Posts Tagged With: Elul

The Vinedresser, the True Vine, and the Branches

The month of Elul is often called the month of repentance, as it is a time to prepare for the upcoming High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and the last great festival of Sukkot. This traditional period of return is an opportunity to examine one’s life and the fruit that is being produced. What needs to be uprooted? What needs to be pruned? What needs to be nourished? It’s the season to set things right with Adonai and our fellowman. While these things should be a daily exercise, the moedim (feast days) direct the path of the righteous to dedicate this season, the time of harvest, to give an honest account of one’s soul.

The moedim center around agriculture and harvest. During the month of Elul, Adonai our King is “in the field” and people are His planting. We are His vineyard, and He is looking for fruit that will be judged at the High Holy Days. While the King is in the field, He is particularly accessible, as near as a co-laborer and a friend. Yeshua says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” During Elul the vintage begins; may we submit to His tender affections, pruning, and cleansing before He returns to the Throne of Judgment on the High Holy Days. His desire is for us to enter Sukkot, the figurative end-time harvest and wedding feast, clean and sealed in Him with a heart that is altogether joyful.


John 15:1-15  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  2  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  3  “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  4  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  5  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  6  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  7  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  8  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  9  “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  10  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  11  “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.  12  “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  13  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  14  “You are My friends if you do what I command you.  15  “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.


Deut. 16:11-15  and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.  12  “You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.  13  “You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat;  14  and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns.  15  “Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.



Categories: Moedim, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Woman Will Encompass (Eclipse) a Man

“Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—A woman will encompass a man.” (Jer. 31:21-22 NASB)

 Today, like many other Americans, I watched the moon eclipse the sun in a stunning show of light and darkness. Our special glasses enabled us to watch the sun mimic the moon’s monthly phases in a matter of hours– waxing and waning, or in this case, waning and then waxing.

In the hour leading up to the eclipse as the light decreased upon the land, we all felt strange — like we were in a dream. The air felt different and the temperature began to noticeably drop. There was an otherworldly stillness even in the wind.[1] Since we never experience the sun’s light in this fashion, I can understand why ancient people considered a total solar eclipse to be a bad omen. Creation itself was confused as birds went to roost and crickets began to chirp. Even the fast paced to and fro of traffic stilled as drivers parked to look up.

© Chris Rogers

When the eclipse reached totality, the spectacular imagery felt at once awesome and eerie. There is something at the core of earth beings that senses the “wrongness” of darkness when it should be light. The ethereal beauty that the natural eye absorbs seems contrary to the subliminal implications that this heavenly sign might suggest. The change in the atmosphere occurred on both a physical and spiritual level.

The masses that gathered across the nation to view this stellar event were in one accord – all looking up. I wonder how many heard the wordless speech of the heavens?

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Ps. 19:1-6 NKJV)

David compares the sun to a bridegroom coming out joyful and strong from his wedding canopy. Nothing is hid from his/its heat. Today, the heat was abated for a short while by the moon. In Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon, and stars, his mother Rachel is figured as the moon.[2] We could say that Rachel eclipsed Jacob or a woman encompassed a man. In this way, the moon is a picture of the bride. In Psalm 19, David continues by comparing the glory of the heavenly bodies to the Torah. Hopefully, we are ones that have His Law written on our hearts.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Ps. 19:7-17 NKJV)

I pray that all the many faces that turned upward to view God’s glorious handiwork will learn to detect their errors and their hidden faults as David mentioned. Only the perfect law of liberty can reveal such things. The eternal Gospel is always being proclaimed.[3] The Torah is a Light.[4] That flaming ball of fire in the sky has a message, perhaps more than one if you’re listening. Today, it’s brightness was decreased enough that one could look up and see what is normally hidden. What did you see?

Was it a warning or a marker? Yes, but I won’t take my speculations past David’s remarks. The heavens declare the glory of God. I certainly saw and felt it today. I even considered that the awesomeness was only an inkling of what was experienced at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai or the darkened sky at Messiah’s last breath or the one accord outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh in Acts 2 on Shavuot or what will be on the Day of the LORD. There is one thing we can and should all agree on – Abba is always pleading with us to RETURN. Repent. Do the works from the first.

“Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—A woman will encompass a man.” (Jer. 31:21-22 NASB)

The sky today was a road mark and a guidepost for those within its viewing range. Jeremiah 31 is a prophecy about the return of the exiles, the restoration of our captivity. We go back the same way we went out. Return to me says Abba, and He will show you a woman encompassing a man!

