The inner circles of our Chai Elul Meditation Wheel are based upon the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that on the last 12 days of Elul (the last 12 days of the Jewish year), beginning with "Chai" [18] Elul, we should strive to do teshuva for each of the preceding twelve months of the year. Accordingly, on the 18th of Elul:

  • we review our behavior of the previous Tishrei (the month the High Holidays which began the current year),
  • pinpoint and reflect upon those areas that need improvement, and
  • resolve to do better.

On 19 Elul we work on the month of Cheshvan, on 20 Elul the month of Kislev, etc., until 29 Elul, Erev Rosh HaShanah, the last day of the year, when we dig into Elul itself, the month that is drawing to a close. Thus, we make ourselves worthy of being inscribed for a good and sweet year.

In the outer rings we listed the tribe, astrological sign, sense, and sefira-channel associated with each month [from Sefer Yetzira 5:2 (one of the earliest works of Kabbalah). This can be useful in determining which aspects of our lives to focus on each month.

We also added the tzirufim [permutation of letters] of G‑d's four letter name associated with each Jewish month (based on Pardes Rimonim Gate 21, ch. 14-16, a basic Kabbalah work written by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in Tzefat in the middle 1500’s). Note that the letter ק was substituted for each instance where there should be a ה in order to avoid problems of destroying, defacing or discarding a print-out of it.

It may seem to be a coincidence that this final 12 day period begins on Chai Elul, the Baal shem Tov’s birthday, but it is not. The Chassidic teaching referred to above also mentions that the day is Chai ["life"] Elul not just because it is the 18th of the month, but also because its significance and the spiritual activity it inaugurates [as above] injects life vitality into Elul!

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Similarly, there is another Chassidic teaching [Likutei Sichot, vol. I] that 3 - 9 Tishrei, the seven days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, should be utilized to employ the same process of review, pinpoint, reflect and resolve, but this time according to the days of the week. In the new year, 3 Tishrei falls on Monday: think about what you did on the Mondays of the previous year, etc. Iy doing this we not only redeem the old year, but also get the new year off to a good start as well. For this reason it is customary [see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 130:1-2] to be extra careful concerning mitzvah-observance during these days.

Graphic and similar article first published in Ascent Quarterly #16, Elul 5749 (Fall 1989).

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