BlogElul Day 17: Awaken

This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.

 blogelulIt’s 5:30am. My boys and I walk carefully through the grass because it is damp enough at this pre-dawn hour to soak through our sneakers. We have our tallit bags in one hand, and our thermos (hot chocolate for them, coffee for me) in the other. My oldest son also balances a long shofar in the crook of one arm.

A couple of blocks later, we stumble up the stairs into shul. Under the too-bright fllourescent lighting, we wait for another few men (and the official starting time of 5:45) before launching into Selichot prayers.

For Sephardim – Jews who hail from areas around the Mediterranean such as Spain, Morocco, Iraq, and Syria – the tradition is to do this from the beginning of Elul through Yom Kippur. Each morning we congregate and pray and sing.

The act of awakening each morning becomes a month-long metaphor for dragging my soul out of it’s slumber.

It’s emblematic of the Sephardic outlook that, while the prayers are penitential, the tunes are anything but. They are joyful, lilting, powerful, participatory.

As one member told me “It’s true that Selichot is a time to stand before Hashem and say we are sorry. But we (Sephardim) say to ourselves ‘But it’s DAD we’re talking to. Of course He’s going to forgive us.” We just have to remember to show up. So we sing with joy because we are here – we remembered – and our forgiveness is assured.”

It was this joyfullness that compelled my boys and I to drag ourselves out of bed each morning. Well, that and the hot chocolate. But even so, by this point – here on the 17th of Elul – the long days start to take their toll.

Far from being a negative, even the exhaustion becomes part of the experience. By Rosh Hashana, I find I have no energy left for artifice, nothing in reserve to hide from the truth or mask my falacies. I stand before The Creator stripped down to the barest of essentials, doggedly throwing myself into each prayer, begging for for another year which I hope – like my request for forgiveness – is also assured.