Thursday, September 3, 2015

Selichot, Strength and Forgiveness

Typically Selichot is assigned to the Saturday evening immediately prior to Rosh Hashanah. This year, however, the Selichot service is pushed back a week. A mere twenty four hours before Rosh Hashanah would not provide enough time to ready our spirits for the High Holidays. Thus we find ourselves observing Selichot during the last weekend of summer when the final tugs of the beach continue to beckon us, when perhaps a weekend of golf invites our participation or a myriad of other activities call to us.

And so I offer this suggestion. Wherever you might find yourselves on this glorious weekend (I continue to hope it might include Saturday evening at the synagogue) take a few moments to turn inward, take a few precious moments to examine your life and look at your choices. This is the essence of the Selichot observance. We recite prayers reminding us of God’s forgiveness. We meditate on Psalm 27.

We pray: “O Lord, I seek Your presence; do not hide Your face from me.”

As we draw near to Rosh Hashanah this continues to be our most fervent prayer. As we approach Yom Kippur this thought remains in our hearts. Whatever our failings, whatever our flaws, whatever our missteps, God strengthens our hands so that we might mend our wrongs. We need only seek out those we have hurt and those we have wronged. Our prayers strengthen our resolve. Our Selichot observance sends us out with a renewed spirit, a heart filled with the strength and courage to correct our failings.

We look back on past years. What might I have done differently? What words do I regret? Which friend did I neglect? Where have I failed? How might I better my life? How might I bring healing to my world?

This week as well the noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, died. Only a few weeks earlier he wrote:
And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest. (Oliver Sacks: Sabbath)
We look forward to the future. We find hope in our capacity to turn.

“Hope in the Lord; your heart is filled with strength and courage; look to the Lord.” (Psalm 27)

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