Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Taste of the Days of Awe

The High Holy Days offer Jews a chance to reflect on the past year, make amends for wrongdoing, and look ahead to the new year with a clean slate. What an opportunity!

Putting aside all the hundreds of tasks involved in actually making the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur happen, I began to get ready for these Days of Awe last Saturday by attending a Selichot service at 11 PM on Saturday night.

Selichot are prayers for forgiveness that are added to the regular set of daily prayers for an Orthodox Jew and are said for the last few days before Rosh Hashanah up through Yom Kippur. For Reform Jews, this single service marks the beginning of this important season.

The service I attended was full of music. It was like a small taste of what’s to come in the upcoming weeks. A fundamental part of the selichot service is the repeated recitation of the "Thirteen Attributes," a list of God’s thirteen attributes of mercy that were revealed to Moses after the sin of the golden calf (Ed 34:6-7).

A friend shared with me a beautiful modern psalm written on Seclichot:

The night darkens as I come to You, Holy One.
In Your mercy, You leave a moon’s sliver;
It guides me to You, and Your people.
Let me come with them to Your presence.

If I pound my breast in sorrow and guilt,
It does not relieve me. It is a vain gesture.
Only my pale imitation of Your compassion
Begins to unravel the knot of my failings.

Help me start the contemplation of my days,
I must heal myself if I am to heal the world;
Transform me as I search inwardly,
Turn me outward to merit your kindness.

The service concluded with a single protracted sound of the shofar by our Rabbi Danny, and it was awesome because he is a first-rate trumpet player. Then the 50 or 60 people in attendance all left silently, having been told to utter no words that would in any way diminish the effect of this foretaste of the Days of Awe.


Blogger Pauline said...

I am in awe of anyone who finds a course of worship (or is born into it and in later years, adopts it as one's own) and follows those precepts. This is a wonderfullly descriptive post, giving me a glimpse into a world of belief that is foreign to me.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

The more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize I need to learn. Thanks for sharing.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I love our lessons, I know there is a name for them.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I admire you for being such a diligent participant in the formal aspect of your religion. I'm afraid we don't commit to that. Not even sure what church we'd go to if we did!
I think you'd be a great supporter and leader of any group to which bou belonged.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

WOW!! I can't wait to hear the shofar this year. What a poem! What a holiday!!

7:35 PM  

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