Today is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the new month right before our biggest month of holidays – Tishrei (the month of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Sukkot!)
Rosh Hodesh (also spelled Rosh Chodesh) is the “head” of the month – the start of the Jewish month marked by the new moon. Each month, it is one day (the first of the month) or sometimes two (the last day or one month and the first day of the next.) And like all Jewish dates, it starts when the sun goes down (night) and ends right before the sun goes down the next day. There are 12 months (or 13, in a leap year), and each of them is observed in the same way.
Traditionally, Rosh Hodesh is a semi holiday, a day of special observance for women. Specifically what people don’t do varies, but it may be something like no laundry, or sewing, or even no work. Some communities have Rosh Hodesh parties for women, some groups have women’s learning groups or Tehillim (Psalms) groups, some communities wait to wear new clothing on Rosh Hodesh. In the synagogues, there are some different prayers (like the half-Hallel and a musaf).
We make a special dish, often a dessert, in honor of Rosh Hodesh. If it’s the middle of the week, this is particularly exciting for the kids, since we don’t usually get dessert during the week! We talk about the upcoming month and what holidays are coming up, too.
This specific Rosh Hodesh starts the month preceding our holidays in Tishrei: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. There are no major holidays this month, but Elul starts selichot and shofar (when depends on custom), and also introspection, resolutions, tzedaka (charity) and teshuva (repentance).
Every year, as I go through the task of physically preparing for the holidays during the month of Elul, it seems like spiritual preparations can easily fall by the wayside. Yes, there is something spiritual about preparing the house and the food. I absolutely find fulfillment in doing such domestic duties!
But what about inspiration? What about real growth?
I can’t answer what a person needs for anyone but me. But please, remember to take some time out and prepare mentally and spiritually for these days of awe that are coming. Go to a shiur, read a good book on something inspiring, give extra tzedaka with concentration, find some online articles to ponder (see this post for more ideas). Do something!
I like shiurim (lectures or lessons) because I can listen when I have the time, often while doing something else with my hands. And I can pause whenever I need to rescue someone from the top of the table or being trapped in the bathroom, then restart when there is a measure of peace. Whether you like deep insights or practical how-to work, there are shiurim available for you! Here are some:
- Elul: The sweetness of tikkun hamidot with Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller (requires log-in or free account sign-up)
- Rosh Hashanah insights with Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
- The Shofar with Rabbi Eli Mansour
- Eruv tavshillin with R’ Don Blumberg
Here are some general sites to go search for shiurim that speak to you…sorry, that pun was intended… (Whenever possible, the link is to the appropriate page):
- Daily Halacha (Sephardic resources especially)
- Judaism online
- Torah.org: Elul/Rosh Hashanah and 10 days/Yom Kippur
L’shanah tovah tikatev v’teichateim! (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!)