Category Archives: Selichot

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Ki Tavo, Selichot, and our Cemetery Service

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Join us this coming Saturday morning for Shabbat morning services where we’ll read from parashat Ki Tavo.

This coming weekend brings the beginning of our High Holiday season with two very special events: Selichot services at 8pm on Saturday, and our annual Cemetery service at 2pm on Sunday.

“Selichot” means “Forgiveness,” and it is a beautiful short service designed to open our hearts and souls to the Days of Awe. We’ll begin with havdalah, sing some favorite High Holiday melodies, take some time to write down the things we need to release, and sweeten our journey into the new year with a potluck dessert reception.

The cemetery service, which lasts for about 20 minutes, is our annual opportunity to visit our beautiful Clarksburg cemetery, pay our respects to the generations of CBI members who are buried there, and pray the afternoon prayers and some memorial prayers in the “sanctuary” of the woods and headstones. Usually most of the people who come are our eldest members; I know that it would mean a lot to them if some of our younger members came to bear witness and to help us make a minyan so that we can recite the mourner’s kaddish.

return-to-shabbatIf you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: Ki Tavo at the URJ.


During the month of Elul it’s customary to pray psalm 27 every day. We’ll be singing different excerpts from the psalm over the course of this month and the Days of Awe — the song “Achat Sha’alti,” which we’ve sung here for many years at this season (and here’s a beautiful instrumental version), and also the verse “Lach Amar Libi” to a melody from Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal congregation of Jerusalem, which we introduced last year:

Here’s an embedded mp3 of that melody so you can listen to it at home:

And here’s sheet music, for those who find sheet music useful: Psalm 27,Lakh Amar Libi notes [pdf] The words translate to “You [God] called to my heart, saying ‘seek My face;’ Your face, Source of All, is what I seek!”


Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Join us for Selichot

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,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Ki Tavo and to Selichot

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! This week we’re reading parashat Ki Tavo from the book of Dvarim (Deuteronomy.)return-to-shabbat

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: Ki Tavo | URJ.

This coming Shabbat morning, services will be led by Rabbi Rachel. Rabbi Rachel will also lead our Selichot (“Pardons”) service at 8pm on Saturday evening — a short and sweet service to kick off the high holiday season, Selichot will begin with havdalah, will feature song and poetry, and will also feature the opportunity to enter into a creative exercise designed to help us let go of the old year’s mistakes. (Selichot will be followed by a potluck dessert reception.)

During the month of Elul it’s customary to pray psalm 27 every day. We’ll be singing different excerpts from the psalm over the course of this month and the Days of Awe — the song “Achat Sha’alti,” which we’ve sung here for many years at this season, and also the verse “Lach Amar Libi” to a melody from Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal congregation of Jerusalem.

Here’s an embedded mp3 of that melody so you can listen to it at home:

And here’s sheet music, for those who find sheet music useful: Psalm 27,Lakh Amar Libi notes [pdf] The words translate to “You [God] called to my heart, ‘come seek My face, come seek My grace;’ For Your love, Source of all, I will seek!” (That singable English translation is courtesy of Rabbi David Markus.)

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact Pattie Lipman.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Three special moments in the week to come

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

I hope this note finds you well. We have many special moments coming up. I’d like to draw your attention to three of them.

Tomorrow night at 8pm we’ll hold our annual Selichot services. This is one of my favorite services of the year (I recently posted on my blog about why I love it so much.) We’ll begin with havdalah, sanctifying the transition from Shabbat into the week. We’ll sing some beloved High Holiday words and melodies, easing our hearts and souls into the journey of teshuvah (repentance / return) which is so central to this season. We’ll also take the time to write down some of the places where we’ve missed the mark in the year now ending, things for which we seek forgiveness and release. We’ll end with a potluck dessert reception; please bring a dessert to share.

This year Selichot is extra-special because it falls on the weekend of the fall equinox — the temporal doorway through which we walk from one season to another. As we enter into the new season of fall, and the coming new year of 5775,  what do we want to hold on to, and what do we want to release?

On Sunday at 2pm we’ll have a brief service of remembrance at the CBI cemetery in Clarksburg. Our cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful spot, and there is something very special about gathering there just before the Days of Awe to honor the memories of our loved ones who are buried there. The service is brief, and afterwards all are welcome to take their time exploring the cemetery and placing pebbles, symbols of our remembrance, on the headstones. Even if you don’t have any loved ones interred there, you are welcome to join us and help us make a minyan.