The renewed thing (chadash) or a woman encompassing a man is bridal, covenantal language. The woman encircles her groom seven times in the fullness of the Holy Spirit[5] to create a new House and to tear down any walls (like Jericho) that may remain between them. The woman surrounds the man with (spiritual) protection as the gatekeeper of their home.

© Chris Rogers

Like the moon, she is rarely the visible one in their union (echad), but there is one day that she is the star for all to see — her wedding day! Though it’s a modern custom in the U.S., I couldn’t help but to be googly eyed at the grandeur of the “diamond ring” effect of the eclipse as all the figurative meanings of the sun and moon as man and woman played in the back of my mind.

Abba desires a chaste bride, and what an adornment He has for her! So rather than doom and gloom, I’d like you to consider LIFE – abundant LIFE tonight as we embark on the new moon (month) of Elul after a stunning display in the heavens. Ani l’dodi v’dodi li. I am to my beloved and He is to me.[6] The Bridegroom and His bride. That’s what I saw in the sky today.

Though the Season of Teshuvah (repentance, return) starts tonight, it is not all weeping and wailing. YHWH told Rachel in the same Jeremiah passage:

Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. “There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory. (Jer. 31:16-17)

There is a hope for your future. Though we return weeping, carrying our bag of seed, we WILL shout for joy as we bring in sheaves.[7] Our tears for family, friends, and the nations have a purpose. Like the Shekinah and Rachel, we cry for the destruction of the House and the many many children that Abba longs to come “home.” He’s always waiting, always calling. Not one is beyond His reach. He labors greatly for each and every one of them.

In the eclipse today, I saw wonder, beauty, and a future. At its zenith, I looked at my husband and said, “A woman just encompassed a man and everyone was watching.” The moon is the light in the sky for those in darkness. As she made her way between the sun and earth today, many were confused and bewildered. I saw a glorious union, the House or tent of the two made into one flesh, a glimpse of what is to come. The daughter of Laban (levanah – moon), the moon to Jacob’s sun, was seen and heard today. Can you hear her calling? Do you listen to her cries? She’s pleading for you to come home. The reunion will be glorious. The whole world will stand still and look up. May we eclipse to reveal, not to conceal.

As you blow the shofar throughout Elul, sounding the alarm, remember that even in the midst of judgment the heart of YHWH is always on reconciliation. He is gracious and compassionate. Are we? He is slow to anger. Are you? He abounds in lovingkindness and is relenting of evil. Are His people? (Darkness, gloom, the sun and moon turning to darkness, the Bridegroom and the Bride, blowing the shofar… it’s all in Joel 2. Consider reading it this Elul.)

Don’t proclaim judgment and doom and gloom without also shouting for joy about forgiveness, love, grace, and compassion. The world needs a sign from the moon. As the reflector’s of Abba’s glorious Light and the stars/seeds of Abraham, we are the only light that a dark world can see. Are we occulting His Light or are we inviting them to the feast (wedding supper)?[8] Rachel refuses to be comforted. She pleads for each one. It is the season. Send out the invitations. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”


[1] “Solar eclipses don’t just turn the lights out – they also make the wind slow down and change direction.” —

[2] You could argue that the moon was Leah since she was alive and Rachel was dead at this point, but later it is Rachel that is portrayed as weeping for her children in Jeremiah 31. Besides, both were brides of Jacob and could signify the same thing in this article.

[3] And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Rev. 14:6-7)

[4] Is. 8:20

[5] The seven Spirits of God (Is. 11:2) are reflected even in the time duration of a total solar eclipse, with the maximum length being 7.5 minutes!

[6] Elul is said to be an acronym of this phrase from Song of Songs 6:3.

[7] Psalm 126

[8] Occult in its verb form means to hide, conceal, cover over. It is synonymous with eclipse. One of the astronomical words for an eclipse is an occultation.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim, new moon, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Brotherly Love Part I

The next couple of articles will be a two part series by guest poster Kendall Watson. Kendall is not only my sister in Messiah, she is also my sister in the flesh. 🙂 Her heart in this vital message echoes my own. I pray it blesses you during this season of Elul. May we never forget the Spirit of the Commandments, which is Love. – K. Gallagher 


img_0360By Kendall Watson

During the month of Elul, it is said that the “Father is in His fields”. He is searching His people and seeking intimacy with His Bride. He longs to be with His children. If only His children would draw close enough to “shema” His voice. That is, if only they would listen and obey. What is His message, you ask? I believe the Father is telling His children to love not only Him but love one another as well. Love is a concrete thought. In Hebrew, love is not just an emotion but also something you do. In other words, someone can say that they love you all day long, but if their actions are not behind those four letters, then the word love means nothing.

