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    40 days to Yom Kippur – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why is the month of Ellul so important?

    A. As the lead-up to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, it is the means of warming ourselves up emotionally, spiritually and intellectually for the awesome days ahead.

    The commentators find this message in the very name of Ellul. Alef lamed vav lamed are the initial letters of Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li – “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” (Shir HaShirim 6:3), suggesting our closeness to God at this time of year.

    They are also the initials of Ish L’Re’ehu Umattanot La’evyonim – “Each turns to his neighbour and gives support to the needy” (Esther 9:22), symbolising peace between human beings.

    It is no coincidence that there are forty days from Rosh Chodesh Ellul to Yom Kippur. Like the forty days and nights of Noah’s flood, this is a time of cleansing and catharsis.

    According to Jewish thinking, it takes forty days for the human embryo to take shape; similarly we are given forty days each year for our lives to take shape and be prepared for the future.

    The forty days from the beginning of Ellul are one of God’s great gifts.

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