On Sunday, July 16, 2015, the new moon was spotted in Jerusalem. This marked the start of the sixth Biblical month of Elul (pronounced E-lool). The month of Elul is a time of teshuvah or repentance. It is the preparation time before the High Holy Days of Yom Teruach (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Coverings/Judgement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). Elul means to search, as in to search our hearts through introspection. It is a time to reflect on the past year and to prepare for the “Days of Awe,” a time marked by repenting from the failings of the past and resolve for the future.
This is also traditionally the time Moses spent on the mountain in preparation to receive the tablets and is considered the month of the Bride. A shofar, or ram’s horn, is traditionally blown every morning during the month of Elul to serve as a wake-up call for those who are spiritually asleep, to awaken the people from complacency, and as a call to repentance.
The month of Elul is a difficult one. It’s marked with trials, pressing, and testing. It’s a time when we ask YHVH to search us and reveal to us the wrongs we have committed in order to repent and correct these issues. During the month of Elul, YHVH relates to us in a more open and compassionate manner than He does during the other months. This is the month where our King is in the field.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi offers this anecdote:
The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.
However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.
When our King comes to the field, He communes with us in our environment and circumstances. Every other day, we must go to Him and abide by the rules and protocols of the palace. But during Elul, He comes to us and meets us in our environment. Our circumstances become tools that are used in such a way that we are taught important lessons that we otherwise wouldn’t learn or that would take much longer to learn. The purpose of these lessons is to 1) make us ready for our encounter with our King at the wedding feast of Sukkot, 2) to bring us to repentance, and 3) to draw us closer to Him.
Often times during Elul, things that seem out-of-the-blue or random will happen. For instance, that person you haven’t heard from in years suddenly calls you or sends you a text. You hurt your back doing something you routinely do. You have a random fight with the person you’re closest to and never fight with. All of these things seem random and out-of-the-blue, but during it Elul it could actually be God trying to get your attention.
It is important, however, to see these events and circumstances with the right mindset. YHVH isn’t trying to punish you for something you’ve done wrong; rather, He may be trying to shine His spotlight on an area in your life you haven’t been able to see.
For instance, the back can represent carrying a burden that is too heavy. The lower back, in particular, usually represents anger. Perhaps God is trying to shine light on a burden you shouldn’t be carrying, a burden that is too heavy for you to carry alone, or your anger in a specific area of your life. Perhaps YHVH wants you to mend the relationship with the person you randomly hear from after years of silence. Maybe YHVH used your closest friend to push a button on an issue you never dealt with in order for you to finally deal with it.
This is a time of introspection and fervent prayer. As we draw close to YHVH, we are to ask Him to search and reveal to us the areas that need attention in our lives. YHVH is faithful to reveal our issues to us through circumstances, through the people He has put in our lives, and through revelation in prayer. But in the midst of things, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. I would encourage you to keep some sort of journal or take notes on what happens during this time. It can be difficult to process and connect the dots between everything that happens but a journal can help you refer back and give you some perspective as you work through it all.
Elul is a very trying time. But if we can persevere to the end, our reward will be great. I’m reminded of the 10 virgins in Yeshua’s parable. Five of the virgins were foolish and hadn’t prepared themselves to meet the Bridegroom, while the other 5 had prepared and made themselves ready. Their reward was joining the Bridegroom at the wedding feast.
So even in this difficult month, I pray that we will all do the hard work of cleaning out our hearts and removing the junk that YHVH reveals to us. If we will be the faithful and obedient Bride that prepares herself, our Bridegroom will be faithful to meet us at the Wedding Feast of Sukkot.