It is customary to recite Psalm 27 that starts with the words “L’David Hashem Ori V’Yishee” in the Hebrew month of Elul – the month that is dedicated to introspection in preparation for the High Holy Days in Tishrei, from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Shemini Atzeret, the last day of the festival of Succot.
This custom originates in Vayikra Raba 21, the Midrash that teaches that this Psalm refers specifically to the High Holiday season:
“Ori” –”my light”- refers to Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Elimelech Wachsman explains Hashem is “our light” on Rosh Hashanah because he has allowed the Jewish people to be enlightened with the idea that Rosh Hashanah and the time leading up to it is an opportunity to gain merits for ourselves so we can be found worthy of His blessings. Rosh Hashanah, as Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky zt”l points out, is available for the entire world- the nations of the world are unaware of the power of the day and we, the Jewish people, are therefore thankful of the gift that G-d granted us that is Rosh Hashanah.
“Yishee”- “my savior” refers to Yom Kippur- the day on which Moses descended with the second set of tablets from Mount Sinai. The first set were broken due to the sin of the Golden Calf and the tenth of Tishrei, the day Moses reemerged with the second set of tablets, came to signify atonement.
“Yasterane B’Seter Ohalo”- “He will conceal me in the concealment of His tent” refers to Sukkot during which we sit in booths to commemorate the booths we dwelled in during our forty-year wander in the desert.
According to Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5, the thirteen references to G-d that appear in this Psalm correspond to the “thirteen attributes” of G-d which are part of the S’lichot Services that are recited at this time of year. It is said that the recital of these thirteen names opens up the channels for each of the thirteen attributes, allowing them to affect us.
The Psalm features numerous key words that emanate a feeling of hope, optimism, strength and happiness. This is interesting to note as this Psalm sets the tone for this time of year that is often perceived as solemn. In this period, G-d is close to us in a way that we can’t experience during the rest of the year- in Elul it is believed that G-d is likened to a King who has come out of his palace and into the field of his subjects. May we merit, through this beautiful Psalm, a season of return to G-d and a happy, healthy and blessed year for us all.