“Ani ledodi vedodi li” : “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). The first letters of the four Hebrew words comprising this verse spell the word Elul, which is the name of the Hebrew month preceding the High Holy Days. In this month of Elul Israel strengthens itself through the process of teshuvah (repentance), and thereby draws close to their beloved, G-d. At this time G-d also draws close to Israel, extends His hand to her, and draws her close.
These four words whose first letters spell the name of the month all end with the Hebrew letter “yod”. The numerical value of the letter “yod” is ten, and 4 x 10 = 40. This indicates the fourty days from rosh chodesh Elul (the first day of the month of Elul) until Yom Kippur. These days are set aside for teshuvah.
There is another verse where the first letters of four of its words (“et levavcha ve’et levav…”) also spell the name of the month Elul: “The L-rd your G-d will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your offspring…” (Deuteronomy 30:6). In the month of Elul G-d assists a person to do teshuvah.
There is also a third verse where the first letters of four of its words (“Ish lere’aihu umatanot le’evyonim…”) spell the name of the month, Elul: “…Sending presents, each person to his friend, and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22). This indicates that the month of Elul is a time to increase the giving of charity. Charity, together with teshuvah and prayer, nuetralize an evil decree.
As Elul is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is a month of repentance and spiritual preparation. A verse in the Song of Songs, and inscribed on many decorative wedding bands, reads Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li, meaning “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” The rabbis interpret the love expressed in Song of Songs as the subliminal and mutual love between God and the people of Israel. The first letters in the Hebrew phrase form the acronym Elul, the month before us; the verse is thus associated with the spiritual dimension of the month, with its emphasis on repentance and renewal of one’s love for and closeness to God.
The word Elul is a construct of an Aramaic word which means to contemplate, examine, analyze. For example, it is used in the translation of the verse, “…They searched the Land” (Numbers 13:21). The month of Elul is set aside for mental contemplation and examination of the deeds of the entire year. A person should search and analyze his misdeeds in order to uproot the evil tendencies in his heart and return to God.
Song of songs is a Hebrew grammatical construction denoting the superlative; that is, the title attests to the greatness of the song, similar to the lord of lords, the king of kings or holy of holies (used of the inner sanctuary of the Jerusalem temple). Rabbi Akiba declared, Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worth the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and Song of Songs is holy of holies. (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5). Similarly, Martin Luther called it das Hohelied (the high song).”