Cleaning out closets for Rosh Hashana leads us to the real work of the Hebrew month of Elul, preparing ourselves spiritually for the High Holy Days.
You can’t go for a run without stretching first.
You can’t just suit up for baseball, step up to the plate, and hit a home run. (You gotta take some practice swings.)
You can’t teach a lesson, deliver a presentation, make a pitch, without preparing and practicing.
So why do we think we can just walk on into High Holy Day services and have a meaningful, spiritual experience?
Prayer, like almost everything of significance, requires that we limber up and practice before we can expect to hit a spiritual home run.
At Congregation Or Ami, we stretch our spiritual selves and engage in some reflective moral calisthenics during Selichot, a Hebrew word meaning “forgiveness,” which refers to special prayer service on the Saturday night just prior to Rosh HaShanah. (At Congregation Or Ami, our Selichot service takes place on August 31, 2013 at 8:30 pm. We have a pot luck dessert at 7:30 pm.)
Candle lit, musical and stirring, this moving service calls us to reflect on the year that is ending. We begin with Havdala service on the bimah to bring Shabbat to a close. With strains of the High Holiday melodies as a backdrop, we utter our first confession of the season, as well as Sh’ma Koleinu, asking God to hear our voices. Finally, we change the mantle (covers) of our Sifrei Torah (scrolls) from blue to white, symbolizing the purity we hope to bring into our lives. Selichot is a solemn and fitting preparation for 10 days of reflection and self-examination.
Whether you come to Selichot services or not, make time to turn inward, and consider deeply who you are, who you could be, and how you will move from who you are to who you could be. That’s the work of the High Holy Days.