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Reb Lisa's Message

September 6, 2023

Selichot ~ Prayers of Forgiveness

The High Holy days, and the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, is a time of earnest soul searching and repair. Part of this process involves forgiveness. We approach forgiveness in a complete, holistic way. Not only do we seek forgiveness from those we have hurt–of equal importance is moving toward granting forgiveness. This is not always easy. When we have been harmed it is difficult to love, seemingly impossible to trust, and a real challenge to open ourselves to the other. And perhaps the most difficult process of all is self-forgiveness.

In Hebrew, Selichot means forgiveness. Liturgically, Selichot are prayers of forgiveness said before and during the High Holidays. Selichot is also the name of a special service observed on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. Believe it or not, but this year, that particular Shabbat is this Saturday! Yes, the new year 5784 is very close!

Late night communal gathering sets the tone for Selichot, which is a quiet, introspective service. As such, Selichot services are traditionally held at night. In some communities, it is customary to gather at midnight for Selichot.

Hazzan Steve and I will be leading Selichot services this Saturday night, September 9th, at 8:30. We will begin with Havdalah and then continue with stirring and soulful melodies, prayers from our hearts, and reflections on our own journeys of forgiveness.

We will also continue our tradition of preparing and transforming our sanctuary for the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. We do this by changing the Torah covers and Torah reading table to white. This change to white represents purity and the potential a new year brings.

As we make these outer changes in the synagogue, we are inspired to make internal changes. Much of the power of this time is coming together as a community to embrace these changes together. We begin to embody the idea that real transformation is possible.

This is a time of teshuva–return. We return to ourselves. We return to unfinished business where we repair harms and mend fences. We return to G-d and seek forgiveness from the Source of Blessing.

L’shanah tovah u’metuka!

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