Numerous meaningful abbreviations based upon acronyms of verses in the Bible have been associated with the Hebrew month of Elul. For example: Ani L'dodi V'dodi Lee--"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." (Song of Songs 6:3); Et L'vavcha V'et L'vav "Your heart and the heart of your offspring": (Deuteronomy 30:6), and many others.
Another allusion to Elul in the acronym form is the phrase Echad L'olah V'echad L'chatat, "One for a burnt offering (olah) and one for a sin offering (chatat)," which appears three times in the Torah. However, there are differences in the order of the two sacrifices.
At the end of the Torah portion of Vayikra it is written (Leviticus 5:7): "And if he is not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass which he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, to God, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering," Echad L'chatat V'echad L'olah; note the chatat is placed before the olah. In the beginning of the Torah portion Tazria (in the portion discussing the woman who has given birth) the Torah states (Leviticus 12:8): "And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons; one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering," Echad L'olah V'echad L'chatat. Here the olah precedes the chatat. Finally in the Torah portion Naso, discussing the (defiled) Nazir, it is stated (Numbers 6:10): "And on the eighth day [of his unclean period] he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons?one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering," Echad L'chatat V'echad L'olah. Chatat appears before olah.
The Sages explain (Zevachim 90a) that in fact the chatat always precedes the olah. "To what can this be compared? To an advocate who enters in order to appease. Once the advocate has appeased, a gift is then brought in." The advocate is the chatat that intends to appease, whereas the olah is the gift, since it is sacrificed to God in its entirety (no parts are eaten). If so, one might ask, why in Tazria, discussing the woman who has given birth, is the olah placed before the chatat, Echad L'olah V'echad L'chatat?
The Sages reply that the olah is first in the Torah recitation. However, in the order of sacrifice, the chatat precedes the olah." According to Kabbalah and Chassidut, the "recitation" reflects a drawing down of the Supernal Infinite Light from "above to below"-- "as a person calls to his friend to come to him, or as a small child calls to his father to come and join him." In contrast, the actual "sacrifice" reflects an act of spiritual elevation from "below to above"--"the secret of the sacrifice ascends to the secret of the Infinite One."
An important principle in the Torah is that in any binary phenomenon of two differing or even antithetical features, there should be an inter-inclusion of the two aspects such that the two become four. In our case, this would indicate that in each of the two "movements"--of "drawing down" and "elevating"--there should be an inter-inclusion of both aspects. Indeed we note that in both orderings, that of "recitation" (in Tazria) and of "sacrifice" (in the two other portions), the Torah includes both forms of sacrifice: olah and chatat.
The word olah derives from the Hebrew word for "elevation." Indeed the entire sacrifice is offered to God--burnt on the altar. The chatat serves a "drawing down" function. Through acts of consumption by the altar and the priests, the owner of the sacrifice (the sinner) receives atonement and favor from God. God's Supernal Light descends to the place of the sinner in order to renew his essential existence, to create him as a new, pure creation. In the words of King David: "Create in me a clean heart, O' God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalms 51:12).
Specifically in the verse of "recitation" (that reflects the spiritual process of drawing down from above)--"one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering," we note that the olah, the spiritual service of elevating from below to above (seemingly the opposite of "drawing down"), precedes the chatat, which reflects the actual process of drawing down in order to purify the sinner. However, we may understand this apparent paradox by means of the secret of an earlier verse in the Torah portion: "If a woman has conceived seed and born a son" (Leviticus 12:2), which the Sages explain as indicating that "if the woman conceives seed first, a son will be born" (Berachot 60a).
There is a well-known allusion: Isha Mazriah T'chilah "a woman conceives seed first" is an acronym for the Hebrew word for "truth" (EMeT). The secret behind this allusion is that "He [the male principle, which reflects the drawing down from above to below] is truth." This teaches us that the male's ability to draw down is dependent upon the "truth" of "the woman conceiving first." This is the spiritual work of "calling out (reciting) in truth"--"God is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth" (Psalms 145:18; see also Tanya, end of chapter 37).
