Sunday, August 29, 2010

Adon Haselichot, Bochen Levavot

Selichot is one of those things that reminds me how much I enjoy and appreciate Sefardi culture. The tunes are very upbeat, yet emotional as well. The lyrics are like daggers and hit you exactly where you need it.
Some Jews are often surprised when they hear how upbeat and "happy" the Sefardi tunes to Selichot are. I had a roommate in seminary who felt uncomfortable listening to it. But here's the thing - our outlook is that these days of teshuva/judgement/Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur are not only very grave and serious days but also happy days! It's a GOOD and exciting thing to return to our Father in Heaven and receive forgiveness and mercy. (Based on this book)

I'm not familiar with any of the Ashkenazi tunes or lyrics to Selichot, except Avinu Malkeinu. Does anyone recommend any CDs?
I remember hearing that tune as a little girl in an Ashkenazi Synagogue and being so moved. But I didn't know why. I didn't understand Judaism at all.
I looked behind me yesterday - at all the women. Some were swaying, some were crying, some brought relatives or friends who are just beginning to see the light of teshuva and Judaism. It was one of those moments...where you just feel like you have all the clarity. Where you just want to talk to HaShem about everything. Ask Him for anything. Tell Him what's bothering you. Thank Him for saving you. He really did save me...I could've still been that girl, decades later, still confused. Not knowing which siddur to use or what on earth they're reciting and why.

Selichot really make me pause and think...where am I heading? What am I doing with my life? What're my thoughts mainly about? Is my outlook "kamim la'avod et haBoreh" (We wake up to serve The Creator)?

I can hardly wait for all the shiurim this week, and of course, selichot motzei Shabbat b"H. I need the inspiration!

Here's one of my favorites:


  1. Not really what you've asked for, but I'm going to hijack the topic and urge you as strongly as I can to get Etti Ankri's אתי אנקרי בשירי רבי יהודה הלוי, although given that you are Sephardic, Israeli and female, you may be already be familiar with her work. If you aren't, this album in particular is very much in the spirit of סליחות, and is the most beautiful, emotional and religiously expressive music I've ever heard.

    [I guess everyone gets annoying about the music he / she loves, and in any event, I seem to be Ankri's chief evangelist in the English speaking world ;)],607,209,36267,.aspx

  2. The reason why you have never heard any selichot songs from us Ashkenazim is because do not do much singing during selichot. Usually they get the fastest reader to just speed read through the entire thing so that we can finish in about 20 minutes. And there is not really much of a tune to mumbling...
    That is hopefully just be in my neighborhood though... it may be better in other places. :'(
    I have been looking for a good place to say them but I am thinking of staying in the tribe...
    While on the topic I did read a very interesting piece by Rav Brevda who discusses why Ashkenazim have only about a week of selichot before Rosh Hashana and Sefardaim have 40 days. He quotes a famous machloket (in Sanhedrin) as to when the world was created. One opinion says Tishrei and the other says Nissan. According to the one who said Tishrei the world was actually created on the 25th of Elul (this Shabbat) and Rosh Hashana is the day the Adam was created. According to this opinion the week of creation has a mazal of rachamim (possibly because of the midrash Rashi quotes about how Hashem realized that He could not create the world in Din so He made it with Rachamim.) This is how the Ashkenazim hold. But the Sefardaim hold that the world was created in Nissan. Now there is no special mazal for the last week of Elul, therefore they must look for another reason for their to be rachamim and the only thing that happened in Elul was that Moshe went up to Har Sinia to get the second Luchot. He went up on Rosh Chodesh Elul and came down on Yom Kippur. This is why the Sefardaim have those 40 days of Selichot. (Peirush on the Gra on Yonah)

  3. I do not know what happened to you but I hope that you got the most out of selichot. May you have a Chativa V'Chatima Tova!

  4. Everything you said! And all the more so at the Kotel, a dagger, like you said, but in the night...It's been so long since I've been in a situation to say them collectively with others.

  5. Are you okay/ away/ abducted by aliens/ engaged/ out of ideas/ lacking internet capabilities/ sick/ waiting for a phone call from someone who promised to call three days ago :P ?
    Moadim Lishimcha

  6. I'm proud to be a Mizrahi Jew!!!