamed-vav-lamed. This acronym spells out the phrase "Ani L'dodi U'l'dodi Li", or "I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me", a phrase from King Solomon's "Song of Songs", a poem of the love of a man for a woman which is also seen as analogy for the love of Israel by G-d (Israel as the bride and G-d as the groom). This hints to the idea that we should spend this time in introspection with ourselves and G-d as the year comes to a close.
- The shofar is sounded (a takea) every morning after Shacharit prayers. Everyone is obligated to hear the call of the shofar. The clear sound of the shofar is supposed to awaken us to the nearing Yamim Nora'im, or High Holy Days and to the need to focus on what we have done in the past year and what we shall do in the next year.
- Psalm 27 is read at the end of Shacharit every day, except the eve of Rosh HaShanah, just as or just before the shofar is blown. Themes of the psalm include trusting G-d and G-d's protection no matter the situation.
- Some people hold one day fasts just to prepare for the amazing glut of food that arrives with the new year.
- Beginning the Sabbath before Rosh HaShanah, a group of prayers called Selichot are said daily. This night people also get together for study groups on the "big" ideas. Oftentimes popular meida is used as a conversation starter, especially for youth groups.