Monday, August 9, 2010

Elul: What's in the name of the month?

Elul is a time when we begin introspection on the past year. There is something unique about Elul that we don’t find by any other of the Jewish months. The Rishonim write that the word Elul is an acrostic for the words (Shir HaShirim 6:3) ani lidodi vidodi li, I am to my Beloved and My Beloved is to me. The commentators have found other references to Elul, such as in the verse (Devarim 21:13-14) lecho liishah vihayah im, [and she shall be] a wife to you. But it shall be [that if you do not desire her.] Another instance of this acrostic is found in the words (Esther 9:22) umishloach manos ish lireieihu umatanos laevyoinm, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. There are numerous allusions to the month of Elul throughout Scripture, and each reference requires an explanation (See Binei Yissachar to Elul who expounds on the various references to Elul).

It is worthwhile to focus on why it is specifically the month of Elul that contains so many Scriptural hints to the name of the month. The answer to this question can be found in the word Elul itself. It is said (Bamidbar 13:2) shelach lecho anashim viyasuru es eretz Canaan, send forth men, if you please, and let them spy out the Land of Canaan. The Targum renders the word viyasuru as viyalilun, which contains the word Elul. Thus, the word Elul means to spy out, i.e. to search. It is therefore appropriate that in the month when we search our ways to return to HaShem, we also search Scripture for allusions to this special month.

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