The traditions and customs of Elul are centered on one thing—teshuvah, repentance. With the approach of Rosh Hashanah, the Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur, Elul is dedicated to preparing oneself for these appointed times. Everything from special prayers of s'lichot (forgiveness), the blowing of the shofar after shacharit morning prayers, renewing one's yearly giving of tzedakah (righteous giving), to reciting Psalm 27 as an additional daily prayer, Elul is a month filled with introspection, confession, and restitution.
It is at this time of year that we especially take a look at our relationships with brothers and sisters. Traditionally, this is the time of year when we put special effort into asking forgiveness from our brother if we know that we have offended him (obviously, this can be done any time of year). Our relationship with God is gauged by our relationships with others.
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
If there were ever a month that so encapsulated the message of the Good News, it would be Elul. Our Master came preaching repentance towards God and reconciliation between men. In parable after parable, our Master taught us to not limit the mercy of God, nor to think too highly of ourselves. After his ascension, the Apostles took his message to both Jews and Gentiles and wrote to the congregations that they should continue to love one another just as the Father loved them.
Can we honestly claim to be the heirs of this legacy? Do we seek to live at peace with all men and to love sacrificially? Do we die daily to bring others to the knowledge of God and forgiveness in Messiah Yeshua? Or have we become just as self-righteous and out of balance as those the Master rebuked in his day?
Take action this Elul. Ask forgiveness from those you have hurt. Make restitution to those you have cheated. If you bear a grudge against those who have sinned against you, forgive them of their debt, even if they don't deserve it for "this is God's will for you in Messiah Yeshua" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). By doing so, we imitate the attributes of our Creator.
The LORD, the LORD, God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in kindness and truth, who keeps kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, and who cleanses. (Exodus 34:6)