I asked myself:
who’s listening to these words of confession?
Magnificent Ear of the universe,
are You my personal confidant?
Or am I just talking to myself?
Then I got it:
the question is a diversion —
to distract me
from hearing who I really am.
I first encountered S’lichot at Plum Street Temple, the grand cathedral of a synagogue in Cincinnati, Ohio. Like the other rabbinical students, I filed in and sat in awe not only of the building but also of the High Holiday melodies, resounding through that sacred space, reaching me in a way I never expected.
Although we cannot offer an 18th Century architectural masterpiece for our backdrop, we can offer the sounds and contemplative space for our own S’lichot service. With the High Holy Days soon to arrive, this is our opening act. This short, stirring service is many things.
S’lichot is musical, full of the resonant melodies of the High Holidays. For many, it is our first opportunity to hear them each year. It is a time of introspection.
S’lichot is about meaning-making, and words, including those in the poem at the beginning of this message, are included in the service to help us begin the heavy soul-searching that will be a part of our Days of Awe.
S’lichot is also the service during which we change the Torah mantles from their usual colors to the pure white for the High Holy Days. And as we tenderly store away our everyday Torah covers, we too begin to dress ourselves anew in word, thought, and deed, so we may be ready for renewal and repentance.
S’lichot is the start of our intense attempt to get ourselves together. The Days of Awe begin so simply, not on Rosh HaShanah, but on this soulful and moving night. It is an opportunity to hear ourselves. As we listen to the beautiful music and begin to listen, we start to hear that we are approaching something. We have that first inkling of wondering who we have been and who we want to be.
We hope that you will join us and take this opportunity to begin your own journey to a new heart and a new spirit. We hope that the melodies stir you and the words inspire you. And we hope that you have meaningful and significant encounters with God, each other, and yourselves.
Rabbi Benjamin Zober