Halacha for Sunday 30 Av 5781 August 8 2021

The Month of Mercy and Forgiveness-The Month of Elul

Today, Sunday, is Rosh Chodesh Elul (the first of a two-day Rosh Chodesh), which is the beginning of the Month of Mercy and Forgiveness.   

The Source for the Significance of the Month of Elul
It is taught in Pirkei De’Rabbi Eliezer: “For forty days on Mount Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu would read the written Torah during the day and study the oral Torah during the night. At the end of forty days, he took the Tablets and descended to the camp. On the Seventeenth of Tammuz he broke the Tablets and stayed in the camp for forty days until he burnt the Golden Calf and ground it as fine as the dust of the earth, killed anyone who had kissed the Golden Calf, uprooted the service of the Golden Calf from Israel, and established every tribe in its proper place. On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Hashem told Moshe, ‘Ascend the mountain to Me,’ for Hashem had indeed forgiven the Jewish nation. They sounded a Shofar through the entire camp to notify all that Moshe had ascended the mountain in order that they not stray after idolatry once again.” We see that on the day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, Hashem began forgiving the Jewish people. It was therefore established that these days would forever be days especially auspicious for forgiveness, atonement, and repentance.

The Custom of Selichot
Since on that day Hashem told Moshe to ascend in order to receive the second pair of Tablets, for He had forgiven the Jewish nation, Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews customarily arise early in the morning and make their way to the synagogue to recite Selichot (literally, “Forgiveness”) and supplication prayers beginning from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, which was the day Moshe descended the mountain and brought us the second pair of Tablets. Selichot are not recited on the night of Rosh Chodesh itself. Thus, this year, 5781, when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on Sunday and Monday, Selichot are recited beginning from Tuesday morning or from halachic midnight of Monday night. For many generations, people would wake up at the early hours of the morning in order to recite Selichot and they would reach lofty levels during the month of Elul while rousing themselves to repent completely for all of their deeds until the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when everyone would reach truly lofty spiritual levels through prayer and repentance. Even children of several years old would gather together in synagogues with their fathers early every morning and the spiritual atmosphere of the Days of Awe would rest upon everyone.

We have heard that even the women and daughters of the household of Hagaon Harav Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitz zt”l (a close friend of Maran zt”l, son-in-law of the great Tzadik Harav Aryeh Levine zt”l, and rabbi of the “Lifta” community, among others) would come to the synagogue for Selichot at the crack of dawn. Unfortunately, nowadays, only in the past generation or so has this wonderful custom become weak; it is incumbent on everyone to encourage himself and his household to strengthen themselves in prayer and repentance during the month of Elul.

Ashkenazi communities customarily do not recite Selichot beginning from Rosh Chodesh Elul; however, they do customarily blow the Shofar every day during this period after Shacharit services in order to awaken the Jewish nation to repent, as the verse (Amos, Chapter 3) states: “Shall a Shofar be sounded in a city and its people will not tremble?” Another reason for this custom is to confuse the Satan. Some communities sound the Shofar during Arvit services as well.

The Ashkenazi custom is to begin reciting Selichot from the Sunday (or Motza’ei Shabbat) preceding Rosh Hashanah. If Rosh Hashanah falls out on Monday or Tuesday, they customarily begin reciting Selichot from the Sunday of the previous week. Thus, this year, 5781, when Rosh Hashanah falls out on a Tuesday, Ashkenazim will begin reciting Selichot from the halachic midnight of the 21st of Elul, Motza’ei Shabbat Parashat Ki-Tavo.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha