Today, the first day of the Hebrew month Elul, Jews mark the beginning of the Penitential Season, the month that leads up to the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
In addition to the daily recitation of Psalm 27, the other distinguishing feature of the month is the sounding of the Shofar at the conclusion of every morning service. We sound the Shofar - the ram’s horn trumpet - every day until the day prior to Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashana, the Shofar is again sounded, and it is a key observance of that holiday to hear it.
The month of Elul is practice for the month to come. We are getting ready to hear that Shofar blast...and getting ready for the serious introspection that comes along with the High Holy Days.
There is a story that is told of a classroom in which students shared details of their various religious observances. David told his friends about how every year, the Jews would blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Mike talked about Holy Communion, and Rashid explained about the Fast of Ramadan.
After school, little Molly went home to her big house on top of the hill. When her brother Tom asked her how things went in school that day, she said, “Say what you want to about them Jews, but they sure are good to the help.”