Given the wacky scheduling of the High Holy Days this year, Selichot falls on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. That probably means attendance will be even lower than usual, and they are usually pretty low. Perhaps because the numbers are small, the tradition in the Twin Cities is for many congregations—Reform and Conservative—to come together for the service. The newest member of the clergy is tapped to do the drash, and the service is always blessed with multiple cantors, and usually a combined choir.
The evening begins with a presentation of some sort. Last year, a panel of survivors—of incest and human trafficking, of anti-gay bullying, of the Holocaust—discussed what it means to “forgive,” and when and whether forgiveness is even possible.
This year, there’s a staged reading of a play based on “Citizen Conn,” a Michael Chabon short story that the New Yorker described as “the efforts of a female rabbi at an assisted-living facility to reconcile two estranged comic book artists.”
Selichot, after all, means “forgiveness,” and the presentations are prologue to the service, which brings us together, as a community, to seek G*d’s mercy. It is a critical prequel to the other High Holy Days services: with a new year about to begin, we reflect on the old. We can’t commit to the process of teshuvah—return—until we take a moment, an hour, to get our bearings, to see where we are in relation to where we ought to be.
It would be interesting to run the Myers-Briggs inventory on the folks attending Selichot. It is, I think, the ideal way for introverts to ease into the High Holy Days, a time to be quiet with one’s thoughts, and present with one’s G*d, before the crush of Rosh Hoshannah dinner and SRO services at Yom Kippur.
If you’re an extrovert—and I acknowledge that most people are—think of it this way: At Selichot, we beg forgiveness as a community. We ask G*d to renew the covenant with the people for another year. In that way, too, Selichot is a necessary prologue to Yom Kippur, when we ask as individuals to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
All in favor of 5774? Selichot is the walking caucus, the town hall meeting where we get to say “ay.”
For more information on this year’s Twin Cities Selichot service, go to: http://shareichesed.org/happenings.html