By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
It is customary to recite chapter 27 of Tehillim, “L’david Hashem Ori”, twice daily from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Shemini Atzeret. While all congregations recite it during Shacharit, some recite it for the second time at Mincha, while others do so at Ma’ariv. According to the Siddur “Tzlota D’avraham” every congregation can choose for themselves whether to recite “L’david” for a second time at Mincha or at Ma’ariv as there is no single authoritative source legislating the issue. The Chida actually recommends reciting it after all three of the daily prayers, though common custom is not like this view. In contrast, it is interesting to note that the Vilna Gaon did not recite L’david at all as part of his Elul routine.
The custom of reciting L’david throughout Elul originates in the Midrash which teaches that this chapter of Tehillim specifically refers to the High Holiday season. For example, the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, “Yishi” to Yom Kippur, and “Ki Yitzpeneni B’sukko” to Sukkot. It is also noted that the Psalm contains thirteen references to God’s name which is said to protect us from any evil decrees when we are judged over the High Holiday season. These thirteen references to God are also said to correspond to the “Thirteen Attributes” which are recited as part of the Selichot in Elul and Tishrei.
Although there are a number of customs and themes which characterize the month of Elul, it might just be that it is the repeated recitation of “L’david” which encapsulates them all. For example, the commentators note that “L’david” emphasizes the natural desire of every Jewish soul,Â which is to further and deepen its relationship with God, a concept referred to as deveikut. Elul is the ideal time to work on one’s relationship with God, as Elul is the month in which “the king is in the field” for all to approach him. It is also noted that the last line of “L’david” contains the word “lulay” which consists of the same letters as the word “Elul” which further alludes to the connection between this chapter of Tehillim and the month of Elul.
As mentioned, we are taught that reciting “L’david” throughout Elul has the power to eliminate any evil decrees which might have been or will be decreed upon a person during this period of judgment. In fact, “L’david” is said to be so effective and powerful for so many different yeshuot (salvations), that some authorities suggest reciting it every day of the year! A small number of Chassidic communities do not recite “L’david” in Elul, citing the fact that it is not mentioned in the works of the Arizal or even in Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, the custom of reciting “L’david” twice daily in Elul is virtually universal today.
**************************** Mishna Berura 581:1; Mateh Ephraim 581:6.  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  Vayikra Rabba 21.  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  Seder Tefilla Mikol Hashana  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  See the Malbim commentary on this Psalm.  Rosh Hashana 18b; Likutei Torah, Re’eh 32b.  Ziv Haminhagim.  Piskei Teshuvot 581:1.  Chida , cited in Piskei Teshuvot 581 note 72