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Chodesh Elul has the power to transform a Klalah (curse) into a Beracha (blessing). What is Beracha? Before Hashem wrote the Torah, all of the letters came and begged, “Please start the Torah with me.”

Hashem said, “I want to start the Torah with the letter Beit (the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet), which is the first letter of the word Beracha. Because if I start the world with blessing, it will survive.”

If something starts right, it will be a success.

But what happens if it didn’t, Chas v’Shalom?

The Sfat Emet says, preceding the letter Beit is Alef. That’s the first letter of the word anochi (me), the word we find in the opening of Parshat Re’eh. That’s the first letter of the Ten Commandmets. So even if you look back at the end of a year and you see that it didn’t seem to be a blessing, you’ve had challenges, difficulties, losses and very painful moments, remember that before the Beit comes the Alef. Simply put, Hashem’s Will comes before the Beracha. It is all up to Him. What is left for you to do? To beg. To plead, to ask and pray for the new upcoming year.

What should you ask for? Ask for the Beit, the Beracha, an abundance of blessing, and for the Alef for Hashem’s Presence in your life. It brings you to another realm, one that no one and nothing in the world can take away from you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbanit Sarah Laredo

The Power and Importance of Month of Elul

Elul is the month of repentance. With the end of the year fast approaching, the time to make a personal accounting has arrived. It is time to cast off all those bad habits we have become accustomed to over the course of the year and to make a new start.

On Rosh Hashana, Hashem sits on His Throne of Justice and considers all of the actions, words, and thoughts of the entire year.

According to this, He dispenses life to the entire human race, and determines what sort of year it will be - a year of blessing, or, heaven forbid, the opposite. All of the prayers and acts of repentance performed in month of Elul are intended to serve as a sort of preventative measure - a "medicine before the illness." For, so long as a Divine judgement has not yet been decreed, one still has the ability to nullify it very easily; yet, after the decree has been established, it is much more difficult to annul.

Therefore, the entire month of Elul, because it precedes the judgement of Rosh Hashana, is set aside for the purpose of improvement in Torah and faith, prayer and charity. Such preparation allows us to come before Hashem for judgement in a state of purity and cleanliness. This results in His blessing us and the entire world with a good New Year.

That these days are capable of bringing Divine forgiveness and pardon is also evidenced by the atonement granted the Jewish people after the Sin of the Golden Calf. For forty days after this transgression Moses and the Jews were rejected by Hashem and their prayers went unanswered, yet, when the first of Elul arrived, Hashem’s compassion poured forth and forty days of pardon began. This lasted until Yom Kippur, when Hashem said to Moshe: "I forgive according to your request."

Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch writes that from the first of Elul until Yom Kippur it is customary to recite Selichot (penitential prayers) and Tachanunim (supplications), and this, in fact, is our custom as Sephardic Jews.

As women, we all know how busy our days are, with our children and grandchildren, and according to the Halacha we are exempt from Selichot. But I invite you to come once this month to the Selichot services to get inspired by our traditional melodies and meaningful supplications.

Chodesh Tov!

Rabbanit Sarah Laredo

Ask the Rabbanit


Sun, August 19 2018 8 Elul 5778