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Selichot 2020

11 September 2020

Dear Members and Friends

In his work ‘This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared’ Rabbi Alan Lew reflected on the cyclical nature of the Jewish calendar:

"If you are moving along the circumference of a circle, it might seem at first as if the starting point is getting farther and farther away, but actually it is also getting closer and closer. The calendar year is such a circle. On Rosh Hashanah, a new year begins, and every day is one day farther from the starting point; but every day is also a return, a drawing closer to was already returning there."

This week Rabbi Alex and I worked on the Selichot service, which will be streamed on Saturday, 12 September, at 8.30 pm via the LJS YouTube channel here.

As well as the LJS Selichot Service, please join me for an international ‘Selichot B’Yachad’ online programme, prepared by The World Union for Progressive Judaism and the World Zionist Organisation. On Monday, September 14 at 8:00 pm I will be co-hosting the European premiere of the video programme that brings together Rabbis, Cantors, musicians and individuals from 30 different countries to affirm, through their diversity and uniqueness, the spirituality of this year’s High Holy Days. Please register for the online event here.

For me, Selichot opens the Jewish season of reflection and repentance. It is an opportunity to prepare for the chain of festivals, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, through Simchat Torah, marking the beginning of the new cycle of Torah reading. Selichot in Hebrew means forgiveness. This is an ancient tradition mentioned in the Mishnah, Rabbinic compendium of 2nd century CE. They originated as prayers for fast days and later were reinterpreted as a pre- High Holy Days services. The Mishnah describes Selichot as featuring a series of readings that end with the words 'He will answer us,' recalling the times in Jewish history when God answered people.

The liturgy of Selichot is relatively short, but serious and many important messages are condensed into it. One of the key texts for this period is a quote from Exodus 34:6-7: ‘A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet God does not remit all punishment…’. This text is a leitmotif for the month of Tishrei and we will come back to it and repeat it many times, as if reminding ourselves of its importance not only for God but for ourselves.
This year the circumstances do not allow us to recite these words in a way that we are used to. Most of us will be at home during Selichot and the rest of the High Holy Days.

Those few people who will be in the Sanctuary will have to observe many rules and regulations to lower the risk of spreading the virus. It is difficult time for many of us, but nevertheless the message of Selichot is still more than relevant for all of us. The wisdom of our tradition reminds us that sometimes we must make difficult decisions and choose between options, all of which have negative sides. Regardless and because of it, we must remain a strong and supportive community - compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to many generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.

לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִכָּתֵבוּ

L'shanah tovah tikatevu!

May all of us be inscribed for a good year!

Shabbat shalom, 

Igor Zinkov

Mon, 21 September 2020 3 Tishrei 5781