Dear TEE community,

Next week, on Saturday September 9th, we begin the congregational gatherings of the High Holiday season with Selichot. Derived from the Hebrew word “selichah,” meaning “pardon” or “forgiveness,” Selichot originally involved the custom of rising during the night to recite psalms and prayers. Over time, it became a specific service, held on the Saturday prior to Rosh Hashanah.

Selichot serves as a gateway to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It provides an opportunity for introspection and contemplation in preparation for the holiday season. Our Temple Emanu-El Selichot gathering will include music, poetry, readings, and contemplation to help us feel a sense of hope for change within ourselves and in the world around us. We will also hear the shofar, dress the Torah scrolls in their white High Holiday robes, and conclude with Havdalah, the service marking the end of Shabbat.

Like the holidays themselves, Selichot offers us a space for reflection and renewal, encouraging us to mend the brokenness within our own hearts and relationships. The service prepares us to enter the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a sense of optimism, reminding us that the process of teshuvah – of returning to our true selves – is an ongoing journey, one that involves patience and persistence.

Our prayers for Elul, this month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, include a reading which observes:

Before we enter the palaces of prayer –
let us find within ourselves a place of calm.

I find that an excellent description of the experience of Selichot and I hope you will join me in this enriching tradition.

Rabbi Drorah Setel