One of the fundamental teachings of the Days of Awe is repeated several times in the High Holiday liturgy:

Repentance, prayer and deeds of righteousness
overcome the evil cecree

As Elul is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is considered a month of repentance and spiritual preparation. According to tradition, several biblical verses hint at the centrality of these desired behaviors, as their first letters form the acronym ELUL.


Then the Lord your God will open up (lit. circumcise) your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Circumcision is symbolic of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. In this verse, circumcision of the heart is envisioned as preparation for living a fuller life. The weekly portion that includes this verse is always read on the last Sabbath in Elul, shortly before Rosh Hashanah.


I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.
(Song of Songs 6:3)
The most widely known acronym, this verse (often inscribed on decorative wedding bands) is interpreted by the rabbis as an expression of the subliminal and mutual love between God and the people of Israel. This particular verse is suggestive of prayer, through which one communicates with God.

Deeds of Righteousness

The sending of potions to one's friends and gifts to the needy
(Book of Esther 9:22)
Although the original context of this verse relates specifically to the celebration of the festival of Purim, it embodies a timeless lesson in generosity and kindness in human relationships, and in the taking of responsibility for the weaker members of society.

These three elements together
help to "overcome the evil decree" leading thereby to redemption. In Jewish tradition, the archetype of redemption is the Exodus from Egypt. The exodus is celebrated with the singing of the Song at the Sea, beginning with the verse:

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said: I will sing ….
(Exodus 15:1)

ELUL Table of Contents



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