The improvement of the individual and that of the community are interdependent. The sages therefore teach us that an individual should never pray in the first person; rather, one should view himself as a member of the community and pray in the plural.
The first two forty-day periods of prayer were of no avail, and it was only after an additional forty days that God said to Moses "I have forgiven according to your request." Therefore, we recite selichot during this same last period of forty days.
Though God accepts the repentance of his children all year long, the forty days between Rosh Chodesh (New Month) Elul and Yom Kippur are more suited for repentance than any other period of the year, for they are days of Divine mercy and favor.
Our holy books note an allusion to the month of Elul in the Hebrew acronym of the verse “I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). From here we can learn a number of ideas regarding the nature of Elul's unique divine worship.
R' Chaim makes it clear that struggling with transgression and sin is his lot in life as well and not only that of his followers. Each of us faces his own forest in life, each must deal with his own entanglement and find his way out of the woods.
“Repentance preceded the creation of the world” (Nedarim 39b). In other words, repentance is an integral part of creation and bound to it by its very nature. It stems from God's own integrity, for without this, creation would be lacking in some way.
A person must not allow himself to stay in one place. If a person does not ascend he descends. The question is not “Have I erred?” or “In what regard have I sinned?” The question should be “Have I ascended another spiritual rung today?”
We have the custom to blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul as a preparation for Rosh HaShanah. The shofar comes to wake us up but also to gather us together in order that we can return to God together.