Selichot is coming up -- the service of prayers designed to help get us "in the mood" for the Days of Awe, the formal kick-off to this season of teshuvah / repentance / return. In the tradition of which I am a part, Selichot services are held on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah -- assuming that there is a Saturday which is at least three days before the holiday. Since this year Rosh Hashanah begins on a Sunday, Selichot services will be held a week prior -- Saturday, September 8. If you'll permit me a baking metaphor: Selichot services are the sourdough starter which activates our souls. The services need a few days to percolate in us before we can really rise.
This year, my congregation will be presenting a staged reading of a play on the evening of Selichot -- Merle Feld's The Gates Are Closing. So, I've abbreviated the Selichot service we've done in recent years. What I'm sharing here is a stripped-down version of the service, the parts I absolutely couldn't bear to let go of!
On page 5, there is a mention of pausing to write down what we need to release. This is a tradition I learned at Elat Chayyim many years ago. We'll provide index cards and pencils; as I play quiet music on my guitar, people will be invited to write down whatever they need to let go of, whatever sins or missings-of-the-mark they want to atone for during this season of repentance, and we'll collect those cards in a basket. I'll use some of those texts (anonymously, of course) in one of the Al Chet prayers of Yom Kippur.
Anyway: if you are looking for a Selichot observance but won't be able to attend one at a shul near you, you're welcome to use ours. It's enclosed. (And if you live nearby and want to attend our production of The Gates are Closing, or our Selichot service, you are most welcome! The reading of the play will take place at 6pm and the service will be at 8, followed by a dessert reception and a chance to talk about what the evening has opened up in us.)
May the coming Days of Awe bring you discernment, transformation, and blessing.
a short service for Selichot
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Download Selichot2012 [pdf]