The Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah is time reserved for special prayers called Selichot. We wait until it is late at night, at the time of ‘Ashmoret HaBoker’ – when night is ending, and the transition to dawn is beginning. The prayers we say are apologies and admissions, as we implore God to understand our limitations. We choose the timing carefully.
Throughout the High Holidays, we repeatedly appeal to God as our Divine Parent -we want the unconditional love and forgiveness that only a parent can give. We choose Ashmoret HaBoker for these prayers because it is the time we are usually asleep. In fact, our neighbours, cities, and all around us are probably asleep. In those moments, several things are happening. The Zohar tells us that in the calm of the night, when the transition to day is beginning, God turns toward attributes of Divine Mercy before the new day has dawned. We appeal to God when Divine Mercy is heightened. The second reason has to do with our relationship with God, our Parent.
As new parents, we can remember bringing our children home and keeping our eyes on them. At first, they don’t do much, they’re not yet awake to the world, so we watch them sleep. We form the habit of watching them sleep, and watching them breathe. It comforts us, we are soothed by it, we bond with them as they lie asleep, not knowing this is happening. The purity and sincerity of this non-verbal connection is unique.
As we are all made in the image of God, what is true for the image must be true for the Source. While we are asleep, our souls and God find each other and deepen their bond. There is no better moment for us to reach out to God, the Parent, and ask for forgiveness than in those moments when night, the time we usually sleep, is transitioning to day.
Selichot is a special time of prayer we can say either together or individually. It is a time, in the still of the night, to reach outward and upward, to feel the child and the Parent. Selichot is when we can immerse ourselves into the subtle nuances before Rosh Hashanah that can sometimes get lost in the grandeur of the Highest of our Holy Days.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.