The constellation associated with the month of Elul is Virgo; the virgin is a symbol of the spiritual root of the Jewish people. In the true, final redemption by the Mashiach--may he come speedily--the virgin of Israel will conceive and give birth to a male--"His name will be Tzemach (similar to the Hebrew root for "sprout" and "growth") and from beneath him, he will sprout" ("truth will sprout from earth").
In the inner work of self-rectification, the olah sacrifice (completely to God) reflects the effort to "set God before me always" (Psalms 16:8). The chatat sacrifice reflects the inner work of seeing that "my sin is before me always" (Psalms 51:5). The need to unify and inter-include these two forms of sacrifice--two forms of service--is hinted at by a numerical allusion: the value of Havayah (God's essential Name) and "my sin" (חטאתי) = "always" (תמיד); 26 plus 428 = 454.
It is brought in chassidic works that in the month of Elul we rectify the form of the Hebrew letter alef in the soul; the alef is the form of the "image of God" used in the creation of man. The form of the alef includes a yud (10) above, a yud (10) below and a diagonal line--a vav (6) that connects--in the middle (yud plus yud plus vav = 26 = Havayah). As is known, on the outer periphery of the altar there was a "red line" in the middle that served to separate between blood that was to be sprinkled on the higher part and the lower part of the altar. The key part of any sacrifice was the offering of the blood upon the altar. The blood of animal sin offerings was sprinkled above; that of animal burnt offerings was given below. However, in bird sacrifices (such as "two turtle-doves" and "two young pigeons") the opposite placement was required: the blood of bird sin offerings was given below, while for burnt offerings of birds, the blood was presented above the red line. (As a bird offering is brought when one cannot afford an animal offering, or, in the case of the nazir, when one has involuntarily become defiled, it is considered "second" with regard to an animal offering. Thus, in the case of the sin offering, the "motion" on the altar, from "first" to "second"--from animal to bird--is from above to below, whereas in the case of the burnt offering the "motion" on the altar is from below to above). Blood above, blood below, and a line in the middle alludes to the form of the alef, the form of the human being (adam = alef dam [blood])
In the secret of the letter alef, we learn that the lower yud symbolizes the power of the soul to run forth (ratzo), the process of elevation from below to above, the olah sacrifice, and one's awareness to "set God before me always." The upper yud hints at the power of the soul to return (shov), the process of drawing down from above to below, the chatat sacrifice, and one's awareness that "my sin is before me always." The vav in the middle hints at the soul's ability to contain and sustain paradox. This is the power to balance and join together the two contradictory movements of "running" and "returning." This vav is the secret of the Torah; numerically "Torah" (611) = "running and returning" (ratzo v'shov).
Seemingly, at first glance, one would expect that remembering to "set God before me" should be the higher level and that "my sin is before me" should be the lower level (the "running" upwards to God is above while the "return" downwards to practical human reality is below). Indeed, in the two verses of "sacrifice" where the chatat precedes the olah (the attorney precedes the gift)--"one for a sin-offering and one for a burnt offering"--the chatat hints at the lower yud of the alef while the olah hints at the higher yud. (In any service to a master, the logical order is from "below" to "above"). Still this is a relatively external level of understanding the form of the letter alef (this is the alef at the level of actual deed), where the "running" is from above and the "returning" is from "below." In meditative reflection at this level, one focuses on the exaltedness of God and the lowliness of man.
However, at the inner, deeper level of understanding, the alef of "recitation" (in its essence dependent upon the inner intention of the heart), the olah is initially "below" and the chatat is finally "above" (first the gift and then the attorney). The inner work is first, giving one's entire being over to God, whether He forgives me or not (God forbid). Finally is the feeling that the "appeasement" was sent from Above in the form of an "undeserved gift" (that my attorney was appointed to defend me by the King Himself).
From the change in order--sometimes: "one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering" and sometimes: "one for a burnt offering and one for a sin offering" the month of Elul reveals that both (opposite) orders are essentially One: "One for...and one for.?" In the "reduced value" system of gematria, Elul = "one" [אחד] = 13). "One for and one for" (אחד ל ואחד ל) is numerically equivalent to "25(th of) Elul" = 92. This is the first day of creation, referred to in the Torah as "one day," the day during which God was singular in His world, similar to what will be in the spiritually rectified future, "On that day, God will be One and His Name will be One."