Elul is the 6th Biblical month in the agricultural calendar (counting from Nisan). On the civil calendar it is the last month of the year (counting from Tishri). It corresponds to our months of August/September.
Traditionally, the month has 29 days (since the adoption of the Hillel II calendar). As the last month of the year, in the civil calendar, it is a time of New Year resolutions and expectations for a new year. It is mentioned by name in Nehemiah 6:15.
In Jewish tradition creation began on the 25th day of Elul and ended 6 days later on Tishri 1.
The word elul is similar to the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic. Hence, the idea of “soul-searching” during this month. Others believe the word may have come from the Akkadian word for “harvest”.
It is believed that on the 1st day of Elul that Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to be given a second set of tablets containing the 10 words, or ten commandments. The first set of tablets had been broken at the sin of the golden calf. He came back down the mountain 40 days later on Yom Kippur. It was during this time that Moses received assurance that God had forgiven the people of their sins which were committed during the golden calf incident. Because of this the month of Elul is considered to be a national time of introspection and repentance.
The whole month of Elul and the first 10 days of Tishri (historically 40 days) are called “yemei ratzon” the “days of favor”. Elul is also often called, “the month of redemption”, “the month of mercy”, and “the month of forgiveness”.
Every day of Elul, except on a Shabbat, a shofar is blown and special Psalms are recited in preparation and anticipation of the High Holidays coming in the month of Tishri.
The 40 days between Elul 1st and Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) are known as the “40 days of Teshuva”. Teshuva comes from the root word shuv meaning “to turn back”. In English we may say a time of repentance but it actually equates to much more than that in Hebrew. It denotes that one was on the right path but erred. Now, one must “turn” or “turn back” and go back towards God and away from the evil that caused them to err. This turning can redirect the destiny of that person. The prophet Ezekiel explains this turning back quite well in Ezekiel 18:21-23. The word “shuv” is used in these scriptures to denote a “turning” back to God and His instructions.
In Jewish tradition there are 4 basic steps to teshuva (repentance or turning back):
Forsake the sin
Regret the breach
Confess the truth
This closely resembles the Christian belief of the ABC's of repentance:
Admit – that you are a sinner, have regret for sins committed, and forsake that sin
Believe – that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Son of God and was sent by the Father to pay our sin debt
Confess – faith in salvation through the work of Yeshua and walk in that salvation
Next month, Tishri, is one of the most important months. The first 10 days of the month tie in quite nicely with the month of Elul during the “10 days of Awe”. Elul is full of anticipation of the coming month.