December 2, 2023 /
One of my favorite moments of the year is the evening of Selichot. Selichot, at least according to Ashkenazic tradition, begins on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. In our service, we recite piyuttim (liturgical poems) and other prayers that help refresh our souls and prepare us for the High Holy Days. One might ask me, “Rabbi, why is this your favorite service of the year? Aren’t their more uplifting or joyful services for you to choose from?” Sure there are. However, there is something entirely different and magical about the Selichot service.
Some of us may be finishing off a steady year. Things went well with family and friends, and work was excellent. Maybe some of you might have had a promotion or a raise or perhaps even retired. Maybe you got engaged or married, or even married off your child or got to see them grow and mature and succeed on their own. However, some of us may be thankful that the year is finally ending and grateful to put a hard and challenging year into the past. Maybe you had trouble with work or family, perhaps you were passed over for that promotion, or are out of work. Perhaps you suffered a tragic loss in your life.
A successful year or not, I am sure that all of us have bruises or scrapes on us from the year that is now ending. How could you not? We are, after all, only human. Some bruises and scars are superficial and will go away soon or will at least lighten. Others run a lot deeper, and we will always remember how we got them.
Within our Selichot Service, we acknowledge our frailty. We put words to the year that is concluding, and we also find the promise of tomorrow. The service is less about what we did wrong, and more about the hope that we can do better; that we have the power and ability to overcome great hardship, and that we can do it because we live within a sacred community, a Kehilah Kedoshah. At the apex of our service, we change over our year-round colored Torah covers for the white ones of the High Holy Days. These Torahs then represent the clean slate and fresh beginning we all seek in our lives.
The power of this service is tremendous because it is the moment when real change begins. Join us for Selichot on Saturday, September 1st for this beautiful evening together.
Philip N. Bazeley