Cantor’s Column – August 2018

Warming Up with Selihot

Cantor Ilan Davidson

If there is anything that we have learned over the years with our Meditation services, it’s the importance of “warming up.” Now, we all know that when we exercise, sing, dance, or perform in any way, the warm up is crucial, but have we ever thought about prayer that way? Even the liturgists provided for us the Birkhot Hashakhar and P’sukei D’zimrah in our morning liturgy and Kabbalat Shabbat in the evening as a way to warm up and get ready to pray, before the Barekhu. When we enjoy our Meditation Shabbat service, we often take almost an hour, before Barekhu, just getting ready to pray and converse with the Holy One. All of us often mention how wonderfully different our prayers feel, having prepared for them.

So too it is with the High Holy Days. We have an entire month of preparation in the month of Elul, when we are supposed to be taking an accounting of our lives over the past year. Then, just before Rosh HaShanah, we have a warm up service… Selihot. This service of transition into the High Holy Day season, with its penitential prayers and introduction of themes, both melodically and spiritually, helps us to prepare for our upcoming Days of Awe inspiring prayer. This year, we will join as a community to prepare in a more creative way, along with our traditional Selihot service.

This year, we welcome Theatre Dybbuk, who will guide us in a writing project surrounding the themes of teshuva, prior to dinner. Then, while we are fressing (Yiddish for stuffing our faces), they will connect our writings into a wonderfully healing and cathartic dramatic presentation, which will be performed before we enter into our Selihot prayers. If you’ve ever thought which year you should try attending this service, THIS IS IT!!

I know that we will all want to share in this experience with our TBE family, and join it preparing ourselves for these High Holy Days. This warm up will put you in the mood for a hearty and happy welcome to 5779, as we join in the familiar melodies, change our Torah Scrolls to their pure, white garb, and begin to transition our souls into welcoming the newness of this year.