It’s still dark out when I arrive in the synagogue parking lot. As I enter the building, I try wiping the tired out of my eyes.
I don’t succeed.
Over the past two plus weeks, morning service has started extra early. This is necessary in order to go through the selichot prayers (During these prayers, we ask for forgiveness not on account of our capabilities but primarily through God’s 13 attributes of mercy, which are the central theme of the service.).
These prayers culminate on the morning before Yom Kippur. This year Yom Kippur arrives on Tuesday night. It’s known as the Day of Atonement and is considered the holiest day of the year. This day provides one an opportunity to repent for past sins, missteps, etc, (as well as a time to ask for — in the new year). However, true repentance does not happen in a day.
So, over the past two plus weeks (they began the Saturday night before Rosh Ha Shanah), the selichot prayers have been said. When I close my selichot book on the final day that they are to be said, I will have gone through more than 800 pages of prayers.
I have been at the synagogue every morning on time for this extra prayer. While I’ve made it to synagogue promptly and read each of the 800 plus pages, there have been large chunks of time where my concentration wavered greatly. I turned pages and did not recall what I had read.
I’m not pleased about this, and I view it as a missed opportunity. I believe prayer is for the individual doing the praying and not for G-d. Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, G-d need my prayer? While I believe G-d welcomes prayer, it is ultimately an opportunity for the individual praying to draw closer to G-d.
Despite lacking concentration while going through selichot, I am proud of myself. Simply making it to synagogue on time for these past two plus weeks and going through this lengthy book is an accomplishment. Showing up is admirable. Being there matters, and it is the first step in any process. While the G-d I believe in takes note of effort, he respects attendance and intentions.
This year my best effort did not regularly include a large amount of concentration. It did not include a large amount of contemplation. It did not include a large amount of confirmation. The focus was absent too often. Yes, there were scattered moments of thought, repentance, praise, fear, and appreciation. I also thought about personal things such as my family and their well-being. I thought about work and how things are progressing. I thought about the world and the state it is in. However, some thoughts were less elevated. Getting home and eating breakfast, sports scores, and blog posts.
I did not get as much as I could have out of saying the selichot prayers. I missed an opportunity. However, I said each prayer and showed up which makes me feel as if I accomplished something. Is there any better thing to feel than a sense of accomplishment?
I’d say no. The sense of accomplishment leads one to further and greater action.When I close the book on selichot, I’ll be proud of what I was able to accomplish. My goal is to utilize the inspiration I took in and move forward.
The G-d I believe in recognizes this. What a feeling of comfort!
Hope you have an easy fast!
And yes, you should be proud of that accomplishment!
Thanks Kate. I appreciate it.
Ah, atonement. I’m so thankful for his mercy.
We all are. It’s the ease with which it can be granted which makes me feel luck.
Wow. Way to go. I’m totally impressed, especially as I am the furthest thing from a morning person. I trust that G-d recognizes my efforts when I’m not very focused on my prayers. I’d probably be focused more on coffee. 🙂
I believe that he/she/it is. Caffeine can definitely help!
I am a big believer in trying to make sure my kavanah is there when I daven because otherwise my head is everywhere else but in shul.
But I also think that regular attendance helps make sure we can focus when need to.
Kevanah is definitely something to strive for but you need to make the effort before you get to that stage.
It was not an easy fast. I had a serious headache most of the day. Whether is was a lack of caffeine or, water I am not sure. But, I was grateful I could.
Fasting can be tough but once accomplished, it can be uplifting especially if you used the day for something that you find meaningful.
Glad you made it through.