According to the Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a sign of the zodiac, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a meaning, and a corresponding bodily response.
The month of Elul – Month of repentance and mercy
Elul is the sixth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar. It is called the “month of repentance”, “month of mercy” and “month of forgiveness”.
Elul follows the months of Tammuz and Av, the months in which Israel’s two great sins were committed, that of the golden calf and that of the spies. The four-letter word Elul is an acronym for the first letters of the phrase in of Song of Solomon (6:3):
- “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.”
- “I am for my beloved” in full repentance and desire to return to my soul’s roots in God.
- “And my beloved is for me” divine expression of forgiveness and mercy.
In the month of Elul, “the King is in the field”. Anyone can approach Him and He makes His face shine towards all.
Elul is the month of preparation for the great feasts of Tishrei, during which Moses ascends Mount Sinai for the third time in forty days, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, when he descends with a second “Tablet of Testimony”.
These were days when God revealed His great mercy to the Jewish people. In “small numbering”, Elul = 13, an allusion to the 13 principles of divine mercy revealed during the month of Elul.
Red color, letter Yud
The letter Yud is the first letter of the Tetragrammaton, Havaiah, God’s essential name, that of mercy. It is also the final letter of the name Adnut, which includes havai’ah to reveal and express it in the world.
Yud is the beginning (the essence of Divine mercy, Havaiyah) and the end (of the manifestation of Divine mercy, Adnut).
All created forms begin with an important “point” of energy and life force, the letter Yud. The end of the creative process is likewise a “point” of culmination and delight, a Yud. “In the beginning, God created…” It is the initial point, “and God finished on the seventh day …” It is the final point.
Hebrew word Yud
Yud has the same root as “hand” (iad). The sages thus interpret the verse:
“Even My hand has made the earth, and My right hand has brought forth the heavens,” meaning that “God stretched out His right hand and created the heavens, and stretched out His left hand and made the earth.” “The right hand is the starting point and the left hand is the end.”
In these verses, the left hand (“My hand, without any clarification of right or left”) comes before the right hand. This coincides with Hillel’s view that “the earth precedes [the heavens].” The earth interprets the consummation of Creation, “the last in action is the first in thought.”
Yud of Elul
The Yud of Elul is, in particular, the left hand, it is the controller of the sense of the month, sense of action, and correction.
It is the final point of the Creation that reaches its final goal, the Yud of Adnut, it dazzles perfectly in the created reality, the Yud of Havaiyah.
Mazal, betulah (Virgo)
The betulah represents God’s beloved bride, Israel, the betrothed of the Song of Songs, who says to her lover “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me”.
The word betulah appears for the first time in the Torah and is the only time describing a specific woman, praising our matriarch Rebecca, before her marriage to Isaac.
In Kabbalah, the liaison of Isaac and Rebecca symbolizes the spiritual service of invocation and devotion to God. Isaac (Yitzchak = 208) plus Rebecca (Rivka = 307) = 515 = tefillah, “prayer”. In Hasidut the verse “I am for my beloved and my beloved for me”, alludes to the prayer service of the month of Elul.
Virgin of Elul (Rebekah)
The “virgin” of Elul (Rebekah) gives birth (retroactively, concerning the order of the months of the year) to the twins of Shivan (Jacob and Esav, the sons of Rebekah).
The first tablets given in Shivan were broken (due to sin), and the second tablets given to Moses in Elul (the month of repentance) remained intact. Repentance is identified in Kabbalah with the mother (in Rebecca in particular). “Mother corresponds to the sefirah of Binah = 67 = Elul.”
In Kabbalah, the “mother” remains forever a “virgin” (spiritual plane). In a continuous state of teshuvah and tefillah, her “ever new” union with the “father” never ceases – “two companions who never depart”.
Such is to be the state of the bride and groom here below with the coming of the Messiah. “Father” and “mother” are the first two letters of Havaiah – “upper union”; “bridegroom” and “bride” or “son” and “daughter” correspond to the second pair of letters of Havaiah – “the lower union”.
Betulah also symbolizes the “virgin land,” the land of Israel, destined to marry the people of Israel, as the prophet explains:
“As a young man betrothed a virgin, so shall thy children betroth thee [the land of Israel]”
Here we see the sons marrying the “Mother Earth” which is still “Virgin Land”. The land represents the correctness of the action, the meaning of the month of Elul.
Gad shares its grammatical root with “camps,” as in the verse where the patriarch Jacob blesses his son Gad.
“Gad shall organize [literal camp] camps [of the army], and he shall return with all his camps”
Gad’s singular talent is to arrange a “company.”
Gad can also be interpreted as “luck.” Being God’s beloved bride is Israel’s true “happiness,” and this is demonstrated by our good deeds, especially those aimed at correcting our shortcomings and building us up as a bride for her husband.
The “good fortune” of Gad in Kabbalah refers to the thirteen principles of mercy manifested in this month to awaken the soul from its origin (its “good fortune”) to return to God.
Gad = 7. He was the 7th son of Jacob. Mazal and is the most common word for “good fortune” = 77. The middle letter of mazal is zain = 7.
When the two letters gimmel dalet forming the name Gad (7) are substituted for the letter zain (7) of mazal, the word Migdal is formed, and “tower” expresses the verse:
“A tower [migdal = 77] of power [oz = 77] is the Name of God, in which the tzaddik shall march and be exalted.”
In Kabbalah, the “tower of power” represents the betulah of Elul, the root-soul and mazal of the Jewish nation. The tzaddik, the betrothed, marches with all his power, to access the “tower of power”.
Action as meaning
Action is the inner meaning and “knowledge” by which any imperfection or broken state of the soul can be rectified through benevolent actions.
That is the essential meaning of the spiritual service of the month of Elul, repentance, and true submission to God. So, it involves the action of never despairing. This is the “point”, the Yud of Elul, of Divine service, without which one can never begin an action or finish it.
This connotation is the tendency to repair a broken object (“save” a situation) rather than get rid of it. Add to that a sense of organization and management of complex systems (such as Gad, the Elul tribe meaning “camp” and “Company”).
The Yud of Elul is said, “By wisdom [the point of the Yud] God made [rectified] the land [the sense of action].”
Left hand as the controller
As noted above, God stretched out his left hand to create the earth, and “In wisdom, God created the earth” [Proverbs 3:19].
The right hand (the more spiritual of the two hands), was the one with which He made the heavens – “Lift your eyes and see Who created this” – (the inner, spiritual dimension of reality) controls the sense of vision, and the left (physical) hand controls the sense of action.
Mitzvah (commandment of action) of tefilin shel yad (phylacteries of the hand) is done on the left arm and the right-hand places them on the left, i.e., “sees” its actions performed on the left.
It is the left hand that touches our heart, it teaches us that all corrective action has its beginning in the good intentions and feelings of the heart.
With information from the Gal Einai Institute