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The Beginning of the Chagim 

08/24/2021 02:00:11 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

I have a distinct memory from childhood of sitting in the sanctuary of my synagogue very late at night, with the lights dimmed low, holding a melting candle in my hand. I listened to the haunting music, and I watched the rabbis, wearing long, white robes, carrying the white Torah covers onto the Bimah. I observed the flame from my candle glinting across the stain glass windows, and I wondered what we were doing in the building so late at night? I remember falling asleep on the car ride home and thinking that the entire event must have been a dream.

As an adult, I realized that my experience with Selichot as a child was unlike any other I ever had, or any Selichot my friends experienced. I learned that the lateness of the evening was typical, that the music wasn’t actually haunting, just the traditional melodies of the High Holy Days, and that the candles were overly dramatic and unnecessary. But, I also learned that Selichot is a beautiful, special, and lovely way to begin the High Holy Day season.

I also learned that while the music may differ from place to place, as well as the ambiance of the room, and that most synagogues shy away from giving out candles to large amounts of people (for what are probably obvious reasons), the main purpose of Selichot remains the same. Selichot officially begins the holiday season with our first formal opportunity to ask for forgiveness, to repent for the past year, and to make promises to be better in the year to come. If you want to know more about the origins of Selichot, or if you are interested to see some of the ways this service has evolved, I recommend reading this article.  

As we join together this Saturday night for our Selichot program, I invite you to join us as we open the gates of the High Holy Day season. Join us as we begin to ask for forgiveness and commit ourselves to bettering the world around us, and ourselves. Join us as we hear the blast of the Shofar and awaken our souls. Join us as welcome the New Year, a year full of promise and excitement.

Wishing you and your families a Shana Tova U’Metukah, a year full of sweetness, joy, and good health! Happy 5782!

Mon, February 6 2023 15 Sh'vat 5783