(Hebrew: / Spelling: Elul, Ellul, Elull / Other Names: )
Elul is the twelfth month in the Jewish Calendar and the 6th according to some calculations. It is a month of mercy and repentance when the Jewish nation prepares themselves for the high holidays.
The month of Elul is a month of teshuva / repentance, where Hashem gives the Jewish nation a chance to repent.
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After the breaking of the first Luchos, Moshe once again ascended to heaven on the first day of Elul. He remainder there for 40 days and forty nights, comprising the entire month of Elul and the first ten days of Tishri, praying the that the Jews be forgiven for the the sin of the Golden Calf. On Yom Kipor Hashem revealed to him that he had forgiven the Jewish Nation and Moshe descended with the Secound Luchos.
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Sefaradim recite Selichot during the entire month of Elul and up to Yom Kippor. There are those that begin on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul and there are those that start on the second day of Rosh Chodesh. It is customary by the Sephardim to recite the Selichot very early in the morning.
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Askinazim do not start reciting the Selichot until the week of Rosh Hashanah. On the Motzai Shabbos preceding Rosh Hashana, the first Selichot is recited in the middle of the night. From then until Yom Kippor the Slichot are recited in the morning before Shachiris. If Rosh Hashana falls out Monday or Tuesday then Slichot are started a week before.
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Each morning during the month of Elul aside from Erev Rosh Hashana the Shofar is blown at the end of the Shachris services. There are those that begin blowing the Shofar on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul and others on the second.
Most communities only blow the Shofar TSR"T but there are others that blow a full TSR"T TS"T TR"T.
There are even some communities that do an additional blowing of the Shofar each night after the Mariv prayers.
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After the blowing of the Shofar the 27 chapter of Tehilim, Lidovid Hashem Ori is recited. This chapter is again recited each night, by the Nusahch Ashkenaz after Mariv and by Nusahch Sefarad after Mincha. Most people recite Lidovid until Shimini Atzeres but there are those that stop at Yom Kipor.
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Since Elul is a time for Teshuva many people spend extra time doing Tikkunim. There is a custom to divide up the Tikunay Zohar into the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kipor. Many people are accustomed to recite extra Tehilim during the month of Elul, trying to finish the entire book of Tehilim at least twice. Tehilim has 150 chapters, so reciting the book twice adds up to 300 the numerical equivalence of the word 'forgive'. There is also a custom to check ones Teffilin and Mizzuzos during Elul and many frequent the Kevarim of the Tzadikim during this month.
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On Erev Rosh Hashana the Shofar is not blown. This is to separate the supplementary Shofar blowing from the mandatory Shofar blowing. According to the Kabbalah it also confuse the Satan who perceives this as a sign that the Jews have stopped their Shofar blowing campaign. It is also for a similar reason that Birchas Hachodes is not recited for the month of Tishray.
Slichos on Erev Rosh Hashanah are very long. Although Tachnun is recited at the end of Slichot, it is not recited during Shachris, like any other Erev Yom Tov.
It is customary to wake up before sunrise on Erev Rosh Hashana to eat and then fast for the remainder of the day. People are supposed to shower and get haircuts on Erev Rosh Hashana.
Going to the Mikvah on Erev Rosh Hashana is very important and even those who do not go all year round, immerse in the Mikvah on Erev Rosh Hashana.
Hataras Nedarim is done on Erev Rosh Hashana. Most people do the annual customary absolvement of vows in front of three people but there are those who try to do it in front of a Minyan.
There is a Segulah amongst the Chasidim to purchase a knife on Erev Rosh Hashana.