In a healthy family, it is natural to love one’s parents. However, the love for one’s siblings is not only different, it is also more difficult. They are the competition for the parent’s affections. Consider what parent’s do for children. When they fall down, parents pick them up. When they cry, a parent’s loving embrace provides comfort and safety. Parents root and cheer for their progeny’s efforts at sporting events. They celebrate every accomplishment of the child as if they were the ones receiving the award. And if there is only one cookie left in the cookie jar, guess who gets to enjoy every bite? Not the adult, of course. Mothers and fathers sacrifice large and small everyday for their children…because they LOVE.

Children don’t generally reciprocate this type of love to their parents. While they certainly love, that love is expressed differently. Parents love, nurture, and discipline with wisdom. In a way, mothers and fathers pour out their very lives to give their children the best opportunities in this world. Over time (in a ideal home setting), the child intuitively learns this truth. This is why the child expects the last cookie, and why the parent usually gives it to them. Even in the most brutal homes, there is evidence from psychiatric studies that the children long for mom’s and dad’s love and approval. In our example, the cookie is simply the child seeking these things.

On the other hand, brothers and sisters don’t love one another quite as sacrificially, do they? Consider your childhood (if you had siblings.) Brothers and sisters aren’t usually very nice or giving. When we fell down, they were usually the one who had pushed us. When we cried, it was usually a brother that had hit us. Over and over again, jealousy takes over siblings in a rivalry. This enmity has its own mantra, “Mom and dad loves me more than you“.

Siblings incite one another with their words. “Oh, you won an award? Well, guess what? Mine is bigger!” Sister ate the last cookie in the cookie jar with a smirk on her face. She smugly thinks to herself, “I’m faster, smarter, and well, just plain better than you kid“.

img_0366Needless to say, contentions among siblings are too numerous to count. Praise the Father for the children that grow out of the immature bickering, and learn to love one another unselfishly. There is much to learn from these family dynamics. Sadly, many never overcome the battles of youth. Instead, they choose (or are forced) to not communicate with family members due to past hurts, jealousy, or other issues.

What spiritual significance can we learn from these life lessons? Loving YHWH is easier than loving our very imperfect and often immature siblings. I submit to you that Moses, Yeshua, and the disciples speak of these very things in the Word. When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered:

You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31,Luke 10:27-28)

This teaching was not new. Those with trained ears heard the words of Moses coming from Messiah’s lips.

” Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-6)

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”. (Lev. 19:18)

To love the Lord, is to keep His commandments. For it says,

If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him”. (John 14::21) 

How many times have you quoted these scriptures to a challenger of your beliefs? Maybe you’ve even quoted them to someone that is curious about why you don’t eat pork. Is it wrong to quote scripture? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” What I am submitting to you is to consider the Spirit behind the commandments. The question I was confronted with not so long ago was, “Who in me, is keeping the commandments?” And the second internal question was, “Is this pleasing to my Elohim?” I hate to admit that I did not get an “A” on this test. My response to the first question was: Me. My answer to the second question was: Yes! Of course! I honestly couldn’t see anything wrong with my answers. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, at least by the letter.

Torah portion “Ekev” caused me to reevaluate my answers to this “test”. Ekev means heel. The heel is the lowest part of the body. It can be likened to the “nefesh” or “flesh”. For example, Jacob grasped the “heel” of Esau, who is the epitome of the beast or flesh. Jacob overcame the “heel” or flesh and was later named Israel. Hence, in portion Ekev, this is what stood out to me:

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. ‘you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day”. (Deut. 8:17-19) 

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land, whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deut. 9:4) 

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:6) 

The Father has delivered us from bondage, brought us to the wilderness to test us and show us love, and now He is giving us land flowing with milk and honey with houses that are already built and vineyards that have already been planted. But, be careful! Don’t forget who delivered you and brought you into this good land. The temptation is to think that it’s all about ME. To put it another way, one may think that they have this “keeping the commandments” thing all figured out.

