The ancient tradition of Selichot thrives in Modern Israel
Jews say Selichot in Jerusalem
As Rosh Hashana approaches Jews throughout the world begin soul searching. We have time to reflect, to repent, and to prepare spiritually for the Days of Judgement. This is the period of Selichot. The Ashkenazic Jewish world begins its recitation of selichot – on the Saturday night preceeding Rosh Hashana, whilst the Sephardic Jewish world have already been reciting selichot for the whole month preceeding Rosh Hashana. The custom of reciting selichot prayers is an ancient one, dating back at least to the sixth century in Jewish Babylonia.
Poetry was once an important aspect of Jewish religious life. It was also part of Jewish culture. In the world of the Sephardim during the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry and thereafter, Hebrew poetry flourished. In the Ashkenazic Jewish world poetry was strictly restricted to those of a spiritual nature. The nature of poetry itself was far different in the Ashkenazic world than amongst the Sephardim.
Selichot provided an outlet for genius and creativity of the Jewish thinkers throughout the ages.
In our modern State of Israel, the tradition of Selichot has reinvented itself and is today is playing a significant, and spiritual, role in the lives of Israelis, both religious and non religious.
It’s a phenomenon that draws tens of thousands to the capital each night during the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days – Israelis of all ages and from all walks of life who are eager to experience, or at least learn more about, this longstanding tradition of reciting penitential prayers and liturgy in the wee hours of the night.
Busses from throughout the country arrive at the capital, Jerusalem, and tour the Old City, listening to stories on its ancient and more recent history, they visit small synagogues where Selichot are being recited, and touch base with their past, often remembering the customs that they remember in the homes of their grandparents, or those which were handed down by their great grandparents.
The generations which came before us are embedded within us, and today, we are giving the same opportunities to the generation that we are nurturing in WIZO, so that they, too, can relive their heritage. Today, we are all blessed with the freedom to walk in ancient pathways, in our modern State, and to live in a world which reinvents itself with every passing day.
With warm regards,
Professor Rivka Lazovsky,
World WIZO Executive