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7 Elul 5783

Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff

Emanuel Synagogue, Jewish Meditation and Kabbalah Teacher

The 40 Day Transformation Challenge

The 40 days, from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, to the Jewish New Year and then to the Day of Atonement, are a chance for transformation and self-improvement. What is the significance of the number 40?

The biblical flood, during which time Noah, his family and a pair of each type of animal lived safely in an ark for forty days and forty nights. During that time, the world was cleansed of negativity and a new start began with the appearance of a rainbow.

Moses went up Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights, and during that time it is said he purified himself in order to receive the ten commandments and the Torah.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, during which time they were collectively transformed from being slaves to being a free people putting down roots in the Land of Israel. It was a new beginning.

King Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom, reigned for 40 years.

The mikveh, the ritual bath, so central to Jewish family life, is composed of forty liquid units known as a se’ah. The mikveh is a symbol purification and change.

Perhaps the root of the number forty’s significance lies in the fact that a typical pregnancy will last for forty weeks. Forty weeks is the gestation time required to build a full human being. Just like pregnancy, the process of teshuvah, the process of internal transformation, takes place over a period of 40 cycles.

Each year we enter this 40 day period, which could be called a “mikveh in time” – a chance to reflect, forgive, take stock, apologise, rejoice and make changes.

Wishing you a meaningful Elul and beyond.

See more Elul Reflections