Selichot Spiritual Practice

From Reb Michael...

School is back and Rosh Hashanah is almost here! It is customary to prepare for the High Holydays by saying special daily prayers called Selichot. We began our High Holyday preparation last Sunday with a wonderful presentation by poet and scholar, Stacey Robinson. As part of our work together we each wrote our own poem on the subject of return and spiritual healing and formed together Makom’s Book of Forgiveness.

Check out the Makom Shalom website next week to read the poems in our communal Book of Forgiveness.

I am offering you here a Selichot program for the week before Rosh Hashanah. Traditionally, Selichot begin on Saturday night and continue on each day of the coming week. 

The Selichot 30 second challenge - Put aside other distractions, take two a deep breath, exhale slowly. Breathe deeply and exhale. Read the prompt for the day.

The Selichot 2 minute challenge - Set a timer for 90 seconds. Breathe gently. Keep bringing your attention back to your breath. Read the prompt for the day

The Selichot 5 minute challenge - Do the Selichot 2 minute steps. After reading the prompt, write a short poem in response.

 Saturday night/ Sunday morning. “In the beginning, when Elohim created heaven and earth…“ (Genesis 1:1)

Our lives are made up of stories. Every story has a beginning. Where we begin the story shapes the whole story. Judaism’s story of the world begins 5778 years ago at the time when humanity first wrote down its stories. The past exists as a story. We are the storytellers.

What is your personal story of beginnings? How can you begin a new story in the New year? How does it feel to start your story from somewhere else?

2. Monday

“Who is a rich person? One who is happy where she/he is in life.” (Pirkey Avot)

What fills you with joy? Slow down and focus your attention on that joy. Enumerate the aspects of that joy as separate blessings. Give thanks for each blessing.

3. Tuesday

“The stone that the builders spurned became the keystone” Psalms (118:22)

Ancient construction relied on arches to support ceilings, doorways and upper floors. The medieval European churches and the magnificent mosques of the Arab world would not stand without arches. The most important piece in the arch is the stone at the very top that pushes the weight of both sides of the arch down to earth. This is the keystone. Without it the arch and all that is holds up would collapse. It has to be a perfect fit. We are not told who is the one who selected that rejected stone to be the keystone. Was it one of the builders? God? Any one of us?

Where have you been rejected? Where have you been that unknown force that claimed the rejected one to be the keystone? How can you be that person in the world?

4. Wednesday

And you shall remember the whole way that YHWH, your God, has led you these forty years in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley until that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. (Deuteronomy 2: 14)

What is it to live a whole life in the wilderness waiting for a Promised Land that will never come. We can feel lost in a wilderness that will not end before our days come to an end. What is a life well lived under these circumstances?

5. Thursday

“….who remembers those who are forgotten…” (Untaneh Tokef prayer, High Holydays prayer book)

We are blind to what we don’t see or are not required to see. If we live in a predominantly Judeo-Christian, White, almost exclusively heterosexual, mostly middle-class world, we are not going to be prompted to think deeply about others who are outside our group.

How can we remember to see those who are hidden, sometimes in plain sight?

6. Friday

“On Friday, the Israelites received a double portion for each person.” (Exodus 16:22)

In the hot wilderness, with no stores or refrigeration, the Israelites were entirely dependent on the miraculous daily supply of divine Manna. It spoiled almost instantly. Yet on Fridays they received a double portion, one for Friday and one for the Sabbath. The double portion nourished them through the next 48 hours. On Shabbat the Manna did not come.

It can be that we have only enough for right now and not for later. Enough money. Enough good health. Enough support. Enough hope.

Where is your gift of Manna abundant enough to sustain you another day? What does it feel like to let go of the worry of there being enough?