Gad: Tribe of Elul

Gad (גָּד), the patriarch and tribe associated with the month of Elul (אֱלוּל), is the seventh son of Jacob. Seven is a lucky number in many cultures, Judaism included, and not only is he the seventh son, but he also fathers seven sons. He is of the line of Leah, through Zilpah. Gad’s name means “good fortune,” and in Genesis 30:11 it says that “Leah said: ‘Fortune is come!’ And she called his name Gad.”

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Elul is a complicated month. It is one of the four new years, the new year of cattle. It is the month we close out our spiritual year and begin preparation for the High Holy Days and new spiritual year. It is a month where we turn inward and look to our own hearts and our relationship with G!(d)dess. It is traditional to recite Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul, the one that begins, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” We also begin Selichot, penitential prayers, just before the end of Elul. Elul is also said to be an acronym for Ani L’Dodi ve-Dodi Li “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). In a fairly complex bit of Gematria, Elul also equals 13 and it is said that refers to the 13 attributes of Divine mercy. (Elul = 67, then add 6+7 to get 13).

But what does any of this have to do with Gad? I think the lesson of Gad is to remember what good fortune we do have in life. This month we have the opportunity to turn inward and review our year before we stand together at Rosh Hashanah. Maybe part of what we need to be doing is listing everything good that we have and that’s happened to us this year? Maybe we need to look at the good fortune of those in our community, and how we can increase the good fortune not only of ourselves, but also of our wider community.

Jacob’s blessing to Gad in Genesis 49:19 is interpreted by as, “Gad shall organize camps [army camps], and he shall return with all his camps.” From this distills that “the special talent of Gad is to organize a ‘company.’” Maybe that’s what we are tapping into in Elul? Maybe that’s why we spend a month preparing for the High Holy Days in so many ways — so by the time we get there we’ve gathered everyone with us and everyone returns with us.

This Elul, look inward and around you. See what needs to be repaired in your own life and in the lives of the community. Let’s see if we can gather all the people and leave no one behind this Elul.