By Al Maimon
Today we begin a 40-day journey culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It begins with Rosh Hodesh Elul, followed a month later by Rosh Hashanah (beginning the New Year, also the beginning of the month of Tishri), Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the intermediate 10 days) followed by Yom Kippur, on the 10th of Tishri.
This year, as with much of our contemporary life, there’s great uncertainty. We don’t know how, but we know it will be different. To get the most out of this time of year, it’s not too soon to get ready - individually and communally. For Rosh Hashanah, New Year, followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, many of us have a routine. This year, we probably need something extra to make it work.
To that end, Selihot, the traditional Sephardic custom in the month of Elul, can be especially helpful. In principle, there is an early morning daily (except for Shabbat) ritual service, framing our individual and communal acknowledgement of the need for introspection, remorse and repentance, and the availability of forgiveness. It is also a forum for hearing our distinctive, impactful tunes from the leader and in communal singing to form the liturgical foundation of our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services - with the shofar blown briefly on most days.
During this 40-day period, we REVIEW our actions, RESOLVE to improve overall and begin to RENEW our relationships and practices for the better. Repentance and Atonement and Forgiveness are gifts from G-d. He gives us an opportunity for a do over. Thankfully it’s not like the law of gravity, what’s done is done - it isn’t forgiven. This opportunity is present for humanity, but it is especially elaborate for the Jewish people (maybe necessarily so because we have 613 laws, not just the seven Noahide Laws).
As a reminder of the importance of Elul in the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, the name of the month is an acronym for Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li - I am for my beloved and my beloved is mine (a phrase from the Song of Songs- Shir Hashirim).
An additional incentive to do this now is that historically it corresponds to the experience in the desert after the Golden Calf. That was a dark period for the Jews coming so soon after the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, the giving of the Manna, and giving the Torah through the revelation by G-d at Sinai - immediately followed by the Golden Calf. It was only through extreme “shuttle diplomacy” between G-d and the Jewish people, by Moses, with the last 40-day encounter corresponding to Rosh Hodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, that finally resulted in G-d’s forgiveness.
So, starting now, let’s help each other individually and collectively use the 40 days of Selihot, Rosh Hashanah, Aseret Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur most effectively - to REVIEW, RESOLVE and RENEW our actions and relationships so that we all merit an Anyada Buena I Dulse, Kon Paz, Vida I Salud!
Interested in participating in services?
Congregation Ezra Bessaroth is holding Zoom Selichot at 6:15 am PDT every Sunday until Yom Kippur. https://zoom.us/j/933556518
Sephardic Bikur Holim is holding Zoom Selichot at 6 am PDT Monday to Friday and 7 am PDT Sunday. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86540053577
Enjoy Estreyikas d'Estambol en La Sinagoga NEVE-SHALOM at https://tinyurl.com/y4lnlabm