On Wednesday evening at 7:30pm we’ll begin our celebration of Rosh Hashanah with a festival evening service. This year we’ll continue our longstanding tradition of having three congregants speak that evening on a shared theme. This year’s theme is “Hope,” and we’ll be hearing from Rich Cohen, Steven Green, and Wendy Penner — each offering a different take on the theme and a different set of ideas about what hope means to them at this moment in this year. (Our Rosh Hashanah services will continue on Thursday morning at 9:30, Thursday evening at 7:30 once again, and Friday morning at 9:30.)

I hope you’ll join us for some or all of these sweet observances of this beautiful time of year.

May this last Shabbat of 5774 be meaningful and sweet!

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayeilech – and to Selichot!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a (slightly belated) good week to you! This is an extra special week; not only are we looking forward to Shabbat already, but we’re also looking forward to Selichot on Saturday night.

This week we’re reading the Torah portion called Nitzavim-Vayeilech in the book of Deuteronomy. The name of the Torah portion is a hyperlink; click on it to be taken to the Torah portion in English if you want to read the portion before coming to Shabbat services. If you would like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

return-to-shabbat

This Shabbat, our shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) for morning services will be Rabbi Rachel.

And, on Saturday evening, we will enter into the High Holiday season with one of the most beautiful services of our year, the evening service called Selichot. “Selichot “means “pardons,” and is the name for the liturgy of forgiveness prayers we recite during the Days of Awe. We’ll begin at 8pm on Saturday evening with havdalah, the ritual which formally divides between Shabbat and workweek.

After savoring the light of a braided candle and the scent of wine and spices, we’ll move into a short-and-sweet service which will contain some of our favorite High Holiday melodies and some  inspiring contemporary poetry. During Selichot services everyone will have the chance to write down, anonymously, the things for which we seek release or forgiveness. We’ll collect these cards and the rabbi will weave the responses into one of our communal “Al Chet” prayers on Yom Kippur.

After Selichot, we’ll enjoy a potluck dessert party — please bring a favorite dessert to share.

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to this week’s service hosts. If you would like to join the shamashim (“helpers”) who welcome people to our Shabbat services and who host our light kiddush afterwards, contact Pattie Lipman.

We also extend thanks to our member Helene Armet for the beautiful home-baked challah!

We hope to see you soon at CBI. Have a great week!

Selichot Save-the-Date!

CBI-logo

Selichot Services

8pm, Saturday, August 31

havdalah followed by a short service of songs, prayers, and poems

immerse in High Holiday melodies,
themes, and motifs
for the first time this year!

potluck dessert party to follow
all are welcome

(bring a favorite sweet or savory dessert to share)

sufi-shofar

In today’s Berkshire Eagle: an article about fall, high holidays, and CBI’s Selichot play!

Coming Out
By Kate Abbott, Berkshires Week Editor, Thursday September 6, 2012

Apple season is coming early. I saw my first mention of local apples this week, at Whitney’s. I know the mythical fruit of Genesis was not an apple, but as I watch and listen to my friends preparing for Rosh Hashanah, it feels fitting that the Jewish New Year comes, in New England, when the apples are ripe.

Close friends bless Shabbat candles on the deck and convince their toddlers to wait to drink their juice, and they welcome me in to the ritual. It’s as natural as singing happy birthday. Tomorrow night, when they light candles, my family will light our own for my brother, who turns 28 as I write this.

And on Saturday night at 6, one local congregation will invite the whole community to learn how the High Holidays feel — and what a time of reflection can do.

Congregation Beth Israel will begin the High Holiday season with a staged reading of Merle Feld’s play, “The Gates Are Closing,” directed by David Lane. All are welcome, and the evening is free.

Feld tells the stories of 10 people meeting to pray on Yom Kippur and facing themselves. It is a play full of tough and liberating honesty. Feld has hold of a vital feeling too few people try to invoke: the feeling of telling something you have carried alone. The weight lifts, and you are sad and tired and released and reminded that things can make sense again, as Feld says. And you are left with the rebuilding.

“So long as Adam pretends that hiding is possible, he cannot begin to find his way,” Feld’s Rabbi tells his people. “God asks ‘where are you?’ to awaken Adam, to bring him out of hiding. Today is the day for you and me … to come out of hiding.”

(Originally published in The Berkshire Eagle.)