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The Torah instructs us to appoint honest and wise judges in each city, stating, “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof – You shall surely pursue righteousness.” Based on this, the official stamp of the great sage Rabbi Akiva Eiger had a picture of a scale with the aforementioned verse underneath.

The signet of the great kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Azulai o.b.m., was a drawing of a ship, because on his trip from Morocco to Israel, the ship that he was traveling on sunk and he was miraculously saved. In order to recall the miracle, his signet was drawn in the shape of a ship.

Drawings and symbols acting as official seals on documents came up recently in the Daf Yomi. The Talmud discusses how the two male witnesses sign on a Get – document of divorce. At the bottom of the handwritten Get, the first witness writes his name followed by “the son of” and his father’s name, followed by the word Eid – witness. The second witness writes his name beneath the first witness in the same fashion.

The Talmud then relates that great Sages signed official Beis Din – court – documents with a symbol.  Rav, signed his name by drawing a fish. Rav Chanina, signed his name in the shape of a palm branch. Rav Chisda signed with the single letter Samach. Rav Hoshia signed with the letter Ayin, and Rabbah bar Rav Huna signed by drawing the sail of a ship.

Commentators point out that these symbols were only valid because the particular courts where they were processed were familiar with their signature, and was not subject to ‘identity theft.’

Commentators also point out the significance of the drawings the particular Sages chose. The Talmud, in another place, tells us that Rav was particular to honor the Shabbos with fish. Rav Chanina honored the Shabbos with dates (palm). Rav Chisda used the letter Samach of his name for the word Samach means to rely upon. Rav Hoshia used the letter Ayin of his name. The word Ayin means to look, the Ayin symbolized that he looked over the document. Rabba bar Rav Huna signed with the sail of ship to allude to the fact that just as the sail directs the ship, so too, our Sages’ directives direct the masses in the correct path.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. The Aramaic word Elul means introspection. Interestingly, the acronym of the word Elul, forms the beginning letters of four successive words found in verses in Tanach.

The most well-known is, Ani Ledodi V’Dodi Li (Elul) – I am to My Beloved and My Beloved is to me, which alludes to the closeness to G-d which we are to feel during the month of Elul and the ten days of repentance. . Kitzar Shulchan Oruch tells us that the verse also alludes to one of the three things that we call out in unison during the Mussaf of the Holidays which removes harsh decrees. We say, U’Teshuva, U’Tefilla U’Tzdaka. The verse Ani Ledodi alludes to Tefilla – Prayer – as prayers are an expression of song and praise from a beloved to the Beloved.

Another verse that has the acronym of Elul is when G-d tells us to remove and peel away the layers of our heart that prevent us from repentance, Es Levavcha V’es Leval (Elul) – Your heart and the heart – of your offspring. This of course alludes to Teshuva – repentance.

The next verse comes from the Megilla of Esther when it speaks of the law of giving parcels of food and charity to the poor. The verse states, Ish Lerai’aihu U’matonos L’evyonim (Elul) – a man to his friend and charity to the poor. This of course alludes to Tzedaka – charity.

I was wondering, why does the month of Elul have encoded within its name a series of acronym symbols that display our opportunities to draw closer to G-d in preparation for the High Holidays?

As was pointed out previously, a symbol, whether it is a drawing or a letter serving as a signature, displays the uniqueness and identity of the signer, without him even writing his full name. When one saw that symbol on legal documents they immediately associated it with the dependable person behind the signature.

Perhaps, the word Elul was chosen for this month to stand as an acronym code serving as a unique symbol which hints at the bond that exists between each one of us and the Almighty. The mere utterance of the code word Elul intrinsically reminds us to take advantage of our loving relationship with G-d which is deepened through Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzadaka. What an awesome gift and opportunity!