It’s a deep, slippery pit when we haughtily begin to think, I’m the one following the commandments, so I have to be doing something right.” Or: “Maybe everyone should keep Shabbat and keep kosher just like me. If only everyone could see what I see. Sigh… Then we all could get along. Until then, I’ll separate myself from all these sinners.”

Yikes! Thoughts like this are very dangerous. The Father is the reason ANY of us keep the commandments. It is YHVH that gives us the strength and power to do anything. It is by His mercy that we even see one of these precious “Words” or “Utterances”. When we act out the commandments in our own strength, we are nothing more than a dry, parched branch needing to be burned. Yeshua reiterated this here:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6)

Fruit in the Greek concordance is karpos (2590), and can mean “the result of” or “result”. When we read the scripture from this point of view, what Yeshua actually states is, “He who remains in Me, and I in him bears much results. If you do not remain in Me, you are a branch that is withered and needs to be burned”. In the Greek, burned is kayo. [1] While this word is often translated as “burned”, it also means “light”,[2] which is reminiscent of these verses:

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your vision is clear, your whole body also is full of light. But when it is poor, your body is full of darkness. Be careful, then, that the light within you is not darkness”. Luke11:34-35 

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) 

We as a people, for the most part, focus on the literal application of the above scriptures. We tend to associate these things with those we deem on the “outside”. Few in Messianic circles argue that we each need Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice to inherit Life, which inspires obedience to the commandments. But our zeal often overshadows a vital component to our walk. The temptation is to forget the works of Messiah and focus on our own. When the emphasis shifts from Messiah’s loving salvation to our own works, the resurrection Spirit is left out and all that remains is a bag of fleshy letters. This “other” spirit has the tendency to put burdens on others in the Body because they begin to believe that they “know what’s best”. Unknowingly, the person working in the flesh is taking the life giving Torah and twisting it to bring death to the Body of Messiah.

Could this be one of the spiritual applications of “boiling a young goat in its mothers milk?”

“You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.” (Ex. 23:19) 

In Part II, we will continue with the notion that boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is rooted in first fruits that are not of Messiah, loving our brother, or the weightier matters of the Torah.

[1] Strong’s G2545

[2] It’s translated as “light” in Matthew: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Mt. 5:14-15)

Categories: Moedim, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


(In 2013, Elul began on the evening of August 6th)

elulThe Season of Teshuvah                                          

 Elul is the 6th month on the biblical calendar; it precedes the 7th month of Tishrei that contains the yamim noraim, the Awesome Days, we often refer to as the High Holy Days. Elul typically begins in August or September on the Gregorian calendar. In the year 2011, the 1st of Elul begins on the evening of August 30th. In Hebraic tradition, Elul begins the process of preparing ourselves for the coming yamim noraim (High Holy Days). While the traditions associated with Elul are not specified in the Bible, each custom has been carefully drawn from scripture to assist us in spiritual preparation for the upcoming Holy Days. The Word of G-d clearly admonishes us to be prepared for our coming King[1]. Therefore, it can only profit us to use every tool at our disposal.

 Mat 3:2-3  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (3)  For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”

Elul is called “the month of repentance,” “the month of mercy,” and “the month of forgiveness.” It follows the two previous months of Tammuz and Av, traditionally the months of the two great sins of Israel, the sin of the golden calf and the sin of the spies.  There are exactly 40 days from Elul 1st until Yom HaKippurim (the Day of Atonement) in our yearly feast cycle. Tradition states that Moses’ first trip up to Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:18) was on Shavuot (Pentecost) at the giving of the Ten Commandments. 40 days later, he smashes the tablets in response to the sin of the golden calf and then returns back up the mountain for an additional 40 days (Dt. 9:18,25) to plead for the lives of the Israelites on account of their sin. Moses returns a third time (Ex. 34: 28) for 40 days up the mountain to receive the second set of tablets on the 1st of Elul, returning on the 10th of Tishri, which is also Yom Kippur.

During Moses’ third 40 day period on the mountain, he requested to see to see YHWH’s glory (Ex. 33:18-23). And mercifully, YHWH complied, but with the stipulation, “You cannot see my face”. It was during this encounter that YHWH proclaimed His divine characteristics unto Moses. (Ex. 34: 6-7). Our Jewish brothers have broken these into the 13 attributes listed below.

Ex. 34:6-7  Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;  (7)  who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

1. YHWH! –G-d is merciful even before a person sins. Even though He is aware that future evil lies dormant within him.
2. YHWH! –G-d is merciful even after the sinner has gone astray.

