Things you can listen, read and do to get in the Elul mindset

Elul is the last month of the Jewish calendar year. This year, it began on Friday, August 26, and culminates with the start of Rosh Hashanah

Traditionally, Elul is meant to be used as a time for introspection and reflection. The point of Elul is to set the tone for the High Holiday period. It’s all about taking personal stock of the past year and thinking about the year ahead.

During this period, leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Jews engage in cheshbon hanefesh (“an accounting of the soul”). The entire month is a ‘preparatory period’ to make repentance more meaningful, genuine and intentional. 

With that said, here are some activities to help get you started.

Listen to a podcast

Want to get into the Elul mood but don’t have the time to read a book or attend a lecture? A podcast might be the perfect solution. Listen to one of these 8 shows focused on a different aspect of the High Holidays.

Read a book

If you’ve got some time to crack open a book, there are plenty that touch on themes relating to the High Holiday period.

These are some of our staff picks:

Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life–in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There) by Sarah Hurwitz

Choosing a Jewish life by Anita Diamant

The Art of T’shuva – The Teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook: Commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman

As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holy Days by Shimon Jacobson

Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays by  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks  (Author)

“Entering the High Holy Days: A Complete Guide to the History, Prayers, and Themes” by Rabbi Reuven Hammer

What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? By Michal Oshman

Watch a video

Unpacked has got plenty!

Journal or meditate

Meditating is a great practice for thoughtful reflection during the month of Elul. Take time to pause and reflect on the past year, remember the different moments, events and experiences you may have already forgotten, and begin to picture yourself in the year ahead.

It might also be meaningful to put these thoughts onto paper by taking up a journaling practice during the month of Elul. Journaling, in general, can be a helpful tool for personal expression, honoring your emotions, and sorting through your thoughts. 

Some things to journal about during this time:

  • Things you would have done differently over the past year
  • Challenges you overcame
  • People from whom you may seek forgiveness
  • Goals and intentions for the coming year

Attend a shiur (lesson/lecture)

Check your local synagogue or community center’s catalog for lessons, lectures or upcoming events about Elul and the High Holidays. 

You can also find online lessons, like this one: 

Put on a playlist

Listen to an Elul playlist, or make your own with songs that relate to introspection, reflection or forgiveness.

Recite selichot

Selichot are communal prayers of repentance, said during the High Holiday season or on Jewish fast days. 

Sephardic Jews begin reciting selichot on the second day of the Hebrew month of Elul, while Ashkenazi Jews start reciting them on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.

How will you be marking Elul? Let us know on InstagramTwitter, and TikTok!

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