Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
One of my favorite services of the entire year happens this Saturday night: Selichot.
Selichot means “pardons,” and is the name our tradition gives to a set of poems and prayers designed to help our hearts experience teshuvah, repentance or return (in the sense of returning-to-God, re-orienting ourselves in the right direction.) Some communities have a custom of beginning to daven these prayers daily at the new moon of Elul, four weeks before Rosh Hashanah, so that by the time the new year rolls around people are already steeped in these words and ideas and the emotional realities they represent.
At CBI we follow the custom of holding a Selichot service on a Shabbat evening near (but not too near) to Rosh Hashanah. We’ll do that this Saturday at 8pm, beginning with havdalah and then moving into some songs, poems, and prayers designed to open the heart to the emotional and spiritual journey of the Days of Awe. We’ll sing some old familiar melodies which might quicken your heart, as well as some newer melodies (like that Lach Amar Libi / “Seek My Face” which we’ve been singing all month on Shabbat.)
And we’ll also take some time to ponder and to write down, anonymously, some of the places where we’ve missed the mark in the last year. Things for which we need to make teshuvah. Sore spots, “ouch” places, for which we need the balm of forgiveness.
Selichot services offer an opportunity to begin the Days of Awe with mindfulness, and to ease gently into the intensity of the holidays. They’re a chance to say a few prayers, read a few poems, and engage in some introspection — all of which will deepen the experience you will have in shul when you return for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
(Plus, after services we’ll stick around for a potluck dessert reception — so bring something sweet to share!)
Join us for Selichot on Saturday night. It’s a beautiful way to begin this meaningful season.
Blessings to all,