3. G-d (El)–a title that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that G-d’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.
4. Compassionate (rahum)—G-d is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty and does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.
5. Gracious (v’hanun)—G-d shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it; consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.
6. Slow to anger (ereh apayim)—G-d gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.
7. Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)—G-d is kind toward those who lack personal worth, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, G-d tips the scales of justice toward the good.
8. Truth (v’emet)—G-d never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.
9.  Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)—G-d remembers the deeds of the righteous for the benefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).
10. Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)—G-d forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.
11. Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)—G-d allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.
12. Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)—G-d forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy.
13. Who does NOT pardon (lo yenaḳeh )— This is considered a good quality, since through punishment man is moved to repentance, after which he is pardoned and pure. G-d is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent.

Since Moses was given the revelation of YHWH’s glorious traits during the month of Elul which precedes the Day of Judgment and Atonement, it has been customary to incorporate the reciting of the 13 attributes during Elul. It is said[2] that this is the month that “the King is in the field”, instead of His Royal Palace. Therefore, “everyone whosoever desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all.” Although G-d always watches over the world, and is always waiting for our “return,” He is more accessible during the 40-day period beginning with the start of Elul and culminating in the first ten days of the Month of Tishrei. Why? Because He is looking forward to the yearly appointments He has with us during the fall feasts. In order to come into His presence we must first turn (repent). He must be anxiously waiting to hear our voice; ready to forgive us and sweep us into His loving arms.

Hence, it is easy to see that the primary purpose and theme during these 40 days is teshuvah (repentance). We are sinners in need of redemption; we throw ourselves on the mercy of the gracious King and grab hold of His salvation (Yeshua). This way, when our yearly appointed time (moed) to meet our maker arrives, we have prepared ourselves for His coming. We submit ourselves before our King and right any wrongs to our fellowman and our Father. Both play dominate roles in Elul’s activities. Maybe you think that you have no need of repenting; you believe you have no sin. If so, I urge you to use this time to humble yourself, search your heart, and ask the Father to reveal any hidden sin in your life.


Blowing the Shofar

There are several customs that are designed to assist us in our humbling process and to lead us to teshuvah (repentance). In Jewish synagogues and transversely in Torah observant believer’s homes, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown and heard as a call to repentance throughout the forty days of repentance. The shofar confuses HaSatan (the enemy), the prince and power of the air. When we blow the shofar, we release into the air (the enemy’s kingdom) a likeness of the voice of Yah[3]. This causes the enemy to scatter and confuses his camp. Likewise, it causes the faithful to come to repentance, calls us to battle, calls us to assemble, and will one day call us to resurrection[4]!

Reading Psalm 27

It has become a tradition to read Psalm 27 every morning and evening throughout the forty days of repentance. At first glance it may not be obvious as to why this particular Psalm was chosen; however, upon a close inspection, the motive becomes most transparent. The following rather long quote comes from an article on Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal has offered us a brilliant and contemplative explanation on Elul and Psalm 27. (Emphasis mine)

“… The first three verses increase numerically: two parallel phrases of five [Hebrew]words each, then six, then seven (that number hinting at completion). There follows the central word of the psalm, One. Facing all these threats, the psalmist feels the peace of unity, and throughout this first half the reader senses no doubt, no real threat.

How strange it is that the second half of the psalm depicts a world so totally opposite. Here we find a desperate search, a constant request, a pleading before the Holy One (“do not hide Your face … do not thrust [me] aside … do not forsake me, do not abandon me”). The author is abandoned by parents and surrounded by enemies. At the apex of this section, the psalmist cries out in agony, with a sentence he cannot finish, for it depicts the worst of all: “Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living ….”

Throughout the second half, the reader hears the echo of the central term: One. The psalmist cries out, demands, asks and pleads that his two worlds are one. I, the sufferer, depressed to the ultimate limits, am that same one who trusts, who is safe, who sits in the presence of the Lord.

Before we can approach repentance or the joy of the Holiday [fall feasts], we must honestly confront again our own faith and belief. Ever since our father Abraham, we have anticipated the rewards of God’s protection, but too often we have seen our trials and tribulations as challenges to our faith. The psalmist testifies once again that love of the Holy One is achieved, not by closing one’s eyes, but, even as with less significance loves, through effort, honesty, and open confrontation.

