Ellul, the final month of the Jewish year begins today. Ellul is not just a month; it's also a mood. It initiates the period of self-reflection and transformation which culminates in 40 days time on Yom Kippur.
The shofar is sounded in shul every weekday morning during Ellul as a summons to spiritual awakening.
Religious Jews will try to intensify good deeds, Torah study and refinement of character traits in anticipation of the Days of Awe.
According to the traditional chronology, the time of introspection and self- improvement from Rosh Chodesh Ellul until Yom Kippur corresponds to the 40 days which Moses spent on Mount Sinai when he received the Torah the second time around, having smashed the first tablets after the sin of the Golden Calf. This second revelation was given by virtue of the repentance and forgiveness which followed that betrayal.
This period becomes an eternal opportunity for greater closeness and intimacy with God.
The Kabbalists understand the initial letters of Ellul - aleph, lamed, vav, lamed - as an acronym for "ani l'dodi v'dodi li" ("I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine"), a verse which is taken from the Song of Songs.)
The month of Ellul is a time when we can recognise the obstacles which impede our relation with God. By taking steps to remove them, we can renew that connection.