Thoughts on Elul

My heart is always to make clear the difference between rabbinic tradition and Biblical expression. However, unless it conflicts with the Bible, not all tradition is bad and we can learn from it. So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater as we strive to know how God intends for us to understand His ways, His heart and, of course, His Son.

The month of Elul is a month of preparation for the fall feasts. As I studied, I realized that Ecclesiastes 1:9 states a powerful truth, there is truly nothing new under the sun. The world often defines as evil that which God defines as good.

Case in point: the name of this 6th month in the Biblical calendar draws its origin from the Babylonian culture. The Babylonian name means a “vain” thing, e.g., nothingness. Another text says it is the Babylonian word for Harvest.

However, the Hebrew letters of this name: aleph, lamed, vav and lamed, are an acronym for the phrase (from the Biblical book, Song of Songs) ani l’dodi v’dodi li, which means “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” The world considers the love of God and His love for us as a vain thing, nothingness and a harvest of nothing. However, our understanding of that two-way love affair is that it is the highest calling of man and God. The attributes that we long to attain in the spirit are frowned upon in today’s society. What today’s culture considers is good reflected by the laws that are being made are in direct opposition to what God says is right.

From a Jewish understanding, Elul is a month that holds the key to unlocking the inner-most desires of the heart regarding our relationship with our Creator. Considering that this 6th month in Israel is the fruit harvest, as believers we know that the outcome of the beauty of our mutual love affair with God is the fruit of the Spirit harvested in us.

Gal. 5:[22]:, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control….”

Every morning, except on Shabbat, from Rosh Chodesh on the first day of Elul until the day before Yom T’ruah (Rosh HaShanah), the shofar is blown. The hope is that the sound of the shofar will awaken the hearer’s spirit to begin soul searching in preparation for the Day of Atonement. This begins a season of asking for forgiveness from God and those you are in relationship with.

Elul also falls at the 12th month in the Jewish civil calendar. It is the end of the year cycle instituted by man. We have come to understand that the number 12 is the number used biblically that points to governmental authority. How fitting that Elul should be a time of repentance for man’s ways.

As I mentioned earlier, the Jewish populace considers the month of Elul a month of preparation for the First Fall Feast, the Feast of Trumpets or Yom T’ruah. Growing up I knew that feast as Rosh Hashanah or New Year. Now, I understand that is a term for the Civil New Year which was chosen by the Rabbis. God, however, did not give this Feast a name. He said the following:

Lev.23 (v) [23] “ADONAI* said to Moshe, [24] ‘Tell the people of Isra’el, In the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar. [25] Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI.’”

As believers, we know that fire represents the Holy Spirit. This month prepares us in the spirit to bring that offering as a sweet-smelling offering to the Lord

Spiritual Workdays

Elul is also considered as a time of what might be termed, “spiritual workdays”. The Jewish calendar is separated into ordinary work days and holy days. Ordinary days are filled with the tasks of providing for our material needs. Holy days, like Sabbath and the Feasts, are separated for us to consider God and pursue the spiritual aspects of life.

On the Holy days, God has called for our labors to cease as we pursue Him. During the month of Elul, when we hear the shofar blast each morning, our labors do not cease. During our work times we are to be taking stock of our past year and prepare our hearts for a time of repentance as we enter into the Fall Feasts. Thus, the term “Spiritual Workdays”

In all my readings, I find that the phrase, “the King is in the field” was constantly used in this season of Elul. So, I wanted to understand where that phrase comes from and how it applies to us now. In Biblical times most, work was done in the field, the place that provided food for the family. Today, the field might be homemaking, manufacturing, office work, medicine, banking etc.

In Biblical times, work was required to construct and maintain the sanctuary. The Rabbis suggest that the work of the Sanctuary is the prototype for the work of life; that the purpose of man is to make a dwelling place for God in a physical world. I like that!

If that is so, why are days designated as “holy” and “ordinary”? The Holy days on the calendar were given to help us change our perspective. They are a special opportunity to fellowship with God in a place of rest and trust. There, we rest from our own labors in order to see things from God’s perspective. They are a time to learn of Him, His heart, His ways and His Son. God’s perspective is to view our lives as laboring in Yeshua to advance His kingdom of living stones and thus provide a place where He can dwell.

Elul is viewed as the one month in the calendar that we can be in that place of rest and fellowship during our ordinary days of labor. As I pointed out in the first part of this article, in Hebrew the first letters of the verse “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” (ani ledodi v’dodi li), spell the word “Elul”. Thus, it is a time of special closeness with the Lord. From this also comes the understanding that the King is in the field. We don’t have to come to Him at His palace to make our requests. Rather, he has come to us to meet us right where we are. What a glorious picture of Yeshua, who came to earth where we are to meet us in our field. He paid the price of His life to give us all we need. Now, in Him, we don’t have just one month a year but every day to be in His rest. Yet, He chooses to give us these days of appointed time with Him that we might have tangible pictures to enlarge our understanding.

In the story told in Haggai 1:1-16, during the month of Elul, the Lord speaks to the people regarding His displeasure of them building their homes as a priority over His House. Today, the house of the Lord is not bricks and mortar or wood or stone. It is the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles with Yeshua the chief cornerstone. It is made of living stones who understand the heart and the ways of the Father; a people who know Yeshua not only as the redeemer who laid down His life for the sheep, but as the soon-to-come King who will sit on the throne of David.

Closing thoughts

Another tradition that prompts the people to position themselves before God is to recite Psalm 27 every day from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Sukkot. Psalm 27 is a powerful word for us in this season of God’s History. It speaks to all our needs in order to stand in these uncertain times, to reaffirm our trust in the Lord, to seek His face and to understand that He alone can deliver us from our enemies and ourselves.

Psalm 27 begins: [27:1] “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall, I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”

Rabbi Amy R. Schneiderman (a non-Messianic Rabbi) gives us this reflection on the opening verse of Psalm 27:

“The image of light evokes the notion of being visible: both we and God see who we are and what we have done. There is no hiding “in the dark,” either from God or from ourselves. God’s light is more penetrating than the light of the sun, since nothing remains hidden in God’s light. When we see ourselves in God’s light, our true selves emerge, complete with blemishes and imperfections. In some respects, it’s the harsh light of truth, but it is simultaneously the healing light of God’s divine presence. Hence, there is a healing quality to taking an honest look at ourselves, appraising ourselves in the light of God’s standards and God’s concerns, for in that light is forgiveness and healing for those who follow the process of Teshuvah (repentance) through to completion.”

Now, as we work from day to day, are we taking stock of what we are working for? Are we building our Kingdom or His? Have we understood the Father’s heart or the price the Son paid as the First fruit of those that will rise from the dead to eternal life?

As we come to the Feasts `of the Lord and enter into His cycles of worship, let us examine our hearts and strive to live up to the full meaning of the phrase, “ I am my beloved’s and He is mine.”

2018-11-30T18:47:20+00:00Categories: Elul (Preperation for the fall feasts), Hadasah's Hagigim|