Selichot: The Gateway to the Days of Awe

We usually think of the High Holy Days as being the period of time from Rosh Hashanah through
the end of Yom Kippur – the Ten Days of Repentance. But in fact the season of the High Holy Days begins a full month earlier, with the New Month of Elul. On that day, and through the month of Elul, we blow the shofar at the end of the morning service. This shofar blast is meant to wake us up, to prepare us for the days of judgment that are coming, so that we may put our spiritual houses in order.
On the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah (September 16 this year), we mark and prepare for the holiday in another way. On that night, we gather together for Selichot – the recitation of penitential prayers. The Jewish mystics believed that God was most receptive to prayers of penitence in the early hours of the morning; in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, very observant Jews will rise at dawn to recite these prayers. But because the mystics knew that most Jews would not rise so early, and because the selichot prayers were deemed so important, they instituted the Saturday night service (traditionally done at midnight) so that others could fulfill this important obligation with a minimum of inconvenience.
At East Midwood, we make it easier still. On Saturday, September 16, we will begin at 6:45 pm with our Shabbat Mincha Maariv service, followed by an 8:00 pm discussion about Selichot led by Rabbi Matt Carl. Then at 9:00 pm the Selichot service itself will begin and will last one hour. And after EMJC…Selichot Across Brooklyn! (Join us in Park Slope! — More info will be provided in our upcoming newsletters).
The beautiful Selichot service will be conducted by Rabbi Matt Carl and me (Cantor Levine),
with extensive participation by the EMJC Chorus and our special guest accompanist Nataliya
Medvedovskaya on the piano. The choir sounds sublime – their hard work over many years has
made the Selichot service the crown of their repertoire. Come daven and sing with us, join in on
Avinu Malkeinu and other familiar highlights of the liturgy, and get a taste of the majesty of the
holiday prayers.
Please join us on Saturday night, September 16 for one or more of the services and programs described above. Along with teshuva (repentance) and tzedakah (charity), the tefillah (prayer) of the Selichot service is a moving and meaningful way to direct our hearts and our minds to the coming Days of Awe.

See you there, and l’shanah tovah tikateivu
Cantor Sam Levine