…The psalmist challenges us, for he did not hide from life’s troubles on one hand, and yet lives within a framework of faith on the other. Reciting this psalm demands that twice a day we struggle with ourselves and our faith, in expectation that we will arrive at the Days of Awe ready for repentance, ready to celebrate on the holiday with a full heart before the Lord…”

We can each find ourselves in David’s shoes and cry out this Psalm to our Maker. After meditating on these words day and night for forty days, one cannot help but find hope in our seemingly paradoxical human condition.

On the one hand, we trust YHWH with complete confidence in faith, but on the other hand we have another side at war with our faith. Our sin and/or the trials of life causes doubt to well up and threatens to overtake us. We cry out to Yah and plead that He hear our cry and never leave our side. In the end, we must realize that like David, we must take courage, look to, and wait upon YHWH. Aren’t these the very thoughts of the Apostle Paul?

Rom. 7:19-25  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  (20)  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (21)  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  (22)  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  (23)  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  (25)  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

This is what Elul and the forty days of repentance are all about. It is our preparation. Searching the depths of our own hearts and confronting the battle in our minds between our spirits and flesh, naturally brings us to repentance and thus prepared to boldly stand in our King’s presence at the moedim (appointed times/feasts).

Selichot Prayers

yomkippurAnother primary custom is to rise early and recite the Selichot, a series of penitential prayers and liturgy, up until Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets). Because YHWH showed favor to the children of Israel during this time (forgiving them of the sin of the golden calf) then, it is considered a favored time, and one in which our prayers are readily listened to and answered. We therefore say Selichot during this time, asking the Father for forgiveness and to find favor with us, so we can start the coming fall Holy Days in confidence.

The Selichot prayers are based on Moses’ 3rd trip up onto Mt. Sinai when YHWH revealed His primary characteristics, it has hints of Psalm 27, and tenderly refers to the Father as “Beloved” as in Song of Songs 6:3. We look to YHWH, for He is our salvation (Yeshua) and our Beloved. The following is a sample of the Selichot prayers.

May You forgive our iniquities and our errors and make us Your heritage. Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred; pardon us, our King, for we have willfully sinned; for You, my Adonai, are good and forgiving and abundantly kind to all who call upon You.

Let us lift our hearts with our hands to God in heaven. Let the groan of the prisoner come before You, as befits the greatness of Your power, release those condemned to die. To Yahweh our Elohim belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him.

As a Father has mercy on his children, so YHWH, may You have mercy on us. Salvation (Yeshua) is YHWH’s, upon Your people is Your blessing. Selah. YHWH, Master of Legions, is with us, a stronghold for us is the God of Jacob, Selah. Yahweh, Master of Legions, praiseworthy is the person who trusts in You. YHWH, save (Yeshua)! May the King answer us on the day that we call.

O Elohim, You are known in Israel to be great. You are YHWH, our Father are You. Whenever we call upon You, draw us close; You are exalted and uplifted among us. You have done us favors despite our guilt, not because of our righteousness and the uprightness of our heart. Our Beloved, though we have been forsaken, redeem us for we are servants. Our sins have brought us to the point of disintegration; our soul is impatiently awaiting You. Where are Your earlier kindnesses with us—that were faithful forever and ever? We have borne anger and our strength has ebbed— O Elohim, do not rebuke us in Your anger.

Forgive, though our sins testify against us; help us, for we depend on You. Bend our stiff neck to be subservient to You, so that we can serve and honor You with love and reverence. Those who think of You have sanctified designated fasts, their awareness is too limited to request their needs. May their whispered prayer come to You, heal every person’s wound and pain. The voice of Jacob moans from Your depths, may You hear in heaven the abode of Your dwelling.

We have become guilty; we have betrayed; we have robbed; we have spoken slander; we have caused perversion; we have caused wickedness; we have sinned willfully; we have extorted; we have accused falsely; we have given evil counsel; we have been deceitful; we have scorned; we have rebelled; we have provoked; we have turned away; we have been perverse; we have acted wantonly; we have persecuted; we have been obstinate; we have been wicked; we have corrupted; we have been abominable; we have strayed; You have let us go astray.

We have turned from Your commandments and from Your good laws but to no avail. Yet You are righteous in all that has come upon us, for You have acted truthfully while we have caused wickedness. Inspire our heart to abandon the path of evil and hasten salvation (Yeshua) for us, as it is written by Your prophet: May the wicked one abandon his way and the vicious man his thoughts; may he return to Yahweh and He will show him mercy, and to our God, for He is abundantly forgiving.

