The entire month of Elul, the Feast of Rosh Hashanah, and the nine days separating Rosh Hashanah from Yom Kippur are traditionally days of repentence and fasting in Judaism. Not that one is expected to fast the entire forty-day period (though Yeshua evidentially did after His mikvah), but that partial fasts and shorter full fasts are very common during this time. It was probably these forty days of t’shuva, repentence, that inspired the Catholic tradition of forty days of Lent leading up to Easter.
I’ve written on Hebrewroot and in my book about the prophetic significance of the Feasts of the Lord–or, to translate Mo’edei Hashem more literally, the Eternal One’s Appointments. Those who wish to understand the prophecies of the Scripture need to understand how the Feasts of Israel fit together with the journey of the Exodus.
I’ve written before about Tisha B’Av and how the tragedy and judgment of the Golden Calf have followed Israel through the centuries. Exodus 32:7-11 tells us how after that sin and after the Holy One announced that He would not dwell among Israel because of that idolatry, Moses removed the Tent of Meeting outside the camp so that those who wished to inquire of the Eternal had to go out to do so. And yet, Moses did not abandon Israel, but continued interceding for Israel that God would forgive us and restore His Presence to our midst (vv. 12ff). Finally, God called Moses back up the mountain (34:1f), where Moses stayed with Him for another forty days, fasting and interceding for Israel (v. 28) while God wrote again His covenant on a second set of tablets. The rabbis teach us that it was on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, that Moses descended again with the two new tablets, the sign that the Holy One had forgiven Israel and restored His full Covenant-relationship with us.
In the same way, the Temple was taken from Israel for the sins of idolatry and unwarrented hatred (b.Yoma 9b; see here for more details). The place of meeting was taken outside the camp, so to speak, and into the hearts of the faithful remnant. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1Co. 6:19). It is to the Church’s shame that so few have followed the example of both Moses and the Messiah in interceding unceasingly for Israel until the day when the Holy One will restore her.
Prophetically, the month of Elul has a dual significance. Not only does it reflect to a large extent Israel in the present–lacking the Sh’khinah dwelling among the nation, but not lacking the Intercessor petitioning His Return–but it also hints at a time when the Body of that Intercessor will be taken up to the Heavenly Mountain. We’ll look more at this event as we draw closer to Rosh Hashanah.
Spiritually, this is a time of repentance, but also a time of testing. The Adversary is doing everything he can to destroy Israel or to try to provoke God into casting her away. Many Messianics feel an extra amount of spiritual oppression at this time of year, as the Adversary tries to pull us away from the repentance and reconciliation of the High Holy Days. This is a time when we need to be holding each other up in prayer.