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Selichot: Getting into the “Zone” for the High Holy Days

By: Cantor Thom King

Preparing ourselves for the Days of Awe can be a daunting task. Like most Jewish celebrations, the High Holy Days never seem to come at the right time. They always seem to sneak up on us, and we’re never quite ready when they arrive. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we’re not only expected to prepare large family meals but also obligated to prepare ourselves spiritually through teshuva: self-examination and repentance. Teshuva is not a task that we can accomplish hastily, or by ticking off items on a checklist. Rather, teshuva requires a degree of quiet contemplation, of looking back on our thoughts and deeds, of really looking at the face in the mirror and saying: “You could do better, you know.”

Selichot, which takes place in the days preceding the High Holy Days, is the perfect opportunity to jump-start the process of teshuva. We come together as a congregation to reflect, ponder, and to view our lives side by side against the image of the person we would like to become. Surrounded by our fellow Jews, we acknowledge our imperfections. But selichot is also a reminder that within each of us is a spark of the Divine which we can nurture into a flame that illuminates our lives, and the lives of those around us.

The rituals and traditions of the High Holy Days can sometimes seem strange and other-worldly to us. They come from a time and place that seems to have no relevance in our modern lives. At this year’s selichot service, Beth El will employ not only the traditional texts and music but also a page from our American culture: Rod Serling’s classic television series The Twilight Zone. When viewed through the lens of our High Holy Day preparations, the two episodes that we will watch during selichot will help us all to see ourselves and those around us a little more clearly.

Our selichot service contains texts and melodies that reflect our desire to redirect our life’s path toward God. Some of the prayers and melodies are ancient, drawing us back into our history. Some are more recent, reflecting our people’s desire to renew and reinvent our faith. As has become our custom, Rabbi Schwartz, Rabbi Saroken, and I will be accompanied by our member, internationally known cellist Evan Drachman, and the mighty men of the Beth El Choir. 

We invite you to join us for the selichot service on Saturday, September 21st At 9:00 P.M.

Fri, July 10 2020 18 Tammuz 5780