by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

S’lichot is coming up – the service of prayers designed to help get us “in the mood” for the Days of Awe, the formal kick-off to this season of teshuvah/repentance/return. In the tradition of which I am a part, S’lichot services are held on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah – assuming that there is a Saturday at least three days before the holiday. Because this year Rosh Hashanah begins on a Sunday, S’lichot services will be held a week prior – Saturday, September 8th. If you’ll permit me a baking metaphor: S’lichot services are the sourdough starter which activates our souls. The services need a few days to percolate in us before we can really rise.

This year, my congregation will be presenting a staged reading of a play on the evening of S’lichot, Merle Feld’s The Gates Are Closing. So, I’ve abbreviated the S’lichot service we’ve done in recent years. What I’m sharing here is a stripped-down version of the service, the parts I absolutely couldn’t bear to let go of!

On page five, there is a mention of pausing to write down what we need to release. This is a tradition I learned at Elat Chayyim many years ago. We’ll provide index cards and pencils; as I play quiet music on my guitar, people will be invited to write down whatever they need to let go of, whatever sins or missings-of-the-mark they want to atone for during this season of repentance, and we’ll collect those cards in a basket. I’ll use some of those texts (anonymously, of course) in one of the Al Chet prayers of Yom Kippur.

Anyway: if you are looking for a S’lichot observance but won’t be able to attend one at a shul near you, you’re welcome to use ours. Download S’lach Lanu: Forgive Us: A Short Service for S’lichot now. A Short Service for S’lichot (And if you live nearby and want to attend our production of The Gates are Closing, or our S’lichot service, you are most welcome!)

May the coming Days of Awe bring you discernment, transformation, and blessing.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat was ordained by ALEPH in 2011. Author of 70 Faces (Phoenicia, 2011), a collection of Torah poems, she serves Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA. 

Originally posted at Velveteen Rabbi