Answer us, YHWH, answer us; answer us, our Elohim, answer us, our Father, answer us, our Creator, answer us; answer us, our Redeemer, answer us; answer us, You who searches us out, answer us; answer us, the faithful God, answer us; answer us… The merciful One Who answers the poor, may He answer us. The Merciful One who answers the brokenhearted, may He answer us. The Merciful One who answers the humble of spirit, may He answer us. O Merciful One, answer us. O merciful One, pity. O Merciful One, redeem. O merciful One, deliver. O Merciful One, have mercy on us—now, swiftly and soon.

While these prayers are an excerpt from a Sephardi siddur, and they don’t believe Yeshua is the Messiah, it is obvious to me that they know YHWH is the only Savior[5] and that there is no sacrifice in the sacrificial system for willful sin. Willful sin requires us to throw ourselves on the mercies of G-d. We can only find hope in His precious grace. This concept isn’t “new” to the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), it is a truth that runs from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, may we also seek the Father on behalf of our Jewish brethren in this season to see YHWH’s salvation (Yeshua).

These prayers are very lengthy (as what is offered here is a small tidbit) and cover more areas of repentance than any one of us could recall in one sitting. How many believers do you know that diligently seek the Father with such devotion and detail on a regular basis[6]? These prayers aren’t “vain repetition” as some falsely accuse. Rather they are designed to aid us, to keep us focused, to keep our minds from wandering, to help us remember, and to help us repent.

We must not forget that YHWH is King and deserves reverence and respect. Many would go through extensive preparation to meet the president of the United States; learning proper ways to greet him, practicing proper etiquette in all areas of speech, dress, and manners. They would rearrange their schedules and obligations in order to have such an honored meeting.  How much more should we prepare to meet the King of Kings! The selichot prayers are one tool to help us in our endeavor.

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine     

elul-3The four letters of the name Elul are an acronym for the initial letters of the phrase in the Song of Songs (6:3): “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” “I am to my beloved” in repentance and complete desire to return to YHWH. “And my beloved is to me” with the Divine expression of grace found in His forgiveness.

Ani l’dodi v’dodi li (I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine), is a common phrase on wedding bands and other religious articles. If we are YHWH’s, then we are His bride. He desires an intimate relationship with us; one as familiar as a man and wife. When we sin, we are breaking our wedding vows (covenant) to our husband. The penalty should be death, but our husband is merciful, praise YHWH!

He bore our punishment for us on the tree. This is the most merciful act in the history of the world! We would be hopeless without His sacrifice. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and offered Himself for us—-His Beloved! He didn’t do this to give us new wedding vows, but to renew the one’s we broke. His vows (commandments) were perfect the first time around. The problem wasn’t with the vows, but with us—-our hearts. He promises to give us new hearts; hearts with the vows (Torah) written upon them.[7]

As we seek Him during the days of Elul, may we never forget that He is our King and we shall treat Him as such—-with great fear and reverence, but He is also our Husband, our kinsmen Redeemer, and our Savior. He loves us fervently and desires us to return (repent) to Him and spend eternity in His arms.

Ideas for Celebrating the Forty Days of Repentance

  1. Blow the shofar daily, or at least hear a recording of the shofar blast online.
  2. Read Ps. 27 every morning and every night.
  3. Set aside fast days once or twice a week (not on Shabbat) if you are physically able
  4. Pray and seek the Father for repentance. Ask Him to reveal hidden sin, sins against Him and our brothers/sisters. Make amends with the people we may have intentional or unintentional offended
  5. If you have an orthodox siddur, find the selichot prayers (sometimes transliterated as selichos) and read through them in your prayer time or use the small excerpt in this writing as a guide for your own free-will prayer. It may be helpful to write your prayers to keep your focus on YHWH

[1] Is. 57:14-15;Mt. 25; and countless other places in the scripture

[2] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

[3] Num. 10:9;  Judges 7: 21-22; Joshua 6:20; 2 Sam. 6: 15; Neh. 4:20; Ezek. 33: 3-6; Eph. 2:2; Rev. 1:10, 4:1

[4] 1 Thes. 4:16

[5] Is. 43:11

[6] These prayers are also used for days of fasting, which many Jews and Torah keepers do often, even weekly.

[7] Jer. 31:31-33; Hebrews 8: 8-12

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