SymbolsPatriach: Yaakov (here represented by his wife, Rachel, middle left). Rachel was the “final” matriarch, being the fourth in a series of four. However, she was also the hardest sought after, being worked for by Yaakov for 7 years, twice over. The number 7 appears a lot in this piece, as it symbolizes Shabbat, the end of the week and itself symbolizing the end of creation. On her persons: the necklace is the 7 Biblical fruits, her cloak has 7 sheep and 7 flowers, her brooches (symbolizing her sons Yosef and Binyamin) each have 7 evil eye wards, her arms each have 7 bands with Selichot on them (also representing tefillin), and her belt has 7 pomegranates and 7 bells (this is a reference to the outfit of the Kohen Gadol, who acts as an ambassador to clean the sins of the Jewish people).
Zodiac: Virgo (בתולה). Rachel here is Virgo, representing quality that comes from the purity of an agricultural product; as in extra virgin olive oil, or the first bloom of Spring. However, like a gnarled, centuries-old olive tree, or a decrepit tree post-Winter, quality also comes from adversity and experience; Rachel herself who grew up in Lavan’s house and always quarreled with her sister. Virgo has classically appeared holding a bushel of wheat, and so too is Rachel.
Tribe: Gad (middle right). Each tribe has a symbol, and Gad’s is the tent. Tents represent the transitory phase that Elul finds itself in; they are the homes of migratory peoples, intended to be portable and eventually moved elsewhere. The encampment of 7 tents has 7 animals: one camel with her calf, two sheep with their lambs, and a ram. A king is shown visiting the area, representing a common allegory for Elul of God visiting humanity, as opposed to the rest of the year where humanity must beseech God.
Events & TraditionsThe shofar: The shofar is blown every day during Elul, to herald in the following month (Tishrei) with its abundance of both auspicious and ominous holidays. Twenty-nine days long, there are 29 different shofars on the bottom, and the obvious centerpiece is a giant shofar. There are three primary blasts of the shofar: tekiya (one long blast), sh’varim (3 medium blasts), and teruah (multiple small blasts), and the order of the blasts goes tekiya, sh’varim, teruah, tekiya. On the mouthpiece of the shofar, you can see the month of Elul has been spelled out in this way -- one big aleph, three lameds, multiple vavs, and one big lamed again. On the right side is the expression ‘Ani L’dodi V’Dodi Li’, which creates the acronym E.L.U.L. On the shofar’s opening are three Mount Sinais, as Moshe took his 3rd and final ascent on Elul. Between each mountain are the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
Elul is the month where the global flood from Noah’s age is said to have receded. On the far right of the page is a rain cloud deluging into a fountain of 7 Earths and turning into a mikvah (ritual bath).The Kabbalah says the Earth has 7 corners, and both the flood and mikvah indicate destructive and constructive cleansing, respectively. Atop the shofar are the two birds Noah released to check the state of the planet, the raven and the dove. In Judaism, the word for ‘repentance’ is literally ‘return’, and the return of one bird and not the other represents the acceptance of one and the denial of the other. The closed, full mouth of the dove and open, empty mouth of the raven also suggest this.