ELUL , the post-Exilic name of the sixth month in the Jewish year. The name is Babylonian and was subsequently adopted in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. Its first occurrence in a Hebrew text is in Nehemiah 6:15. The zodiacal sign of this month is Virgo. In the present fixed calendar, it invariably consists of 29 days, and the first of Elul never falls on a Tuesday, a Thursday, or a Sabbath. In the 20th century, Elul in its earliest occurrence extended from Aug. 8 to Sept. 5 and in its latest from Sept. 6 to Oct. 4. The talmudic rule that Elul invariably consists of 29 days reflects the early endeavor to facilitate the prior calculation of the date of Rosh Ha-Shanah, i.e., the *New Moon of Tishri (the seventh month, which followed Elul, and was therefore directly determined by the length of Elul), and consequently also the dates of the other festivals occurring in that month. For the same reason, the New Moon of Elul was announced to Jewish communities by the messengers of the Sanhedrin (rh 1:3). Witnesses to the sighting of the New Moon of Elul were not permitted to travel on the Sabbath to report their sighting to the court in Jerusalem; the witnesses to the new crescent of Nisan and Tishri were so permitted (rh 1:4; cf. ej). In Temple times traveling on Sabbath was permitted to report the new crescent of all the months because of the Temple sacrifices (ibid.). According to some tannaim the first of Elul was to be considered a Rosh Ha-Shanah (beginning of a new year) in respect of the tithing of animals (rh 1:1; Bek. 9:5–6). There is a tradition that the seventh or 17th of Elul had once been observed as a fast, commemorating the death of those spies whom Moses had sent to Canaan and who brought back an evil report of the land (Num. 14:37; Tar. Jon., ibid.; Meg. Ta'an. 13, ed. Neubauer; Sh. Ar., oḤ 580:2, et al.).
As it precedes the *Ten Days of Penitence, Elul became a month of repentance and of special ascetic and devotional practices. A rabbinic homily derives an allusion to the name of the month from the initial letters of Ani le-Dodi ve-Dodi Li (Heb. אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי; "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine," Song 6:3), as describing the relationship between God and His people. The *shofar is sounded daily at the morning service (except on the Sabbath), and Psalm 27 is recited. In the Sephardi rituals *Selihot are also recited daily throughout Elul, whereas in the Ashkenazi ritual, they are recited only during the last four to nine days of Elul (Sh. Ar., oḤ 581). A similar liturgical divergence existed already in the geonic age (Tur., ibid., citing R. Hai Gaon). Rabbinic aggadah connects the special significance of Elul with the 40 days of Moses' stay on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28) which was calculated to have commenced on the first of Elul and ended on the tenth of Tishri (the Day of *Atonement, pdre 46).
S. Dominitz, Sefer Ramzei Elul…, 1 (1928).
[Ephraim Jehudah Wiesenberg]