Elul is a gateway month. It is the gateway between the year that was and the year that will be. It is also a month of action, even though it may be appear to be a month of introspection.
One of the first thing people learn when they begin to study the month of Elul is that the word is considered to be an acronym for אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3). Knowing that it is not surprising that the Mazal, astrological sign of the month, is the Betulah, the maiden. It is also not surprising that there are no holidays in this month. Because who plans anything for the month before their wedding (e.g. Rosh Hashanah)? Definitely not the organized Virgo!
Elul is a month of gathering in and preparing. Think of the letter of the month, the humble Yud. It is a spark of divine fire. This is the month of gathering in those divine sparks, to be preparing for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. This month we gather in the sparks, and prepare; and nothing else. We take stock and prepare ourselves for the big day.
Rosh Chodesh Elul also holds a place of honor as one of the four new years. According to Mishnah Rosh Hashanah, Rosh Chodesh Elul is the new year of cattle. This probably means that it was when the tithe on cattle was due, but in our current era and can mean much more. Consider spending Elul thinking about your relationship to the animals in the world — especially those that feed us. Do you know where the meat you eat comes from? Even if its kosher, do you know how the animal was treated in life? Most of us don’t give a second thought to that burger, but the month Elul asks us to do just that. As we look toward Rosh Hashanah, we must consider our relationship with all of G!(d)dess’ creatures.
As I said at the beginning, Elul is a gateway. We see this in both the Netivah of the month and the tarot card of the month. The Tzovah is the priestess, but she is better understood as the guardian at the gateway. The High Priestess card shows us just this — the woman sitting in between the pillars of Solomon’s Temple (Boaz and Jachin). She is the mezuzah on your doorpost to the new year. The Tzovah is here to guide you on the journeys possible in Elul.
No matter how you choose to explore Elul, remember that at the heart of it is love. I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי You are the beloved.