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                                   Elul And Family

                                                  Rabbi Dovid Horwitz


The sages explain that the word Elul, viewed as an acronym, alludes to three different verses in the Torah. The first two we discussed in previous issues. The last of the verses that the letters of the word Elul stand for is “u’mal Hashem . . . et levav’cha v’et levav zar’echa”, “Hashem will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your children.” The first letters of the four Hebrew words, which when translated into English reads, “your heart and the hearts”, form the word Elul.

How does this verse convey the message of Elul? What lessons are we meant to derive from this verse and how are we to apply them during these final two weeks of the year? Perhaps the sages are telling us that the month of Elul should be utilized to build one’s family unit. Elul is given to us as an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the awesome days of judgment. We are not meant to be working only on ourselves, as if living in a vacuum. Rather we must enter into Rosh Hashanah with our entire family prepared. We must make sure that as we elevate and purify ourselves during these final two weeks that we don’t leave our spouse and children behind. Hashem will judge a man and woman much more favorably if that person can stand together spiritually with his or her family. The power of the Jewish people has never been in the individual, but in the family and community. One should therefore use this time to perform acts of kindness to one’s spouse and children, in order to draw the family closer together. The family should try to set aside time to attend Torah lectures that will inspire them to do teshuvah. Make the last two Shabbatot meaningful ones. Create a spiritually uplifting atmosphere at the Shabbat meals. Even if the family is not used to singing zemirot at the Shabbat table, make a special effort to sing zemirot and Jewish songs at the table. Encourage the children to sing along. It will create a very powerful spiritual feeling. Devote some time during the Shabbat meals to give over to the children some thoughts of doing teshuvah, of improving one’s ways. Explain to them the significance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The verse that hints to the word Elul describes how Hashem will circumcise the hearts of us and our children. He will open up our hearts to true repentance. Although only Hashem Himself can finish the job, it is up to us to start the process of teshuvah.
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