Monday, October 03, 2005

The yamim noraim are upon us, surely a time for honesty and candor. So let me start by stating truthfully that I find selichos mind-numbingly unbearable.

Selichos is as inspiring for me as a communal reading of Beowulf, which is approximately what it is. When I used to daven in yeshiva and most people were making imploring hand motions and screwing up their faces in a manner that suggested they knew something I didn't know, I was half bemused and half wondering if I had missed the class where the rebbi had explained what was actually up with those selichos. Now I daven in a nice balbatish minyan where selichos are read at a pace that would render the phone book incomprehensible, let alone medieval crossword puzzles. No time for imploring, there's barely time to inhale. I suppose I'm making progress.

Having studied the matter, I pretty much have come to grips with the basic selichos pattern which goes something like this: The Riboino Shel Oilam (RSO) is Great; we are bad; we are now going to spend the better part of an hour pushing the RSO around: forget our sins, remember the heilige avos, don't forget us when we're old, listen to our tefillos, don't nitpick or we're toast, do this, don't do that, vekhulei vekhulei.

Now, IF -- and I admit this is a big IF -- but IF I were the RSO, I'd find the flattery just a wee bit patronizing, and the "we are nothing" business more than a tad disingenuous (oikh mir a gornisht, I'd say) and all that weedling and nudging and demanding, well, I'd be tempted to treat such nudniks pretty much the way the RSO has treated us for the past few thousand years.

So, upon reflection, I guess it's a good thing for all of us that I'm not the RSO. But just in case I'm onto something, here is my solemn brachah for this year:

May this be a year in which we all have the luxury to set aside chayei sha'ah in favor of chayei olam. Shana tova.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

a ksiva v'chasima tova to you and readers

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point is to humble ourselves, b/c it's human nature to become full of ourselves and so this is a way to humble us. It's like thinking about the universe and then you think, wow I'm so small.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

look who thinks he's a gornisht

10:18 PM  
Blogger Yaakov Kirschen said...

RSO is, for me at least, a new term which IMHO should catch on. Of course if it does become popular it'll have to be written with a dash as in R-O.
shana tova
dry bones

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the piyutim are sometimes incomprehensible. But they are there basically as "kavannos" for the 13 attributes. It's the recitation of the 13 that is the core of the Selichot.

And the pace is often as much of a problem as arcane prosody.

Many coping options abound:

1) I used to just recite the two big compilations of verses at the start and end, breaking off to join in the 13 midot. Amazingly, the tzibbur often finished "reciting Beowulf" in the time it took me to complete these compilations with basic kavannah.

2) Attend a Sephardi selichot. They repeat the same relatively straightforward texts every day. Or you can:

3) Pick some piyuttim that you DO understand, and repeat them. I find that the piyuttim about the Akeidah are particularly impenetrable, so I just read the Akeida itself from the regular siddur.

4) Print out some of the wealth of material on the internet that deals with the 13 middot, and read THAT in between instead of the piyuttim.

The 13 middot are very powerful - but rachmana liba ba'ei. There is a way to get to this even in our less-than perfect selichot minyanim.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Ralphie said...

I pretty much stick with the English side of the siddur on this one. You've gotta get your own meaning out of it, especially when you can barely keep up.

8:55 PM  

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